Few phones can claim to run a “full” version of Linux. Even fewer could boast of having reached the consumer market. This extremely short list includes the OpenMoko and the Nokia N900 and N9. By the end of the month, they will be joined by Purism’s Librem 5 whose origins and development, not to mention the drama behind them, could fill the pages. The journey isn’t over yet, however, as the process of getting these privacy-friendly phones into the hands of users is going to be a story in itself, stretched out in batches until Q2 2020.
Purism definitely does a lot of things differently with the Librem 5 phone. It was a crowdfunded product, yes, but on Purism’s own platform. At almost every step of the way, the startup has embraced transparency, including not only the delays, but even the uncertainty of grabbing their ideal NXP i.MX8 processor. Now, it looks like even its deployment of phones will be unconventional as well.
Unlike typical OEM phones which unload everything in one initial mass production run, Purism will manufacture and ship the phones in batches. Each batch will be better and more refined than the last, both in terms of hardware and software. All lots, however, will come with all interior hardware and certifications for the radios.
This will certainly raise a few eyebrows, especially considering that the physical parts cannot be changed once shipped. The very first ones that receive their phones later this month will have an individually milled case, loose fit, and unfinished switch caps. It is not until the fifth shipment of “Evergreen” lots in the second quarter of 2020 that recipients will have a molded case. The same goes for software, the first batches receiving a first version of applications and services. The software, however, can be easily updated.
It might seem a bit unfair to those who will be in the early batches, but it looks like they can choose which batch they want to be a part of. It will certainly be an interesting and possibly messy affair, but at least Purism is, as promised, transparent about it. The first batch “Aspen” of Librem 5 phones will start shipping on September 24th. If all goes well, there will be a version 2 of the phone with an upcoming 14nm processor by the end of 2020.
Purism provided photos of the phone’s main body and screen, ready for assembly, along with the distribution of prizes and what each will have in terms of design and default software.