The upcoming Librem 5 smartphone doesn’t have the fastest processor, the most RAM, the highest-res display, the most cameras, or any of the other superlatives that phone makers are using to one-up each other these days. But what it does have going for it is an emphasis on privacy, security, and open source software.
Purism has been shipping Linux laptops that “respect your privacy” for the past few years, and the Librem 5 will be the corporation’s first smartphone.
Development kits have already shipped, but the final hardware’s not ready for purchase just yet… and that’s probably OK since the software is still very much a work in progress. But the latest update from Purism shows that the Librem 5 should be able to do a lot of the things you’d expect a smartphone to do when it does ship.
Most smartphone makers don’t have to worry too much about software, because they can just throw Google’s Android operating system on their phones as long as the hardware supports it.
The Librem 5 will ship with a free and open source GNU/Linux operating system called PureOS (although users will likely be able to replace it if they prefer a different operating system).
The down side is that you won’t get access to the millions of existing mobile apps that can run on Android phones. The up side is that you should be able to run thousands of Linux apps… but they might not all be optimized for mobile devices with small touchscreen displays.
So Purism has been working to make sure that its software includes a fully functional phone dialer application, a contact manager, SMS and chat apps, and a functional web browser.
The Librem 5 July progress update includes updates to the dialer, improved SMS reliability, and mobile ports of some GNOME desktop features including Clocks and Settings (with an emphasis on cellular networking settings).
PureOS also now includes an updated app switcher, a new background/wallpaper manager and a new virtual keyboard called squeekboard that shows an indication that you’ve pressed a key.
The Librem 5 is up for pre-order for $649 and it’s expected to ship in Q3, 2019… which theoretically means any day now — although I wouldn’t be surprised if that release date is eventually pushed back a bit.
Purism isn’t the only organization working on a Linux phone. The PinePhone is a lower-cost, lower-power alternative that’s expected to sell for just $149, while the Necunos NC_1 is priced at 1199 Euros ($1350), despite having pretty anemic specs.
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