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Purism turns to crowdfunding to develop their Linux-based smartphone

The Librem 5 will feature hardware kill switches for the camera, microphone, and wireless radios. (Image: Purism)
The Librem 5 will feature hardware kill switches for the camera, microphone, and wireless radios. (Image: Purism)
The Librem 5, currently up for preorder through a crowdfunding campaign, is Purism's attempt to create a privacy-focused smartphone. The phone will run a mobile variant of PureOS, which is Purism's own custom GNU/Linux-based operating system.

Data protection has been a growing concern for some time now, and there are companies developing products focused on securing the user’s privacy. Purism is one such business. Their Librem line of notebooks ship with PureOS, a Linux distro focused on open-source software and privacy protection. But Purism doesn’t want to stop at making secure laptops; the company has recently announced a crowdfunding campaign to create a privacy-centric smartphone.

Dubbed the Librem 5, the smartphone will run a mobile version of Purism’s PureOS, an operating system developed on the GNU/Linux kernel. PureOS is focused on privacy and allows users to restrict access to data, shut down hardware peripherals like cameras or microphones, and prevent location tracking. The OS will also be fully open-source, allowing for end-user development. The phone should also be capable of running other GNU/Linux-based operating systems, provided they have adequate driver support for the hardware.

Speaking of hardware, the phone won’t have specs similar to the typical Qualcomm or Intel processors we see in most other phones:

  • i.MX6/i.MX8 CPU (separated from WWAN modem)
  • 32 GB eMMC storage
  • MicroSD support
  • Headphone/microphone jack
  • 802.11 WiFi (Wireless ac support is not known)
  • Bluetooth 4 (BT 4.2 support is not known)
  • USB Type-C

The Libre 5 earns its namesake from its 5-inch screen, which may seem a bit small by today’s standards. The phone will also be compatible with 2G, 3G, and 4G GSM and LTE networks. There will also be hardware “kill switches” for the camera, microphone, Wifi/Bluetooth, and baseband, which makes sense for a privacy-focused device. Perhaps the most impressive piece will be the “convergence” feature of the smartphone, which will allow users to connect the phone to a monitor, wireless mouse, and wireless keyboard, enabling a full desktop mode.

This isn’t the first Linux-based smartphone we’ve seen. Canonical, the organization behind Ubuntu Linux, famously tried to make a Linux phone running a touch-centric version of Ubuntu. While phones were developed to support the OS, they never caught on in the market, and Canonical shuttered the project earlier this year. Other smartphones running alternatives to Android or iOS have also seen failure in the market, most notably devices running Mozilla’s ill-fated FirefoxOS. While it’s not likely that the Librem 5 will catch any meaningful market share, that doesn’t seem to be the main goal for Purism. However, while their crowdfunding goals do seem a bit more reasonable than most, it may still be a stretch for the Librem 5 to be financially solvent (if even plausible).

As of this writing, the campaign has reached just north of USD$44,000 of its $1,500,000 goal. The Librem 5 can be preordered through Purism’s crowdfunding campaign, the details of which can be found here. A pledge of $599 or more will preorder the phone, which is expected to start shipping in January 2019.


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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2017 08 > Purism turns to crowdfunding to develop their Linux-based smartphone
Sam Medley, 2017-08-24 (Update: 2017-08-24)