Meet Freedom Phone, a Smartphone for Conservatives


It was a screen set for a politically polarized audience. Erik Finman, 22, who calls himself the youngest Bitcoin millionaire in the world, He posted a video on Twitter For a new kind of smartphone that he says will free Americans from the “Masters of Big Tech.”

The exciting video he released in July featured exciting music, American flags, and references to former Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Donald J. Trump. conservative experts Hawk Mr. Finman’s Freedom Phone and video garnered 1.8 million views. Mr. Finman soon received thousands of orders for the $500 device.

Then came the hard part: building and delivering the phones. First, he took bad early comments for a plan to simply put your software cheap chinese phone. And then there was the no-nonsense business of shipping phones, hiring customer service representatives, collecting sales taxes, and dealing with regulators.

“I feel prepared for practically anything,” he said in a recent interview. “But I guess it’s similar to how you hope for world peace, in a way you don’t think it will happen.”

Even for the most generously funded start-ups, it’s hard to compete with tech industry giants that have a death toll in their markets and are worth trillions of dollars. Mr. Finman was still part of the growing right-wing tech industry that took up the challenge, reliant more on expertise or experience than on the dislike of his conservative customers for Silicon Valley.

There are cloud providers that host right-wing websites. free speech video site Competing with YouTube and at least seven conservative social networks It’s trying to compete with Facebook.

The right-wing social network Parler, funded by conservative megadonor Rebekah Mercer, found itself fighting for its life earlier this year after Apple, Google and Amazon. attracted their services. Another social media company where the far right is popular, gabIt struggled to gain traction without finding a place in the Apple or Google app stores. And Gettr, a social network created by veterans of the Trump administration, hacked right away.

With bleach blonde hair and a brown, chin-strap beard, Mr. Finman calls himself an agent of change for both technology and Republican politics. Mr. Finman focused on British politics in a blank interview on lamb kebabs at a Turkish restaurant in Manhattan; he quoted both the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius and the German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld; and explained why he thought the modern Republican Party was “poor”. Party leaders complain about Big Tech censorship, but say it does little about it.

in 2014 New York magazine profiled Mr. Finman Coeur d’Alene is a 16-year-old from outside Idaho who became rich a few years ago when he spent a $1,000 gift from his grandmother in Bitcoin.

In 2017, his fortune exceeded $1 million and he was posting his photos on the internet. Posing with YouTube celebrities, acquisition on and closed private jets and Setting fire to $100 bills. But he is fed up with the cryptocurrency scene. “I actually hate to talk about Bitcoin,” he said. “It’s like ‘Rolling Stones, play the hits’.”

He went into politics. He said that when he was 12, he saw himself as a libertarian. (He was at a rally for former presidential candidate Ron Paul the first time someone told him about Bitcoin.) But his politics changed when Mr. Trump came onto the national political scene. “I drank Kool-Aid in 2016,” he said.

Mr Finman said over the next few years, he began to worry about what he saw as Silicon Valley’s censorship of conservative voices. He also got a job opportunity at other Republicans who shared his concerns. Thus, he aimed for the dominance of Apple and Google and tried to create a new right-wing smartphone.

“Politics is the new national pastime, baby,” said Mr. Finman. “Even non-political things like a scary pillow eventually become political,” he added, citing Mike Lindell, founder of MyPillow. He lied about the 2020 election.

But to make a smartphone, it had to rely on Google. The company’s Android software already works with millions of apps, and Google is making a free, open version of the software for developers to modify. So Mr. Finman hired engineers to untick any Google and upload it with apps from conservative social networks and news outlets. He then installed the software on phones he bought from China.

Google and Apple declined to comment.

To reveal the phone, he recorded an infomercial in which he portrayed tech companies as enemies of the American style. “Imagine Mark Zuckerberg outlawing MLK or Abraham Lincoln,” he said in the video. “The course of history would change forever.”

At the same time, a number of right-wing figures directed the phone to their followers. they endured earn $50 for each customer using the discount codes.

Thousands of people bought the $500 phone. Others, including some conservatives, quickly shifted the animated pitch. “It’s not a bad instinct,” said Zachary Graves, a technology policy expert at Lincoln Network, a libertarian think tank. “But when I first saw the video, I was like, ‘Live from New York, Saturday night!’ I expected them to say.”

news sites quickly reported He said the Freedom Phone is based on a low-cost handset from Umidigi, a Chinese manufacturer that uses chips that have been shown to be vulnerable to hacks. Marketing the device as “the world’s best phone,” Mr. Finman was on the defensive.

In an interview in July, Mr. Finman admitted that Umidigi made the phone, but said he was still “100 percent” sure it was safer than the latest iPhone. Apple has tens of thousands of engineers. Mr. Finman said he employs 15 people in Utah and Idaho.

Mr Finman said he wasn’t surprised by the criticism, but was surprised by the sales. This gave him responsibilities he hadn’t planned for, including Federal Communications Commission certification and special rules for shipping devices with lithium batteries. He hired people from his hometown in Idaho to set up a temporary customer service center and struggled to resolve sales tax issues.

Within a month of the phone’s release, Mr. Finman had a solution: sell someone else’s phone and act as the brand leader. Just as Mr. Finman’s political muse, Mr. Trump, selling Trump steaks and Trump vodka from running a cattle ranch or distillery, so Mr. Finman was spared the difficult task of actually running a phone-making company.

“When the going gets tough, bring the 50-year-olds in,” Mr Finman said in a recent interview. “There may be people who have sleepless nights.”

In Orem, Utah, he worked with a 13-year-old company called ClearCellular, which created a phone that was disconnected from Apple and Google. The company also had experience in logistics, shipping and customer service.

The companies added American Flag wallpapers and conservative apps to ClearCellular’s device and called it the Freedom Phone. Mr. Finman said that although ClearCellular provides technological support for the app store, the phone has a “PatriApp Store”.

Mr. Finman will get a share, although they don’t say how much.

Reviews of the new phone are not positive. Product review site CNET, said The $500 device looked “almost the same as a $200 budget Android phone.”

Michael Proper, 46, founder of ClearCellular, said Mr Finman was “really building a brand”. Starting a phone company is ambitious, but “not just software, security, hardware, but also supply chain, inventory and capitalization,” he added. Mr. Finman’s strength is to “connect with people within the freedom community”.

Mr Finman said he had received orders for about 12,000 Freedom Phones and had generated nearly $6 million in revenue in just over seven weeks. Mr. Finman and Mr. Uygun said they have about 8,000 phones left to send. Mr. Finman refused to associate The New York Times with any client.

Mr. Finman said that Mr. Appropriate is “like my Phil Knight and Freedom Phone Jordans,” referring to the Nike co-founder who helped make Michael Jordan’s shoes a cultural and commercial hit.

The arrangement freed Mr. Finman to focus less on running a telephone company and more on establishing a political operation. In a phone call from Washington, where he met with potential investors last week, he said that Freedom Phone could get liberals out as well as save its customers from Big Tech.

He said he plans to use the Freedom Phone to direct users to nearby polling stations during the elections. And he aimed to create a news feed on the phone where he could promote conservative articles.

“I definitely see it as one of the ultimate political tools,” he said. “Everyone has one in their pocket.”


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