In a land of 330 million people, 280 million Americans own a smartphone. Not surprisingly, smartphones are by far the most popular digital devices in our lives. We spend inordinate amounts of time on our phones, scrolling, swiping, and searching for information.
Which begs the question: where was your smartphone made? Probably in China. This is problematic on so many levels.
Five of the 10 most popular phone brands in the world are Chinese: Huawei, Lenovo, LG, Oppo, and Xiaomi. Chinese phones are synonymous with affordability. They are also synonymous with spying.
For example, the cameras on phones manufactured by Vivo, a Chinese multinational technology company headquartered in Guangdong, a coastal province located in southeast China, have secretly recorded users’ activities and stolen their data. In addition to Vivo, other phone makers—like Oppo, Xiaomi, and Gionee—have been accused of harvesting users’ data and passwords.
Many Chinese-made phones come with apps like TikTok and WeChat already installed. Some phones, rather disturbingly, automatically download these apps, as well as other Beijing-backed Trojan horses. According to credible reports, these apps excel at siphoning off copious amounts of information about their users, including “data that has nothing to do with the actual function of the app and for whose collection there is no reasonable justification,” Deutsche Welle (DW) reported in 2020.
In other words, these are malware apps masquerading as something much more benign.
Some Chinese phones come with preinstalled spyware, allowing God knows who to follow a user’s every move. In 2020, Alcatel, a smartphone manufactured by Telephone Communication Limited (TCL), a Chinese electronics company, was implicated in a huge spyware operation. Alcatel phones, it must be noted, are readily available in major U.S. stores. Some of the other phones mentioned above might not be in your local Walmart, but they are easily purchased on sites like Amazon.
Of course, in this world of apparently unlimited choice, one doesn’t have to buy a Chinese phone. Plenty of other options exist. But the fact that communist China controls so much of the phone market should concern us all.
What if there was a “Made in America” phone, one truly capable of competing with the array of “Made in China” phones?
A Welcome Alternative
Some 30 years ago, it was common for U.S. companies to manufacture their phones at home. Alas, those days are long gone. Apple, one of the most popular brands in the world, now manufactures the vast majority of its phones in China, where cheap labor and violations of workers’ rights reign supreme. In Zhengzhou, home to Apple’s biggest iPhone factory, employees are reportedly beaten and berated. Apple may very well be a global tech leader, but it’s not exactly a U.S. company that screams decency.
Similarly, Google, another U.S. tech giant that appears to lack a moral compass, manufactures many of its phones in China (although, in recent times, the company has moved more of its production to Vietnam). Apple and Google are two of the country’s biggest companies. Still, when it comes to the actual manufacturing of their wildly-popular products, there’s very little, if anything, American about them.
All hope, however, is not lost. When it comes to the manufacturing of smartphones, one company has opted to shun the Far East in favor of the United States.
Purism, a San Francisco-based company founded by Todd Weaver, specializes in producing electronics, including stylish smartphones. One model, the Librem 5 USA, is the only smartphone in the world displaying the increasingly rare “Made in USA” stamp. This is not an advertisement for Purism. I am neither a spokesperson for the company nor endorsing any of its products. In truth, I only discovered the company a few weeks ago. But what’s wrong with shedding some light on a company that appears to care about making decent products catered to the American public?
Unlike Apple and Google (and almost every other extremely profitable corporation in existence), Purism is a social-purpose company. In other words, it strives to put social good above profits. This, perhaps, explains why Purism’s phones are built around the idea of preserving a user’s privacy rather than violating it.
According to its website, whenever you pick up your phone and search for a term online, “you’re being controlled” by a market only too eager to use your “operating system and applications to collect as much information about you as possible.” To make matters worse, this “exploited information” is then traded between various companies. Purism’s phones, we’re told, prevent such violations from occurring. All the source code is available for public consumption. Moreover, as the site notes, users “can be sure there will be no secret backdoors, no unauthorized information being sent across the Internet, no need to register and be controlled by a company, no licenses to agree to.”
Will Purism ever be able to compete with giants like Apple or Oppo? Of course, not. But that’s not the point. Some things, like respecting users’ privacy, are considerably more important than accumulating hefty profits.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of our premium news partners at The Epoch Times.