'Snowden' Phone? FreedomPop Launches Cheap Private Phone Service - Technologist
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'Snowden' Phone? FreedomPop Launches Cheap Private Phone Service

For those who value their privacy. For those who need to change phone numbers frequently (cough, drug dealers, cough). For those who want a $10 per month phone bill (paid in three-month increments).

Meet the so-called "Snowden Phone" (officially and more blandly referred to as the Privacy Phone), a re-tooled (and admittedly ancient) Samsung Galaxy SII that is equipped with encrypted calls and text messages, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for disguising Internet traffic, and a phone number that you can change as often as you want.

And it all comes from FreedomPop, a company that was previously known for handing out free and cheap data on Sprint's abandoned 4G WiMax network.

Hardware: 2011's Galaxy S II for $189

The Galaxy S II was the flagship Android phone -- in 2011.

That being said, from skimming a few websites, FreedomPop's $189 price tag is actually on par with the going rate. Plus, other carriers' phones don't come with all of the privacy goodies. For the price, you get a now-basic phone that was universally lauded upon its release.

It's a brilliant move on FreedomPop's part, finding a way to repurpose three-year-old smartphones, especially ones that contain WiMax radios (a 4G technology that Sprint flirted with for a while before abandoning in favor of LTE).

As for the monthly toll, $10 gets you unlimited talk, unlimited text, and a measly 50mb of secured data.

How Secure is Secure?

VPNs aren't perfect, and 128-bit encryption is sufficient, but not spectacular (especially when the NSA is involved). Changing phone numbers on demand is a neat feature, but we're talking about the NSA here -- they can always send a national security letter to FreedomPop and ask for all numbers associated with your phone's serial number.

That being said, at the ridiculously-low price, this is an unbeatable product. Think of this as a deadbolt on your data, versus leaving your door unlocked. A sledgehammer will still win, but you (or perhaps your clients) would have to be pretty special to get that treatment.

Other Unanswered Questions

This phone has a WiMax radio, but FreedomPop's WiMax coverage is insanely limited. (See our review of their free mobile broadband.) And what happens when Sprint kills their WiMax network, which they seem intent on doing in the near future? In other words, are you buying a phone that won't work in six months or a year?

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