FreedomPop, the wireless underdog best known for its free Internet and phone plans, is back with another twist: a smartphone that puts privacy in the hands of users. With privacy-oriented Android smartphones emerging as a trend, the Privacy Phone from FreedomPop will join the likes of Blackphone, which launched at Mobile World Congress last week, and Boeing, which reportedly plans to develop a tamper-proof smartphone.
FreedomPop’s phone, nicknamed the “Snowden Phone,” runs on the Samsung Galaxy II and encrypts calls and data with a secure virtual private network. While Blackphone and Boeing’s secure smartphones will run on custom Android builds, FreedomPop’s phone will make customizations to the read-only memory, not the operating system.
FreedomPop’s phone will come with a kill switch that can remotely wipe the phone’s contents, rendering it inoperable if lost or stolen. It also has parallels with burner phones because users can request a phone number change as often as they’d like by logging into their accounts.
The biggest advantage FreedomPop has is its price point: $189, which comes with unlimited voice and text as well as 500 MB of data a month for the first three months. In contrast, the Blackphone is available for preorder for $629. FreedomPop cofounder and CEO Stephen Stokols told Fast Company this price point makes it more geared toward “the average consumer,” but Blackphone has responded by saying it is competitively priced when compared with the retail price of unlock phones, which are not subsidized by wireless carriers.
After the introductory period, FreedomPop’s plan comes to $10 a month. Privacy-conscious consumers also have the option to pay with Bitcoins, a digital currency that provides a level of anonymity to users.