FreedomPop has responded to the world’s growing concern over hacking and privacy with a new secure mobile handset nicknamed the “Snowden Phone,” after the former U.S. government contractor who revealed the extent of the National Security Agency’s digital surveillance programs. The handset, which is a modified Samsung Galaxy S2, is being called the Privacy Phone by Freedom Pop, and includes a wide array of encryption and VPN technologies aimed at limiting a person’s exposure to possible infiltration on the part of hackers or, yes, the government.
Since its founding in 2012, the small mobile provider has been trying to improve consumer privacy on wireless networks. The Privacy Phone comes fast on the heels of Boeing’s Black smartphone, which was unveiled late in February at Mobile World Congress. It provides a wide range of privacy and security features to help the U.S. government sidestep international hackers. It’s worth noting that the Snowden Phone doesn’t appear to be as secure as the Boeing Black phone out of the box. This slide show examines how the FreedomPop Snowden Phone is designed to improve mobile security to the general public.
There are only two of these “privacy phones” announced right now, and both admit up-front that they aren’t impervious to NSA spying (or likely any high-level state snooping – once Sauron’s All-Seeing Eye is focused directly on you, you’re pretty much cooked).
That said, either of these offerings are considerably better than nothing. Tom’s Hardware, one of my go-to tech review sites, has this to say, in an extensive review of both phones:
The Privacy Phone costs $189 up front, which includes three months of unlimited voice and texting and 500MB of monthly data. After that, the phone costs $10 per month. Alternatively, Privacy Phone can be purchased with bitcoins to further protect users’ privacy.
Blackphone, on the other hand, will cost $629 up front before a carrier pay-as-you-go plan. The $629 includes subscription fees to a number of highly reputable and secure services, including two years of Silent Circle (normally $240). You also get three one-year Silent Circle subscriptions to give to your friends and family ($360), two years of secure encrypted cloud storage service SpiderOak ($120) and two years of Disconnect ($120).
Bottom line for me: I’m already a Freedom Pop customer (I have their 4G hotspot) and I’ve been very satisfied with the value proposition it offers (500 mb of data/month with rollover for $7.99/mo), so I’m already disposed to like their deals. Also, the Freedom Pop Secure Phone is available now. It may be slightly less secure than the Black phone, but it’s much, much cheaper than that phone, both on an up-front and ongoing basis. So, if I were in the market for one of these gadgets, I’d go with Freedom Pop – not that I’d have any other choice today. The Black phone won’t be on offer for several months yet.
Check out both the reviews I cite and make up your own mind, though.