Linux laptop company Purism is getting ready to ship its first Linux smartphone. The Purism Librem 5 was first announced in mid-2017, raised over $1.5 million through a crowdfunding campaign a few months later, and has been under development ever since.
But some details have been in flux. Now that Purism says the phone is almost ready to ship, the organization is revealing the finalized specifications and pricing details.
The Librem 5 is still on track to ship in the third quarter of 2019, and it’ll have a retail price of $699, but folks who pre-order by July 31st will still be able to reserve one for $649.
The phone’s key selling points are that it runs the GNU/Linux-based PureOS, which is a free and open source operating system and it includes privacy features including hardware kill switches that let you disable the camera, microphone, baseband, and wireless hardware when you don’t need them.
Unlike most modern flagships, the Librem 5 also has a removable battery and a headphone jack.
What it doesn’t have are the kind of specs you might expect from a $649/$699 smartphone. This is the first smartphone from Purism. It’s a device that will likely be produced and sold in limited quantities. And hardware had to be selected which would play well with the phone’s software. So if you buy one, you’re paying a premium for the experience, not for bleeding-edge specs.
With that in mind, here’s the spec sheet for the Librem 5:
- 5.7 inch, 1440 x 720 pixel IPS display
- 1.5 GHz NXP i.MX8M ARM Cortex-A53 quad-core processor
- 3GB RAM
- 32GB eMMC storage + microSD card reader
- 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi (dual-band)
- Bluetooth 4.0
- Gemalto PLS8 3G/4G modem w/SIM card (on replacemable M.2 card
- Teseo LIF3 GNSS GPS
- Smartcard reader
- 13MP rear camera w/LED flash
- 8MP front camera
- USB 3.0 Type-C (charging, data, video out)
- 3,500 mAh user replaceable battery
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- Mono speaker
- 9-axis accelerator, gyroscope, compass
The list isn’t all that different from what Purism had outlined earlier this year, but it’s good to see that some features have been finalized, including the cameras, battery, and display.
Purism notes that the Librem 5 supports OpenGL/ES 3.1, OpenCL 1.2, and Vulkan graphics. It also has an ambien light and proximity sensor, and a haptic motor.
There are also three hardware kill switches:
- WiFi & Bluetooth kill switch
- Cellular baseband kill switch
- Cameras & mic kill switch
Turning all three off at the same time will also disable the compass, GPD, light, proximity, and ambient light sensors.
My biggest question about the Librem 5 is whether it’ll actually be competitive as a phone. While Purism has been working to ensure there are touch-friendly apps capable of running on PureOS, they’ll have to compete with millions of apps that are already available for Android and iOS.
The good news is that Purism already has key apps ready including a phone dialer, contacts, SMS and messaging apps, and a web browser. More recently Purism has showcased other apps that are compatible with the Librem 5 including a music player, calculator, password manager, podcast app, and geekier tools including a Telnet app, Apache web server, and DOSBox.
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