Much like the failed blogger MAGA fans still cling to, many in the sphere of influence around Donald Trump are simply out to make a quick buck. And the latest example of this is a smartphone designed to make people make a very dumb purchase, apparently in the name of fighting censorship.
That would be the “Freedom Phone,” a device that’s supposed to come pre-loaded with all of Trump World’s favorite apps like Rumble and Parler according to a flag-waving website selling preorders of the phone as of this week. According to the site, it will be available in August and come with a number of apps and a “free speech-first operating system,” whatever that means. But the hefty price tag for an unsubsidized smartphone, $499.99, may be much more than what the phone is actually worth.
As The Daily Beast’s Will Sommer detailed, the Freedom Phone is little more than a budget phone made by a Chinese manufacturer that’s selling for much more as the “Freedom Phone” than it does otherwise. The company, run by a self-proclaimed “youngest bitcoin millionaire” named Erik Finman, wants to sell phones to patriots who don’t want to be censored on social media like Trump and his insurrectionist supporters claim to have been since the January 6 MAGA riot in Washington.
But what they’re buying is, well, a budget phone from China.
In fact, Freedom Phone appears to be a simple rebranding of a budget phone called the “Umidigi A9 Pro,” made by the Chinese tech company Umidigi. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Finman confirmed that the Freedom Phone was manufactured by Umidigi, but couldn’t say immediately which Umidigi phone it was based on.
The Freedom Phone’s $500 price tag would represent a substantial markup on the Umidigi A9 Pro. That phone is available on Chinese retail giant AliExpress for $120 — less than one quarter of the price of a Freedom Phone.
Asked to justify the Freedom Phone’s notable price increase over the Umidigi model, Finman claimed vaguely that the Freedom Phone features customized hardware and improved memory. He committed Wednesday to publishing the phone’s technical specifications — basic details any company selling a phone should be able to provide. As of Thursday afternoon, however, no technical specifications had been provided to The Daily Beast or added to the Freedom Phone’s website.
Sommer’s always-excellent reporting has plenty of details about Finman, as well as some extremely basic logic about the phone itself: all the advertised apps supposed to be “preloaded” on the phone are free and currently available in Android and Apple app stores, so MAGA fans are paying a pretty huge markup just to have them downloaded in advance. There’s also the mobile version of Fortnite on the phones as well, apparently.
None of this sounds like a particularly good deal, except for the MAGA influencers who seem poised to get a cut of profits if their followers buy one with their promotional code. But it will likely sucker some freedom-obsessed folks into buying a cheap phone in the name of fighting censorship. Good luck to everyone involved in figuring out that free speech-based operating system by August.
[via The Daily Beast]