What is the New “Freedom Phone”?

I was notified on July 14 that there was a new privacy-based phone called the Freedom Phone.

Candace Owens had shared a “review” on her Twitter and Instagram accounts, claiming she and her husband loved their new “uncensorable” phones.

As much as Candace may love her new phone, it appears she continues to tweet from her iPhone.

Shortly after that, I noticed Dinesh D’Souza tweet about it as well.

Erik Finman is releasing the phone via his company, Finman, LLC. According to his site, the Freedom Phone is the first “free speech and privacy focused phone.”

As someone who takes privacy pretty seriously, this caught my attention, and I thought I would take a look.

Features of the phone:

  • Tracking blockers
  • Uncensorable App Store
  • Pre-loaded with Parler, Duck Duck Go, Brave, Rumble, OAN, Newsmax
  • Uses FreedomOS
  • Loaded with Trust

Beyond this, there is little information provided about the $499.99 phone (plus $20 shipping) or how it works. The lack of information raises red flags for me, especially for someone who has looked into privacy-based phones and electronics. Traditionally, trusted companies are often overly transparent to ensure the community has the opportunity to verify their claims.

We know next to nothing about the device. What is the processor, bands it operates on, battery, camera, memory, screen, and so on? We cannot derive these answers from any information provided by Finman, LLC or any of their affiliates.

Someone on Reddit noticed the phone was similar to the UMIDIGI A9 Pro, which you can purchase on Alibaba for as little as $110.

The UMIDIGI is a Chinese-produced Android phone but can have another OS loaded onto it. One Redditor mentioned they believed the UMIDIGI has its bootloader accessible, which is a security concern, giving others potential access to your phone. I have not seen this confirmed.

Finman, LLC states the Freedom Phone uses FreedomOS but provides no information about the OS on their website. Keeping an OS available to the public is what many privacy-based Android distributions offer.

Erik Finman stated (using his iPhone) they are using a combination of LineageOS, GrapheneOS, “and our personal development.” LineageOS and GrapheneOS are both fine distributions, and either would undoubtedly secure your privacy more than Google’s Android or iPhone. For those used to using Android, LineageOS does not include GAPPS, Google’s bundle of apps. This de-Googled aspect is why the phone should be more private, many of which like to grab your data.

I’m not sure installing LineageOS/GrapheneOS (free) is worth $500, but if you have money to burn, it might be worth it.

That said, if Finman, LLC modifies LineageOS/GrapheneOS, this could change the security and privacy of the phone. There is no telling what they have added or changed in the original OS to make it FreedomOS. There is a potential that you’re exchanging privacy invasion by Google for privacy invasion by Finman, LLC.

The phone comes preloaded with Parler, Duck Duck Go, Brave, Rumble, OAN, and Newsmax. To my knowledge, all of these apps are available on any Android phone, including Parler. I’m unsure why having these apps would be an ultimate selling point over any other phone.

Erik states that they will not censor apps in what they refer to as the Uncensorable App Store. Being completely open to any app causes some concern because no one could know if the author incorporated viruses or malware into the app. I didn’t see a list of the apps currently available in the Uncensorable App Store or how a developer could submit an app to the store.

The main release appears to be a coordinated push on social media by a few well-known conservatives. If you use one of their discount codes, you receive a $50 discount off the original $499.99 price.

For each referral, an affiliate receives a $50 commission. The page with the affiliate registration is no longer live, but an archive of the affiliate page is available.

There is little contact information for the company on their website except for their email address. It seems they incorporated in Wyoming, which is known for its privacy protections for business owners. However, the address provided on the site and in the purchase email seems to be a “virtual office business address” provided by Wyoming Corporations or LLC.

I didn’t see any information about potential delivery dates, but I believe another mentioned they thought it would be August. The purchase confirmation I received provided no information regarding likely processing or shipping, merely that my payment was received.

I caution everyone to be careful and do some research before purchasing this phone. It could be an okay phone with some privacy protections, but it might not be. At the least, I recommend waiting until others have had an opportunity to confirm Finman’s claims.

That said, I did find a method to bring the price down to $20. If they ship the phone, I’ll take a look at the phone and provide further thoughts.

Photo by Jeremy Zero on Unsplash

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