While bookings for Freedom 251, the world’s cheapest smartphone, soared after its Wednesday release in India, Hindustan Times (HT), a local newspaper, reported Friday the phone violates Apple's copyright by using its icons. The phone was launched for just 251 rupees ($3.60) by the previously unknown Indian company Ringing Bells and will be promoted as a part of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s "Make in India" campaign that aims to increase manufacturing on the subcontinent.
The phone is set to come preloaded with some Government of India apps and HT reported that the icons on the phone were too similar to Apple’s iOS icons. The report added that it approached Ringing bells for a comment on the design of icons and asked about the possibility of a violation of Apple’s intellectual property rights.
Vikas Sharma, the technical head at Ringing Bells, told HT, “We used Apple’s icons because Apple hasn’t copyrighted its designs.”
The report by HT denied Sharma’s claim, saying Apple has patents for everything, including the rounded edges of its phones and iPads. The report also cited a statement on copyrights from Apple’s website, to establish that logos and icons are covered under Apple's copyright.
“You may not use the Apple Logo or any other Apple-owned graphic symbol, logo, or icon on or in connection with web sites, products, packaging, manuals, promotional/advertising materials, or for any other purpose except pursuant to an express written trademark license from Apple, such as a reseller agreement,” the statement on Apple's website said.
However, it was not clear if Ringing Bells had a license from Apple to use the design of the icons. Apple has not commented on it yet.
The website on which Freedom 251 can be booked also faced issues Friday as it crashed for the second day amid a deluge of bookings. On the first day, Ringing Bells received about 30,000 confirmed orders for the phone while the website got 600,000 hits, another report by HT said.
The phone boasts a 4-inch display with a 960 × 540 pixel resolution and is powered by a Qualcomm 1.3GHz quad-core processor. The phone also has 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. However, the storage can be expanded to 32 GB using a microSD card. Freedom 251 also has a 3.2 megapixel rear camera and a VGA quality camera in the front. The phone will run Google’s Android operating system and will come pre-loaded with government-promoted apps such as Women Safety, Swachh Bharat (Clean India), Fisherman, Farmer and Medical, and other popular apps like WhatsApp, Facebook and YouTube.
The company said on its website the new phone will “empower citizens, even in the remotest rural and semi-urban centers of India, with the latest in digital technology at incredible affordable prices and cascade knowledge, news and current issues so that all experience the confidence of inclusive growth and equal opportunity.”
India, where 80 percent of the population is not online, presents a huge opportunity for smartphones and already has an increasing market for cheaper versions. Most of the phones in the lower range are priced at 1,500 rupees ($21) and there is tough competition among local companies like Micromax and Lava. Several Chinese companies, including Lenovo, Xiaomi and Huawei, have also flooded the phone market, leading to a fall in prices.