'Freedom Phone': MAGA fans paying high price for cheap, Chinese-made handset with security concerns - report

A new so-called 'Freedom Phone' targeted at Donald Trump supporters claiming to be concerned about freedom of speech appears to be a cheap, Chinese-made handset available elsewhere online much cheaper.

The anti-censorship smartphone was announced last week by Erik Finman who, at just 22 years old, has apparently made millions of dollars from cryptocurrencies.

But security experts are already raising questions about the US$500 device, which has been publicly supported by controversial figures like convicted criminal Roger Stone, 'Stop the Steal' march organiser Ali Alexander and Candace Owens, who said she was a "proud partner".

The Daily Dot reports the Freedom Phone appears to be a rebranded Umidigi A9 Pro, a Chinese smartphone that can be bought online for as little as NZ$181.

"The device is a drop-shipped customisable Android-based phone," Matthew Hickey, co-founder of cybersecurity firm Hacker House told The Daily Dot.

"They can be bought and shipped in bulk from Asia with custom logos and branding so as to give the appearance of a phone that has been designed for a unique purpose."

The Umidigi A9 Pro uses a Taiwan-made MediaTek processor which worsens the lack of security, Hickey said. The brand is widely used in North Korea because backdoors can be implemented, allowing users to be spied upon.

"Using MediaTek for anything and expecting privacy or security is fundamentally flawed," Hickey said.

Finman confessed to The Daily Beast that the phone was indeed sourced from Umidigi, but defended it on the basis it's impossible to "build a phone in the US top to bottom, unfortunately".

He says the phone has an uncensorable app store, another red flag for Hickey, who says Google and Apple implement a code-inspection process to try and avoid malware.

"The Freedom Phone offers an app store that promises not to censor apps but has not made it clear how it will perform this vital process while keeping out malware," he said.

The phone will come pre-loaded with apps apparently designed to appeal to supporters of former Celebrity Apprentice host Trump, with the official website showing the conservative Newsmax and One America News Network prominently on the phone.

The website also uses the Trump-echoing slogan: "Not just making America great. But also making a great phone."

There are no details regarding the specifications of the phone but when asked to justify the price increase over the Umidigi model, Finman said the Freedom Phone features customised hardware and improved memory, The Daily Beast reported.

Finman also tweeted the phone was made in Hong Kong, although Umidigi is located in Shenzen in mainland China.