It appears that Erik Finman has been paying attention to the examples being set by a certain former president on how to run a successful business.
Forget about building a better mousetrap. Wave a big enough U.S. flag, yell “freedom” loud enough, and the MAGA crowd will beat a path to your door.
That’s the theory, anyway.
I’m not so sure how well it’s working out for Erik Finman, a guy who claims he’s the world’s youngest Bitcoin millionaire, but he’s been been pushing that theory to the limits. He has a website with a hugely big flag that doesn’t quite fill the screen on the homepage, but it seems like it does because it’s animated to wave in the wind with what I suppose he thinks will be a wow-factor for an audience that likes shiny objects.
Oh, and as for hollering “freedom,” the site’s purpose is to sell a product called Freedom Phone.
When freedom rings, will you answer?
Cheapness at the Cost of Premium
Finman indicates that his freedom and privacy loving phone is selling like hotcakes. That may be; I don’t know and I don’t care. What I do know is that while the world may or may not be beating a path to his door, the phone he’s offering for $499 isn’t anything close to being a better mousetrap.
What it is, according to at least a half dozen tech journalists who’ve looked into this, is a rebranded Umidigi A9 Pro, made by China-based Umidigi, a smartphone maker with a reputation of not honoring its warranties.
It’s also not a top-of-the-line phone, which you might think considering the price. You can get them from the factory for about $120 apiece, maybe less, depending on how many you want. I understand that if you buy enough of them, Umidigi is happy to customize them, and ship them with custom logos and branding already in place. And since the manufacturer is already going to have to throw its own operating system image on them, I’m sure they’d be happy to let you use your own customized OS image instead.
— ERIK FINMAN (@erikfinman) August 10, 2021
When the phone was first offered for sale last summer, Finman explained that it’s freedom loving because it’ll let you install all of the apps for the alt-right news sites that both Google and Apple have kicked out of their app stores, such as One American News Network, Parler, and I guess others. It’s hard to determine exactly what’s preinstalled or otherwise available for the phone, however. When I tried to take a looksee at Freedom Phone’s “uncancellable app store” called PatriApp, it didn’t offer a look at what’s available, just links for downloading the PatriApp app at Google and Apple.
Privacy is a whole ‘nother ballgame. While the phone comes with a whole bunch of privacy apps preinstalled, such as Signal, DuckDuckGo, and Brave Browser, you may not be running the software you think you’re running.
Take Signal, for instance. On Saturday, Matthew Garrett revealed in an article on his blog that with Freedom Phone, whether you’re running Signal or not might depend on what your definition of “Signal” is.
“What’s shipped is not the version available from the Signal website or any official app store – instead it’s this fork called ‘ClearSignal,'” he said.
Clear would be a reference to Clear United, the company behind ClearOS, which is what Freedom Phone has run since it dropped something called FreedomOS, which it initially used.
It only goes downhill from there. I’m not going to go into all of the details of the problems Garrett discovered. He wrote an excellent article, which I figure he didn’t write so that I could steal it by paraphrase, so I’m just going to suggest that you read it here.
I’m even suggesting that you read it even if you don’t give a mouse’s behind about Freedom Phone. I couldn’t have cared less about Freedom Phone when I read the article on Sunday either, and I still couldn’t have cared less after I read it. Garrett’s detective work and what he discovered, however, was fascinating, especially given what the world’s youngest cybersecurity millionaire wants you to think, which I think is that he’s a stable genius.