The Freedom Phone reeks of conservative politics. The phone is funded by “ bitcoin millionaire” Erik Finman following the riot in front of the US Capitol Hill which was instigated by former US president Donald Trump using his facebook and twitter accounts. As a result, the former POTUS was banned from the respective platforms. Rioters had apparently communicated with each other through an app called Parler which was later removed from the Apple store and also from the Google play store. Such events had raised concerns about “ Big tech censorship”, big tech being Google, Facebook, Apple and Twitter, for the conservatives in the US. The Freedom Phone was hence announced by Erik Finman which prioritizes free speech and privacy over all else. The announcement blew up immediately. It hit the Twitter trending page real fast and everyone was talking about it and insisting people on getting one. Erik Finman said in the launch video that the phone will do everything our current devices do without censorship.
Before we dive into whether the phone is a scam, let’s have a look at what little we know about its features. The phone is built on the Freedom OS, which is essentially nothing but an Android OS with some small tweaks here and there. The user interface looks the same as you would see in an Android Smartphone. Google Chrome is replaced by a browser called DuckDuckGo and a new app store is introduced in the name of Patriapp where you will have apps like Parler, Rumble which were used in the Riot. Freedom OS uses a security guard called Trust about which their website says, “Your data, your rules. 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.” The Specs were not shared on the website initially( which adds to our suspicion as to whether it is legitimate or not) but now have been updated. A screenshot attached below will show them. The phone carries a price tag of $499
So is the Freedom Phone a scam?
Well there are many telling signs that point at it being a deception. The phone is made from a small company in China called Umidigi, known for their extremely low cost and not for their security. Furthermore, China, the Country that Donald Trump would always accuse for spying, is actually behind the manufacturing of this phone. Erik Finman later said in a tweet that It is impossible to manufacture phones in the US and used phone company Motorola losing billions of dollars doing so as a reference for his claim. What’s even more striking is that Umidigi already has a phone that looks like the Freedom Phone, the A9 Pro. The Camera layout used in the Freedom Phone is a carbon copy of the A9 Pro.
The Notches and the Buttons are identical. The A9 Pro comes at a price one-fourth of what the freedom phone is being sold at despite looking identical. So for all we know, it could be just that Erik Finman has bought many A9 Pros and told his team at Freedom Phone to make the necessary tweaks that were talked about previously and sell them at 4 times the price. Furthermore, the sudden addition of specifications on their website after much criticism from tech experts makes the specs less believable. For all we know, it could just be a fabrication to calm down the critiques. The Umidigi A9 Pro runs on a Mediatek Helio P60 which is known to be susceptible to authentication bypass attacks which contradicts the idea of a secure phone. In the launch video, Erik Finman says that the phone uses a “super fast processor” however in the specs it only shows that the phone runs on an 8 core processor.
The apps that Freedom Phone claims they have pre-loaded into their phone can actually be used on Android and iOS devices too. Apps like Parler have recently been unbanned and can be used on these devices. Even if they weren’t unbanned, one could easily have installed them from the App’s website. So to pay five hundred dollars to gain access to apps which you can use for free on your mobile phone is diabolical. Furthermore, it’s “ uncensorable” app store provides sanctuary for apps which may promote illicit criminal activity, hate speech, graphic and sexual material or pedophilia since there are no rules governing what apps can be in the store.
The phone will support cellular companies such as Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, & Sprint, according to their website. For a phone that wants to provide complete privacy and prevent tracking and spying, you would expect them to have their own cellular networks. Connecting to an external Cellular network makes your location very traceable by the cellular company. You would need to have huge funds to have your own cellular network which Erik Finman, though a millionaire, cannot afford to set up. You would also have to host your own backend cloud servers instead of hiring services like AWS or GoogleCloud which again would need a lot of money.
A lot of the privacy and security features that the Freedom Phone says it provides are actually provided by iOS and Android. iOS Version 14.5 requires the OS to ask users for permission whether they should track the data of the user. Android 12, an upcoming update for Android, will introduce a privacy dashboard which will show apps that are using your location, microphone or camera and other anti tracking systems. It makes you wonder what the Freedom Phone is doing different from Android and iOS in terms of privacy.
As consumers, we don’t have reasons to trust Erik Finman to take responsibility for our security and privacy given his background. He probably doesn’t have credible knowledge on cyber security and this project that he is currently investing on is probably just trying to take advantage of the political unrest that occurred during the beginning of this year instead of actually providing privacy and security to the users of this phone. The worst part is that it is actually being endorsed by popular figures on social media( a commission of fifty dollars per sale to these promoters is promised) which might actually convince people to fall into this trap. We strongly discourage you from buying this smartphone since we believe it is nothing less than a scam.