Report: Trump-Branded 'Freedom Phone' May Actually Be Budget Device From Asia
If the hentai/furry porn-fueled demise of GETTR, the social media platform designed by one of President Trump's former aides, wasn't enough to illustrate how unmoderated free speech isn't always a good thing (unless you're into some really kinky stuff and/or love pissing off QAnon), the far-right evidently remains undeterred in their never-ending quest to stick it to big tech, launching a new gadget called the “Freedom Phone."
Despite sounding like a bad SNL commercial peddling a mobile device that doubles as a gun and a koozie for your 44oz Slurpee, the Freedom Phone is so, so much weirder, promising an escape from Silicon Valley's “spying” and “censorship” for the (not so) low, low price of $499. The brainchild of 22-year-old Bitcoin millionaire, Erik Finman, the device, which launched earlier this week, touts itself as “a free speech and privacy first focused phone," per its web listing. Complete with an “uncensorable app store” called the PatriApp, and several pre-loaded popular right-wing apps, including Parler, Rumble, and Newsmax, users can also get their QAnon content fix from the moment the phone emerges from its (presumably) red, white, and blue box.
“This is the first major pushback on the Big Tech companies that attacked us - for just thinking different,” Finman wrote on Twitter alongside a video detailing the project. “We're finally taking back control,” he added.
Despite the entrepreneur's claims that the device is “comparable to the best smartphones on the market," venturing to call his product “truly is the best phone in the world," some news outlets have brought into question how free the Freedom Phone may actually be. In the days since its release, a handful of reports have emerged alleging the device is actually a “budget phone from Asia that may end up compromising buyers’ autonomy rather than protecting it,” as Gizmodo's Lucas Ropek put it.
Aside from citing the fact that the Freedom Phone's listing offers approximately zero specs about any of the phone's features, merely naming its offerings next to a massive “Buy it Now” button, a factor that Ropek says “makes it a potential security (and thus also privacy) nightmare," experts too, are also seemingly wary of the device.
“Based on photographs from the company website a number of Internet sleuths identified that the device has the same form-factor, shape, and appearance of a Umidigi A9 Pro,” Matthew Hickey, co-founder of Cyber House, told the tech outlet via email. “This device is a drop-shipped customizable Android-based phone that can be ordered from ASIAPAC region and customized to a project’s requirements,” he said. Hickey also noted that these devices can be “bought and shipped in bulk with custom logos and branding so as to give the appearance of a phone that has been designed for a unique purpose but is actually just a common cheap Android-based smartphone with core components produced in Taiwan and the surrounding areas.”
When speaking to the Daily Beast, which also recently released an article discussing similar allegations, Finman explained that the phone was produced in Hong Kong and that “nothing’s manufactured itself in mainland China." The entrepreneur also said the phone was produced by a company called Umidigi, but did not know which model the offering was based on.
Furthermore, Hickey told Gizmodo that he speculates that the phone uses a CPU that is regarded for its bugginess and its prevalence in “popular in low-end Android-based devices."
“Historically Mediatek devices have shipped with a wide number of insecure configurations and are prone to trivial vulnerabilities that allows anyone with physical possession of such a device to read/write the data on the phone through its early bootloader,” Hickey explained. As such, this type of phone has gained popularity in one nation defined by its unwavering dedication to free speech and freedom – North Korea. “They make phones specifically to permit high customization and as such many of the vendors own software can be used to manipulate the devices, which is why such hardware is popular in countries like North Korea as often the security enabled by a user can simply be circumvented by a state operative," he continued.
So, folks, it seems just like everything else, the Freedom Phone has its price – $499 and some allegedly highily-questionable software, to be specific.