Many consider censorship in America anathema, especially in a private, interpersonal context. FreedomPHONE is a brand that hopes to give everyone a way to speak freely and frequent their favorite media without explicit state approval.
Is it legit, though? Does the FreedomPHONE protect users as they go wild?
What is FreedomPHONE?
the FreedomPHONE is marketed as a smartphone designed for conservatives. It’s a totally “uncensored” $500 phone: users can download apps that were previously banned from Apple’s and Google’s app stores, for example.
It also promises to protect Patriots from unwanted privacy violations, both from the government and other unrelated intruders.
Is the FreedomPHONE a mute phone? Not really, although the site suggests it can accomplish a lot of what dumbphones have to offer. These claims, at times, seem ingenuous and baseless, at least to us.
Who is the man behind the FreedomPHONE brand and philosophy? Erik Finmanthe world’s youngest Bitcoin billionaire, says he had to quit big tech when he realized his industry was encroaching on the vital freedoms of many voters.
Free speech, censorship and privacy violations are all wrongs he sought to right with the creation of the FreedomPHONE.
Erik describes the physical device itself as being on par with your average high-end smartphone in terms of performance – in reality it’s actually a Umidigi A9 Pro, worth around $138 in its generic and pure form.
An edge-to-edge display, multiple cameras, and plenty of other midrange accommodations all conspire to break big tech’s hold on digital communication.
Admittedly, publicly available reviews paint an unappealing picture of FreedomPHONE in the field. We’ll get to the reviews in a moment—for now, let’s look at what Mr. Finman puts on the table.
What is ClearOS?
ClearOS is the operating system that makes the FreedomPHONE promise possible. It’s software “designed for free speech”: no spying, no prying eyes, and no app or location tracking either. Basically, it is a version of the Android operating system with a new UI skin applied over it.
ClearGM, FreedomPHONE’s built-in “privacy guard”, provides an explicit warning whenever an app or website is monitoring your behavior.
You’ll find little on the site in terms of how ClearOS and ClearGM actually work, which is definitely a red flag for us. There are many corporate mysteries in the world of technology privacy and security; all are equally valid here, in what is a largely Android-based ecosystem of users.
This is, for us, the least transparent aspect of this product. There may very well be new and unique security features that surround the FreedomPHONE from the inside, but the marketing on the official website does not touch on any of them technically or intellectually.
A “non-cancellable” App Store
When the FreedomPHONE was officially unveiled in July 2021, its “uncancellable, uncensorable” app store was at the forefront of that announcement. Its claim to fame: there is no no-app policy. This, in theory, would allow app makers to express themselves freely.
The bottom line here, according to Erik: read what you like, watch what you like, and do what you like, without judgment or restriction.
Many of the most popular conservative apps and even banned apps will also be preloaded on FreedomPHONE – Newsmax, the Rumble app, Talk and even more traditional privacy items like DuckDuckGo, to name a few.
Can an app store without rules really operate constructively, in a way that does not compromise the user? It’s a lofty statement, one that many find very attractive on paper.
Is the FreedomPHONE secure?
If the right people on the internet are authoritative, FreedomPHONE’s prognosis isn’t stellar.
While we found some positive pro-brand claims sprinkled into the mix, the majority of what we saw was about a platform and service that left users vulnerable to a whole host of other problems.
An unrestricted app store can open the door to nefarious activities. However, an application does not have to be malicious to cause a security problem; poorly written software can still put you at risk.
A common complaint seems to be how FreedomPHONE’s infamous app store is operated and moderated. Many are quick to mention that sideloading apps can provide the same level of access to officially banned widgets if you know what you’re doing, all without the risks that an entirely free app store brings to the table.
We can see the appeal for users who aren’t security experts themselves – it’s an easy way to enjoy their favorite services, just like they did before they were banned from the mainstream app market. . Are the peripheral risks that surround this type of situation worth instant access?
One of the most critical take on the FreedomPHONE has to be a review that comes courtesy of PCMag, which describes the effort as a “colossal scam” that “goes after” the “technically illiterate and legally ignorant”. Harsh words, sure. Is this opinion justified?
This criticism seems to stem mainly from the fact that FreedomPHONE really doesn’t offer the user much beyond the average Android phone. It exists as such while simultaneously ripping some gaping security holes in the ordinary service standard that companies like Apple and Google seek to provide.
The FreedomPHONE site is conspicuously vague on many things, including system logistics and even some strict technical specifications that the consumer can expect from the device.
Ultimately, FreedomPHONE stands for freedom of expression above all else, both for the users and for the developers who contribute to the platform. Both are progressive notions, but the execution of this project seems to do more harm than good to client safety.
Mr. Finman invites us to live freely with the FreedomPHONE. Freedom at the expense of one’s online safety, however, is not something we are particularly interested in right now.
Cellular service in any capacity is traceable by definition; to be completely free of privacy concerns, you’d literally be better off regressing to a life of sundials, typewriters, and hand-delivered snail mail.
The FreedomPHONE: Maybe next time, Erik
One source of inspiration that Finman cites as central to the invention of the FreedomPHONE: former President Trump’s exile from social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. We can’t exactly support the FreedomPHONE as a prescriptive solution, but we have to admire the fighting spirit of this young entrepreneur.
While this endeavor doesn’t appear to be a long-running or disruptive one overall, it could very well pave the way for other, more mature efforts in the service of public freedom and expression.
Do you want to reduce the use of your smartphone without giving it up completely? You might consider an Android dumbphone instead.
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