Very few projects funded by crowdfunding have already shipped on time. This is especially true for those who promise to create a device that has never been around until now. So it’s hardly surprising that Purism, after a lengthy status report, revealed that they are now considering an April 2019 launch date for the Librem 5. Despite this unforeseen setback, the company is confident that it is still on track to deliver what will be the industry’s first non-Android, fully Linux, completely free and open source software, respecting the privacy and security of user-friendly smartphones.
Purism certainly could have speeded up the process if it had done things very differently. It could have used standard and popular hardware platforms such as Qualcomm’s Snapdragon. He could have taken the unadulterated code from the Android Open Source project and created a version without Google. But not only would that have been unnecessary, since others like Replicant or the Blackphone 2, it would also have meant a compromise on the very foundations of the crusade of purism and why the Librem 5 was successfully funded in the first place. .
So that meant they had to choose a system on a chip that could work completely without proprietary software. It started with NXP’s i.MX6, which will now be replaced by the i.MX8. Luckily for Purism, the i.MX8 is just as compatible with open source. And also, fortunately, NXP was not acquired by Qualcomm, otherwise the story would have a different and probably early ending.
Purism also had to fight against the current, opting for components and processes usually not applied by commercial manufacturers. This was all aimed at ensuring that the Librem 5 will not compromise on respect for the freedom, privacy and security of users, as well as obtaining the necessary recommendations and certifications. This is one of the reasons the process is taking so long and why they are pushing the launch date back to April.
The other, more pressing reason is an unfortunate bug beyond the control of Purism. The new i.MX8 chip has a battery drain bug that would only give the phone an hour to live. Not exactly usable. Sadly, this is something that can only be fixed on silicon and they don’t expect NXP to prepare it until December. Thanks to the holidays and testing, Purism believes April would be their first bet. That is, unless they run into another major hurdle, which, again, is quite normal for most crowdfunded products.