What Is the FreedomPHONE?
The FreedomPHONE is marketed as a smartphone designed for conservatives. It’s a $500 phone that’s completely “uncensored”—users can download apps previously banned from Apple and Google’s App Stores, for example.
It also promises to protect patriots from unwanted breaches of privacy, both on the part of the government and other, unrelated intruders, as well.
Is the FreedomPHONE a dumbphone? Not really, although the site suggests that it can accomplish a lot of what dumbphones have to offer. These claims, at times, feel ingenuine and baseless, at least to us.
Who is the man behind the FreedomPHONE brand and ethos? Erik Finman, the world’s youngest Bitcoin billionaire, claims that he had to leave big tech when he realized that his sector impinged on many his constituents’ vital freedoms.
Free speech, censorship, and privacy violations are all wrongs that he sought to right with the inception 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 an Umidigi A9 Pro, worth approximately $138 in its generic, unadulterated form.
An edge-to-edge screen, several cameras, and plenty of other mid-range accommodations all conspire to break big tech’s stranglehold on digital communication.
The publicly-available reviews, admittedly, paint a less than enticing portrait of FreedomPHONE in the field. We’ll get to the critics in a moment—for now, let’s take a look at what Mr. Finman is putting 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’s a version of the Android OS with a new UI skin applied overtop.
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 works in actuality, which is definitely a red flag for us. There are plenty of corporate mysteries in the world of tech privacy and security; all of them are just as valid here, in what is an essentially Android-based user ecosystem.
This, to us, is the least transparent aspect of this product. There may very well be novel and unique security features girding the FreedomPHONE from within, but the marketing on the official site does not touch on any of them in a technical or intellectual manner.
An “Uncancellable” App Store
When the FreedomPHONE was officially revealed in July 2021, its “uncancellable, uncensorable” app store was at the forefront of this announcement. Its claim to fame: there is no policy for banning apps. This, in theory, would allow app creators 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.
Plenty of the most popular controversial apps for conservatives and even banned apps will also come preloaded on the FreedomPHONE—Newsmax, the Rumble app, Parler, and even more traditional privacy stuff like DuckDuckGo, to name a few.
Can an app store with zero rules really pan out constructively, in a way that doesn’t compromise the user? It’s a lofty claim, one that many find to be very attractive on paper.
Is the FreedomPHONE Secure?
If the good people of the internet are any authority, the FreedomPHONE prognosis isn’t stellar.
While we found both positive affirmations in favor of the brand sprinkled into the mix, the majority of what we’ve seen speaks to a platform and service that leaves users vulnerable to a whole host of other problems.
An unrestricted app store can open the door to nefarious activity. An app doesn’t necessarily have to be malicious in order to cause a problem in terms of your security, however; poorly-written software may put you at risk all the same.
A common complaint appears to be the way that the 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 a completely free-to-publish app store invites to the table.
We can see the appeal for users who aren’t exactly security experts themselves—it’s an easy way to enjoy their favorite services, just like they did before they were banned from either mainstream app market. Are the outlying risks that surround this type of situation worth instant access?
One of the most critical takes on the FreedomPHONE has got to be a review that comes courtesy of PCMag, which describes the endeavor as a “colossal grift” that “preys” on the “technically illiterate and legally ignorant.” Harsh words, for sure. Is that opinion justified?
This criticism appears 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 a few gaping security holes into the ordinary standard of service that companies like Apple and Google seek to provide.
The FreedomPHONE site is conspicuously vague about a lot of stuff, including the logistics of the system and even some hardline tech specs that the consumer can expect of the device.
At the end of the day, FreedomPHONE stands for free speech above all else, both for users and for the developers contributing to the platform. They’re both progressive notions, but the execution of this project appears to result in more harm than good to the security of the patron.
Mr. Finman invites us to live free with the FreedomPHONE. Freedom at the expense of one’s safety online, however, is not something we’re especially interested in right now.
Cell service in any capacity is traceable by definition; to be completely free of all privacy concerns, you would literally be better off regressing back into a life of sun dials, typewriters, and hand-delivered snail mail.
The FreedomPHONE: Maybe Next Time, Erik
One source of inspiration that Finman cites as being pivotal to the FreedomPHONE’s invention: former President Trump’s exile from social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. We can’t exactly stand behind the FreedomPHONE as a prescriptive solution, but we have to admire this young entrepreneur’s fighting spirit.
While this venture doesn’t appear to be one that will be long-standing or disruptive in a big-picture sense, it may very well lead the way for other, more mature efforts in service of public freedom and expression.