Thursday, September 23, 2021

Strange story of the Freedom phone, a smartphone for conservatives

By Jack Nikas, New York Times Company

It was a pitch for a politically polarized audience. Eric Feynman, 22, who calls himself the world’s youngest bitcoin millionaire, posted a video on Twitter for a new type of smartphone that he said would free Americans from their “Big Tech Overlords.”

His splashy video, posted in July, featured provocative music, American flags and mentions of former presidents Abraham Lincoln and Donald Trump. Conservative pundits have seized Finman’s Freedom phone and garnered 1.8 million views on his video. Feynman soon received thousands of orders for the $ 500 device.

Then comes the hard part: making and delivering phones. First, he received bad reviews at first for his plans to keep his software on a cheap Chinese phone. And then there were shipping phones, hiring customer-service agents, collecting sales tax and working with regulators.

“I think I was ready for virtually anything,” he said. “But I think it’s kind of like you’re hoping for world peace, in the sense that you don’t think it’s going to happen.”

For even the most stylish financed startups, it’s hard to compete with technology industry giants that have a death knell in their market and that are worth trillions of dollars. Feynman was part of a growing right-wing technology industry yet accepted the challenge, relying more on the annoyance of their conservative customers for Silicon Valley than on skills or experience.

There, cloud providers are hosting right-wing websites, a so-called free-speech video site is competing with YouTube, and at least seven conservative social networks are trying to compete with Facebook.

The parlor, a right-wing social network funded by conservative megadonor Rebecca Mercer, is fighting for its life after Apple, Google and Amazon pulled their services earlier this year. Another popular social media company on the right, Gab, has struggled to gain traction without space in Apple or Google App Stores. And Gettr, a social network created by veterans of the Trump administration, was hacked instantly.

Strange story of the Freedom phone, a smartphone for conservatives
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