Linux laptop maker Purism has succeeded where Ubuntu failed, meeting their crowdfunding goal of $1.5 million USD to produce this, the Librem 5 smartphone. Unlike 2013’s ill-fated Ubuntu Edge, you probably won’t be buying this thing for its specs:
5 inch touchscreen
i.MX6 or i.MX8 CPU, Vivante GPU
3 GB RAM / 32 GB storage + microSD
Front and rear cameras
WiFi, Bluetooth, 3G / 4G / LTE
Courage jack (aka 3.5mm headphone)
You might, however, be interested in the Librem 5 for its Linux compatibility and privacy-minded features. Out of the box the phone will run a mobile version of Purism’s in-house PureOS, or any other Linux distribution that supports its hardware. Since the processor and GPU are both open-source there may well end up being a lot of support for this phone. For privacy there will be hardware kill switches for the cameras, microphone and all wireless networks. In addition the baseband will be separate from the CPU, presumably to prevent the NSA and its Five Eyes partners from overriding any of those kill switches.
In terms of apps, Purism is all about the HTML5, which was also the promise of Firefox OS. Remember Firefox OS? I do. It was terrible. And the cynic in me can’t help but think that a phone running LineageOS and F-Droid in place of the Google apps would deliver 90% of the freedom and a much better user experience.
But who am I to rain on the freedom beards’ parade? It seems like the Linux community is wholeheartedly embracing the Librem 5, and it will interesting to watch what they whip up for it—even if it will be very much a niche product.