Freedom Phone: Why You Should Avoid It And What Else To Know

By: Patrick Holland published in CNET

It’s basically a bunch of old hardware and unsubstantiated promises. Here’s everything we know (very little) and don’t (so much).

The Freedom Phone is a new “free speech and privacy first” handset unveiled last week that’s raising red flags with journalists and security experts who say it’s just a rebranded budget Chinese Android phone. Freedom Phone; screenshot by Carrie Mihalcik/CNET

Most of us have an “it’s complicated” relationship with our phones when it comes to privacy and social media. A new handset called the Freedom Phone promises to prioritize “free speech and privacy” above anything else. You might assume that the Freedom Phone follows the trend of phone-makers like Apple making it harder for your data to be shared unwillingly, and for companies to track you.

The website 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 looking for a phone that protects your privacy, look somewhere else. The Freedom Phone has a lot of red flags. 

In a launch video, self-proclaimed “bitcoin millionaire” Erik Finman, who is funding the phone, claims that Freedom OS protects your privacy and has an “uncensorable” app store. The PatriApp store claims to feature apps banned by “Big Tech.” In the video, Finman shows off a phone that is powered off and looks similar to a budget Chinese phone that sells for one-quarter of the Freedom Phone’s $500 price. He doesn’t share basic specs or technical details about the phone — like if it works on the faster 5G data networks every US carrier is rolling out.

Read More: 5G Myths, Debunked

The Freedom Phone and its politically conservative branding will appeal to many. But there is nothing to suggest that the phone, its privacy claims or avoidance of “Big Tech” work the way Finman suggests. Since the announcement, numerous publications and privacy experts have raised questions and security concerns about the phone and whether Finman is being entirely forthright with potential buyers.

The fact the phone is already available to order — and that there are more buy buttons on the website than phone hardware specs describing the phone’s capabilities — are all red flags. The phone is marketed entirely on its politically conservative branding and seems like nothing more than a savvy entrepreneur looking to make money from conservatives frustrated with Facebook and Twitter banning former President Donald Trump. I contacted Freedom Phone and Finman for comment and to get more information about the phone. 

I also ordered a Freedom Phone for testing, but don’t recommend you buy it at this time.

What Is The Freedom Phone?

It’s a new phone that promises to protect your privacy and allow free speech without censorship across the device. 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 the best smartphones on the market. He goes on to state that everyone is complaining about “Big Tech censorship” but no one is doing anything about it. On screen in the video, a generic tweet is shown that’s dated Dec. 18 and attributed to Twitter user “@twitteruser” that reads, “BUILD YOUR OWN PHONE!” To which Finman replies, “So, I did.” The Twitter account shown is a real address whose last post is dated Nov. 5, 2013. 

Does The Freedom Phone Actually Work?

We don’t know. In the launch video, the phone remains powered off the entire time. That could indicate that the software isn’t ready for viewing. We asked Freedom Phone for more details.

Why Is The Freedom Phone Controversial?

Any time a handset vendor makes claims about a phone’s features, it falls to the company to demonstrate and explain how those features work. The Freedom Phone’s website, launch video and Finman’s posts on Twitter give few details about the phone or how its protections work. The absence of technical details and the fact that the company is already accepting money for preorders heightens our skepticism that the company will be able to meet those orders as well as its lofty privacy claims.

How Much Does The Freedom Phone Cost?

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

Read the full CNET article here:

Clarity Commentary: Stay away from the “Freedom Phone.”

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