It’s kind of “good news, bad news” at Purism. The small company that continues to deliver “ethical” Linux laptops with a focus on privacy and security has garnered a lot of hype, interest and support for the promise of a similar device in a phone format. The Purism Librem 5 is still coming, or at least there don’t seem to be any major hurdles in sight. But as the company finally decided which processor to use, it also announced that, for the second time, the phone would be delayed for another quarter.
To be fair, what Purism does isn’t a walk in the park, which is why very few try it. While there is no shortage of attempts to manufacture purely Linux phones, Purism has very specific and stringent requirements. From software to hardware, the phone should be free from proprietary software. But even then, Purism had to make a little compromise because of the way cellular modems are made these days.
Then there was the problem with the CPU that Librem chose, the i.MX 8M from NXP. Slightly late on delivery, the system-on-a-chip revealed an efficiency issue that prompted Purism to seek an alternative, the i.MX 8M Mini. Luckily, NXP has apparently rolled out a software patch for these and Purism can finally get started with the i.MX 8M Quad.
So now the specifications of the Librem 5 phone are locked in some parts. However, everything might not look good on paper, at least compared to the current generation of smartphones. The i.MX 8M Quad itself is a 1.5 GHz quad-core processor using the low power consumption ARM Cortex-A53 cores. No mention was made of RAM but the Librem 5 will have 32 GB of eMMC internal storage. The display has yet to be decided, but it will be a 5.5 to 5.7 inch HD display, not even Full HD. The cameras are also still to be discussed, but it’s probably best not to keep high hopes.
Purism has already delayed the Librem 5 in the second quarter of 2019, but due to the issues with the i.MX 8M, they now have postponed delivery in the third trimester. Fortunately, things have progressed more easily on the software side, especially with the shipment of development kits last December. If all goes well from this point on, 2019 could finally be the year the world sees the very first non-Android, purely open-source, ethical Linux smartphone.