Thanks to the antics of some of your favorite and less favorite tech companies, there has been a lot of privacy attention and frenzy. If you really think about it, no one and nothing is safe from these corporate giants, smart speakers always listening and sometimes recording right down to your supposedly silent and deaf smartphone. There has never been a better time for privacy-promoting products and the user to come out of hiding. And, if all goes well, one of those products will be available for purchase in early 2019: the open source Linux-based, privacy-focused, freedom-loving Purism Librem 5.
In October of last year, Purism accomplished what Canonical wanted, but with more realistic expectations. By rallying the support of privacy and open source advocates, he was able to raise the $ 1.5 million needed to create what would be a first in the mobile market. And although his journey is far from over, he is proud to report that he has successfully overcome some of the biggest obstacles to fulfilling his promise, including what the Librem 5 phone would look like as pictured below- above.
As any small business will tell you, getting contracts with manufacturers isn’t easy when you’re not Samsung, Apple, or Google. It’s even more difficult when you’re not ordering massive quantities or have special niche requirements. Purism has always been to make sure that hardware, not just software, is open source compatible, which goes against the practice of mobile component manufacturers these days. It was an uphill battle, but Purism was finally able to get the specs for Librem 5 in place, at least enough to have some dev kits made that are expected to reach developers and some backers soon.
The software side is no less difficult. In addition to developing the user interface using only open source tools, Purism must also manage the firmware for this hardware, some of which might not work without proprietary bits. So when he says he was able to make and take calls (using the development board, that’s a huge deal and one of the most critical accomplishments for the Librem 5. After all, what? good a smartphone that cannot make calls.
Purism has also made strides in the user side of the software, which is the user interface of the phone and its applications. In addition to the phone application, a Contacts application has also been completed. And since the end goal is to make these apps work on the desktop or on a larger screen, the design includes these use cases as well.
Purism is confident it is on track for a January 2019 delivery date and is already accept pre-orders. The $ 599 price tag may seem steep compared to other smartphones with similar hardware, but the Librem 5’s appeal goes beyond specs. You’d be hard-pressed to find a usable smartphone in any price range that will not only allow you to install any Linux distro of your choice, but will also ensure that your data remains secure, private, and out of the reach of businesses.