Remember that controversial $4 smartphone, the Freedom 251 whose hanky-panky around demonstrator models led one member of the Indian parliament to declare it a Ponzi scam? Undeterred by being labeled a fraud, the company has proceeded to launch its 251-rupee handset, NDTV’s Gadgets360 reports. It plans to begin delivery June 28.

“We are ready with nearly two lakh ‘Freedom 251‘ handsets. We will start delivery from June 30,” [Ringing Bells Founder and CEO Mohit] Goel told IANS, adding that once he is done with this first phase of delivery (of two lakh phones), he will open registration again for those who wish to buy the handset.

In the Indian numbering system, a “lakh” is 100,000, so Goel claims he has 200,000 handsets ready to go.

He notes that the phones are going to lose about 100 to 150 rupees each—though according to the article, he hopes to make it up in volume. (Seriously, it really says that.) In an interview with The Times of India, Goel explains that the handset has been preloaded with a dozen mobile apps which cannot be disabled or uninstalled, and the app companies have helped to subsidize the cost of the phone.

Goel claims that 7.5 crore (75 million) people have registered interest in the phone, and the 200,000 units ready so far will be distributed on a first-come first-serve basis. He also notes that the preliminary investigation into the phone was dismissed by the court for being “premature.”

It’s certainly too early to tell whether this phone is going to be real or feasible to use even if you can afford it, but the specs look more than decent for the price. The sponsored vendor cruft applications don’t sound too great, but you have to make some sacrifices to get down that cheap—and if there’s a way to get phones that cheap into the hands of citizens of India, there might well be hope for the rest of the world, too. Which, in turn, means e-reading will become even more affordable, to people who wish to do it—right about the time when the e-book industry in India finally seems to be on the way to taking off.

That being said, there’s no guarantee that hardware this cheap will necessarily be very enjoyable to use. I’m having my own learning experience with some inexpensive hardware that I plan to cover later today.

(Found via Slashdot.)