August 4, 2021

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Right-wing Activist’s $500 ‘Freedom Phone’ Actually Cheap Rebranded Android Model Made in China

Right-wing Activist’s 0 ‘Freedom Phone’ Actually Cheap Rebranded Android Model Made in China
“This week, a 22-year-old self-described Bitcoin millionaire introduced the Freedom Phone, a $499 device meant to be completely free from ‘Big Tech’s’ censorship and influence,” reports PC Magazine.

“But it turns out the same smartphone is actually from China, and probably just a cheap knock-off.”

The Freedom Phone comes from Erik Finman, who unveiled the device earlier this week. He claims the product has everything Trump supporters could dream of, including an “uncensorable” app store, preinstalled conservative-friendly apps including Parler and Rumble, and even its own anti-surveillance operating system called FreedomOS… However, The Daily Beast noticed the Freedom Phone looks strikingly similar to a budget smartphone device from a Chinese vendor called Umidigi. The device is called the Umidigi A9 pro, and you can actually buy it over on the Chinese e-commerce site AliExpress starting at $119. Finman later told The Daily Beast that the Freedom Phone was indeed sourced from Umidigi, a company that’s based in Shenzhen, China…

An uncensorable app store opens the door for hackers and shady developers to circulate malware and data-collecting programs to users. We’re also doubtful Freedom Phone has its own operating system if it can run apps such as Parler and Rumble, in addition to Signal, Telegram and Brave

The Daily Beast adds this anecdote:
The Freedom Phone’s “Freedom OS” operating system is based on Google’s Android operating system, according to Finman. But during a livestream video promoting the phone, right-wing activist Anna Khait was confused by her fans’ basic questions about the phone. “Is it an Android?” Khait said. “I’m not really sure. No, it’s a Freedom Phone.”

Gizmodo calls the phone’s web site “radically vague on the details.”
There is no information about the phone’s operating system, storage, camera, CPU, or RAM capabilities. It has a list of features, but there are no actual details about them. Instead, under each feature, there’s merely a “Buy it now” button which redirects you to the site’s shopping cart. The phone’s hefty price, combined with the company’s total lack of transparency, is ridiculous — essentially asking the buyer to cough up half a grand in exchange for, uh, something…!

But Gizmodo also shares a philosophical thought:
Before we get into the specifics of why this device probably sucks, let me just say that the desire to have a phone that is dedicated to protecting your autonomy and privacy is a reasonable one — and should be encouraged. That said, I don’t think the Freedom Phone provides that. Actually, aside from its overt partisan bent, it’s impossible to tell what kind of device this is because Finman and his acolytes haven’t provided any information about it…

The funny thing is, if Trump voters are looking for a way to get off the “Big Tech” grid, there’s no need for them to buy this sketchy shit. There are actually entire subcultures within the phone industry dedicated to escaping the Android/iOS paradigm. You can wade into the de-Googled phone sector, for instance — where Android phones are sold that have ostensibly been refurbished to rid the devices of code that will “send your personal data” back to the tech giant. There’s also the Linux-based Pinephone, which sells at a fraction of the Freedom Phone’s cost (between $150 and $200), and is a favorite of those in the privacy community. All of these come with caveats, obviously, but the point is that there are much more transparent and affordable options than the Freedom Phone…

It’d be nice if Americans could actually come together around the issue of privacy since it’s an area where — regardless of political party — we’re all collectively getting screwed.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.