Freedom Phone Erik Finman

The Freedom Phone is a brand new “free speech and privacy first” handset unveiled final week that is elevating purple flags with journalists and safety consultants who say it’s only a rebranded funds Chinese Android telephone. 

Freedom Phone; screenshot by Carrie Mihalcik/CNET

Most of us have an “it’s complicated” relationship with our telephones when it comes to privateness and social media. A brand new handset referred to as the Freedom Phone guarantees to prioritize “free speech and privacy” above something else. You may assume that the Freedom Phone follows the pattern of phone-makers like Apple making it tougher in your information to be shared unwillingly, and for corporations to monitor you. The web site for the Freedom Phone, which has no fewer than 10 “buy” buttons, states, “Not just making America great. But also making a great phone.” Clearly the Freedom Phone is saturated in politics.

If you’re searching for a telephone that protects your privateness, look someplace else. The Freedom Phone has a whole lot of purple flags. 

In a launch video, self-proclaimed “bitcoin millionaire” Erik Finman, who’s funding the telephone, claims that Freedom OS protects your privateness and has an “uncensorable” app retailer. The PatriApp retailer claims to characteristic apps banned by “Big Tech.” In the video, Finman exhibits off a telephone that’s powered off and appears related to a funds Chinese telephone that sells for one-quarter of the Freedom Phone’s $500 value. He would not share primary specs or technical particulars in regards to the telephone — like if it works on the quicker 5G information networks each US service is rolling out.

Read extra: 5G myths, debunked

The Freedom Phone and its politically conservative branding will attraction to many. But there may be nothing to recommend that the telephone, its privateness claims or avoidance of “Big Tech” work the way in which Finman suggests. Since the announcement, quite a few publications and privateness consultants have raised questions and safety considerations in regards to the telephone and whether or not Finman is being completely forthright with potential patrons.

The reality the telephone is already accessible to order — and that there are extra purchase buttons on the web site than telephone {hardware} specs describing the telephone’s capabilities — are all purple flags. The telephone is marketed completely on its politically conservative branding and looks as if nothing greater than a savvy entrepreneur trying to earn money from conservatives pissed off with Facebook and Twitter banning former President Donald Trump. I contacted Freedom Phone and Finman for remark and to get extra details about the telephone. 

I additionally ordered a Freedom Phone for testing, however do not advocate you purchase it right now.

What is the Freedom Phone?

It’s a brand new telephone that guarantees to shield your privateness and enable free speech with out censorship throughout the system. In his promotional video, Finman says that the Freedom Phone “does everything your current phone does except censor you or spy on you.” He says it’s comparable to one of the best smartphones available on the market. He goes on to state that everybody is complaining about “Big Tech censorship” however nobody is doing something about it. On display screen within the video, a generic tweet is proven that is dated Dec. 18 and attributed to Twitter consumer “@twitteruser” that reads, “BUILD YOUR OWN PHONE!” To which Finman replies, “So, I did.” The Twitter account proven is an actual tackle whose final submit is dated Nov. 5, 2013. 

Does the Freedom Phone really work?

We do not know. In the launch video, the telephone stays powered off your entire time. That might point out that the software program is not prepared for viewing. We requested Freedom Phone for extra particulars.

Why is the Freedom Phone controversial?

Any time a handset vendor makes claims a couple of telephone’s options, it falls to the corporate to reveal and clarify how these options work. The Freedom Phone’s web site, launch video and Finman’s posts on Twitter give few particulars in regards to the telephone or how its protections work. The absence of technical particulars and the truth that the corporate is already accepting cash for preorders heightens our skepticism that the corporate can be in a position to meet these orders in addition to its lofty privateness claims.

How a lot does the Freedom Phone value?

It’s listed at $500. That’s the identical value as a Galaxy A52 5G, a Google Pixel 4A 5G and an iPhone XR.

Read extra: The greatest telephones underneath $500 in 2021

Is the Freedom Phone only a rebranded $120 Chinese Android telephone?

The Freedom Phone has the tagline: “Made for conservatives by conservatives.” Turns out it’s really made by a Chinese firm referred to as Umidigi that is based mostly in Shenzhen City. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Finman confirmed that Umidigi made the Freedom Phone however did not specify which Umidigi telephone design is used.

Matthew Hickey, a cybersecurity skilled who co-founded Hacker House, informed the Daily Dot that the Freedom Phone is a Chinese telephone referred to as the Umidigi A9 Pro that may be purchased from AliExpress for as little as $119. He stated that the A9 Pro is bought in bulk with customized logos and branding.

In a tweet, Finman wrote, “We designed this between my design lab and our partner in Hong Kong to make a phone that is custom.”

Should I purchase a Freedom Phone?

No. Even if all of Finman’s claims in regards to the Freedom Phone end up to be true, it’s greatest to wait till gadgets can be found to take a look at the corporate’s claims.

Is the Freedom Phone a rip-off?

Finman hasn’t defined how the telephone works, or how it protects your privateness or free speech. Despite the claims to this point, the Freedom Phone’s primary technical and software program particulars are absent, which supplies clients little or no to go on. While I am unable to outright name it a rip-off, I’d method this handset with warning till it’s accessible for testing. 

What makes the Freedom Phone safe?

Finman says that the telephone will not monitor your apps, your keystrokes or your location, however he would not clarify how. The telephone’s Freedom OS has a safety privateness guard referred to as Trust.

“With powerful tools such as Trust, you are in control of what your apps can do whenever you want. Trust will help you understand the security of your device and warn you about possible threats.”

We have by no means heard of Trust. It could be one thing Finman’s workforce developed. Again, there are no particulars on how it works or the place it got here from. It is not clear if Freedom OS is predicated on Android. And only a reminder that “Big Tech” firm Google makes Android.

Google ceaselessly updates Android with software program upgrades and safety patches which this telephone probably would not get.

What makes the Freedom Phone ‘uncensorable’?

The web site says the Freedom Phone has an “uncensorable” PatriApp retailer providing apps banned by the Google Play retailer and iOS App retailer. What’s unclear is that if there are insurance policies within the PatriApp retailer that shield towards illicit felony exercise, hate speech, graphic and sexual materials or pedophilia. Is the PatriApp retailer mainly just like the 4chan of app shops?

It additionally is not clear how the telephone would deal with technical particulars like IP tracing, web site cookies or different typical monitoring instruments used on telephones and different digital gadgets. We do not know if the Freedom Phone has acquired clearance from the FCC.

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What carriers does the Freedom Phone work on?

The Freedom Phone web site states it will work with “Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile & Sprint, and all other domestic and international carriers.” Listing Sprint is curious as a result of, in 2020, T-Mobile formally closed its $26.5 billion merger with Sprint.

How does the Freedom Phone shield towards service monitoring?

It’s unclear, and the difficulty is not addressed on the Freedom Phone web site.

If the Freedom Phone avoids ‘Big Tech’, why does it work on all the main US carriers?

This can also be unclear. In Finman’s promo video, “Big Tech” is basically used within the context of Twitter and Facebook banning former President Trump after he used his accounts to whip up a mob that invaded the Capitol on Jan. 6.

When can you order a Freedom Phone?

The Freedom Phone is offered to preorder now. We strongly advocate you do not order it.

When does the Freedom Phone ship?

Units of the telephone are stated to arrive in August.

Where can you purchase a Freedom Phone?

At this time, solely on the Freedom Phone web site.

What apps does the Freedom Phone run?

The web site exhibits icons for Parler, NewsMax, OANN, Rumble, the DuckDuckGo internet browser and Telegram encrypted messaging. But it’s unclear if it can be in a position to run productiveness apps like Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat, social media apps like TikTookay or Snapchat, courting apps like Tinder or Grindr, or video video games.

What are the specs for the Freedom Phone?

It has a 6-inch display screen that Finman says is edge-to-edge. In the video, he by no means exhibits the show powered on working Freedom OS. Photos present a dual-SIM card tray with a spot for expandable storage. Aside from Finman saying issues like “great camera,” “comparable to the best smartphones on the market” and a “super fast processor,” the specs are unknown.

Is the Freedom Phone ‘comparable to one of the best smartphones’ as Finman claims?

We have sturdy doubts. The design proven within the video appears like dozens of funds Android telephones we have seen through the years. It would not look high-end. The display screen has a teardrop cutout for the selfie digicam, which is a design alternative many Android telephones had three years in the past.

Who owns Freedom Phone?

According to its web site, Freedom Phone is owned by Finman, LLC in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Eric Finman is listed as the corporate’s agent and organizer.

Who is Freedom Phone’s billionaire founder Erik Finman?

Finman grew up in Idaho. In 2013, on the age of 14 he allegedly purchased 100 Bitcoin ($1,000) which, by the point he was 20, was value greater than 1,000,000 {dollars}. In 2017, he based the training startup, Botangle. In 2019, he invested in a cryptocurrency firm referred to as Metal Pay to be a competitor towards Facebook’s upcoming Libra cryptocurrency (now referred to as Diem).

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