Despite the growing body of evidence and cases of mobile software blatantly violating user privacy, it’s almost impossible to imagine life these days without a smartphone. While diehard privacy advocates may be able to give up their mobile device for good, some are trying to promise the best of both mobile and privacy worlds. One of them is Purism who finally finalized the specifications and features of their privacy-friendly, crowdfunded Librem 5 phone.
There is still debate over the pros and cons of a completely different mobile platform for the sake of privacy and openness. With Linux as the only option, users will be forced to make a choice between these ideals and familiarity with Android or iOS and their applications. For some users, however, this is fine, which is part of Librem 5’s 2-17 crowdfunding success.
Two years later, however, Purism has yet to deliver on its promise. In fact, it still has to define the hardware functionality of the phone, which it has finally done now. After waiting with a bit of uncertainty on the fate of chipmaker NXP and the viability of its i.MX8 chip, Purism is finally ready to put a stake in the field.
The Librem 5 phone which will hopefully ship next quarter will be powered specifically by the i.MX8M processor and will have 3GB of RAM. The 5.7-inch screen will have an “HD +” resolution of 1440 × 720 which is at least in line with current 18: 9 trends. There’s also a single 13-megapixel camera on the back and an 8-megapixel camera on the front.
These might seem rather underwhelming, but these pieces have been carefully chosen due to their openness, compatibility with open source software, and privacy. It even has three physical shutdown switches for Wi-Fi / Bluetooth, cellular, cameras, and microphone. And unlike almost all phones these days, the 3,500mAh is even replaceable.
On the software side, the Librem 5 will run a version of Linux that is perhaps the closest one can be to running a Linux desktop on a phone. Purism worked with the open source community to develop the framework and software to drive the phone. In addition, other Linux based mobile platforms can also be installed on the phone.
The question now is whether all of this is enough to justify a price tag of $ 699. For those who answer a resounding “yes”, an early bird pre-order will reduce that price by $ 50 to just $ 649 until July 31. As for a shipping date, it’s still not announced for these pre-orders and, more importantly, the original backers in 2017.