The country has clearly not seen the last of the cheap smartphone fad yet. After the launch of Freedom 251 and later Docoss X1, Bengaluru-based smartphone manufacturer Namotel made its debut with its device 'Acche Din'.
Originally priced at Rs 2,999, the phone is now available to customers at a mere Rs 99. It boasts of a four-inch display with 480x800 pixels WVGA resolution. Running on Android 5.1 Lollipop OS, it has 1 GB RAM, and four GB of internal storage, which is expandable to 32 GB. While connectivity includes 3G, the device sports a 2 MP back camera and a VGA selfie camera.
During the launch, the company explained the modes of booking the smartphone online. First, prospective buyers were expected to register on bemybanker.com website through which they’d get a user ID and password to book the smartphone on namotel.com. Here, the customers will have to submit their Aadhar card proof and pay a one-time fee of Rs 199, which some believe sounds dubious.
What is perhaps not that surprising is that both these sites (bemybanker.com and Namotel.com) are inaccessible right after a day of the launch. The Namotel site says that it has closed bookings as of now.
During the launch, Namotel spokesperson Madhava Reddy told the media that the pre-bookings for smartphones at Rs 99 will be open on the website until May 25.
So, can it be a scam?
According to media reports, in March 2016, Adcom, the company that reportedly made prototypes of Freedom 251, said it had sold the phone to Ringing Bells (company behind Freedom 251) as a consumer. It maintained that it had no idea that the phones were going to be rebranded and resold.
In a statement, Sanjeev Bhatia Chairman and Founder of Advantage computers (Adcom) said:
Yes, it is true that although we sold the handsets to Ringing Bells earlier, like we sell Adcom mobiles to lakhs of users, we were absolutely unaware of the reselling plans of the company in question. Furthermore, we still haven't been able to evaluate their pricing policy, as we sold the handsets at Rs 3,600 per unit.
The company was planning to take legal actions, with an FIR registered against Ringing Bells. Review units of the phone had Adcom's branding covered in white paint, which Ringing Bells accepted to be nothing but prototypes.
In another report in February, the Noida-based Ringing Bells was reportedly refunding payments that it had accepted on the first pre-booking date. The company stated that it had accepted payments from 30,000 orders after which the website crashed.
Adopting cash-on-delivery as their model to further transparency, Ringing Bells also said that it didn’t send any payments-related e-mails to its customers after a particular booking.
Docoss X1, the smartphone priced at Rs 888, was launched in April 2016. The startup behind it was critcised for displaying customer care numbers that weren’t accessible.
It would be interesting to see if Acche Din will stand out as a scam-free, untainted seller of inexpensive smartphones to the masses or if it too would take the slipshod path of its predecessors. For the moment it seems to be following them, by not explaining its economies of scale for slashed pricing and closing bookings. Further, submitting an Aadhar card proof and adding a one-time fee adds to the pall of doubt surrounding such an initiative.
Tarush is driven towards delivering unbiased and accurate reportage while engaging with as many mediums as possible to narrate a fresh perspective. Working for the past few years in the digital space with YourStory, he has covered the Indian technology ecosystem extensively, focusing on new age Fintech companies, while building strong connects within the industry.