First there was Freedom Fries. Then Freedom Toast. Now there is the privacy promising Freedom Phone that promises liberation from Big Tech. Is the Freedom Phone really the bastion of liberty that it promises to be? Let’s dig in.
For a little background, Freedom Phone was launched in response to perceived censorship following the events of January 6, 2021.
There’s nothing wrong with building a website with WordPress. The platform powers much of the web. But a professional website shouldn’t advertise it.
Its pretty simple to remove things like this. A company producing a smartphone that promises freedom from censorship needs to be built with security and privacy in mind. Those are more complicated tasks than removing a login menu.
Freedom Phone or Freedom PHONE? I don’t know and neither does the website. The inconsistency again concerns me that this company isn’t capable of producing anything worth trusting. Can you imagine browsing Apple’s site and seeing iphone, iPhone, IPhone, and IPHONE? Its a small quibble but one that raises eyebrows.
2015 Specs in 2021
The Freedom Phone features a 6 inch screen, octa core processor, 4 GB RAM, and 64 GB of storage. The most interesting part is FreedomOS but we’ll discuss that more later. An SD card slot is present along with a mediocre 720 x 1560 screen resolution. There’s also an 8 MP shooter. Interestingly, a 3.5 headphone jack is present. Even flagships don’t have that now. Then again, can we really trust Bluetooth ear buds?
The vague specs like an octa core processor implies this phone is severely lacking power. Most phones would tout which Snapdragon processor they’re running. Even OnePlus reveals the Mediatek processors on this budget Nord line.
So is this really a new, albeit underpowered phone? Nah. At best, it looks to be a rebranded Umidigi A9 Pro. That phone retails for only $180 on Amazon. Freedom Phone sells for a whopping $500. If this is really the same phone, then Erik Finman is really preying on people’s paranoia.
To really ice the cake, the Umidigi A9 Pro is built by Chinese manufacturer Umidigi, formerly Umi. Erik Finman defends his actions by claiming the he only used the phone as “template” for his own. Regardless, Chinese manufacturers have prompted privacy concerns over the Chinese government spying.
Freedom Phone is listed as compatible with Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint along with international carriers.
I checked the AT&T whitelist. Freedom Phone is not listed nor is Umidigi. I couldn’t find any proof of Verizon support either. Freedom Phone is duping well intentioned buyers into purchasing an incompatible phone.
There’s a lot of questions with Freedom Phone but the operating systems remains the true enigma. The website doesn’t provide much information beyond buzz words: freedom, uncensorable, free speech, privacy focused. There is also a Buy Now button corresponding to every mention of Freedom.
FreedomOS is a rebadged LineageOS. For those unacquainted, LineageOS is free and open source version of Google’s Android operating system. Lineage does not include Google’s apps or Play services by default which helps with the privacy aspect.
If privacy is your primary concern, there are better suited ROMs like GrapheneOS that can be installed on a variety of phones. GrapheneOS is even recommended by Edward Snowden, a true privacy advocate.
Uncensorable App Store
Is “uncensorable” even a word? The PatriApp Store promises that you can “Read what you like. Watch what you like. Think what you like. Nothing is censored.” Bold claims and a reckless premise. Why was a censorship free app store even a thing? Where did this push come from? What are the potential problems here?
January 6, 2021
After the events of January 6th in Washington DC, apps like Parlour were removed from Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store over concerns that the platform helped facilitate the day’s events. Big Tech companies were worried about what they were hosting and what actions they were enabling.
Shortly after Apple and Google took down the Parlour app, Amazon stopped hosting Parlour on its servers.
If that wasn’t enough, former US President Donald Trump was banned from Twitter.
The swift actions of tech giants left many people leery of their power. Private companies had the power to restrict access to apps and to their platforms.
In response to those actions, Freedom Phone ships with its own app store, PatriApp. Ironically, PatriApp isn’t really a new or different app store. It is nothing more than the free and open source Aurora Store rebranded patriotically. Aurora Store is a front end for Google’s Play Store. Aurora allows users to anonymously download apps from the Play Store in order to maintain privacy.
There is nothing wrong with using Aurora Store. Its a fair way to deGoogle a phone and still access apps. The questionable part is how the company behind Freedom Phone is pushing PatriApp like its a new and unique censorship free experience. Many apps can be sideloaded on Android bypassing the Play Store. A new phone isn’t required to sideload apps.
Selling Out on Social Media
This is the part that I didn’t expect. I thought that a device like the Freedom Phone would be sold by shady men with foreign accents in back alleys. Such a device should conjure images of underground freedom fighters that remain elusive to CIA or KGB agents.
Nah, bro, get your 10% off code on Instagram.
There are countless social media personalities hocking the virtues of Freedom Phone but if you order today, you can get 10% with their exclusive codes. These folks sell lots of stuff for companies, usually more along the lines of personal and home goods. Now they are selling freedom.
Lots of tech companies pay people to review their products. YouTube reviewers will disclose that their views are their own but the phone was supplied by the manufacturer. I don’t blame them for taking free phones. Those things get expensive. Those tech reviewers understand what they’re reviewing though. They understand that Android is a Google product.
It seems rather ironic that for all the opposition to Big Tech including Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, that’s where the Freedom Phone is being pushed. So the companies who are supposedly invested in censoring and controlling the American people are okay with a phone that can’t be censored? And Freedom Phone is okay using the platforms meant to silence the people? That’s funny because if I was trying to silence the opposition, I wouldn’t allow them to spread their message.
Alternatives and Conclusion
Freedom Phone at best looks like an attempt to push back at Big Tech. In reality, its a scam.
While the phone seems like a legitimate attempt at freedom and privacy, the company employees questionable practices notably selling an incompatible low end phone at a significant mark up without transparency and using social media influencers to push it.
If privacy is a personal concern, there are much better options that the overpriced and questionable Freedom Phone. Google’s own line of Pixel phones serve as the perfect phone to flash GrapheneOS, a hardened Google free mobile operating system.