Purism’s first smartphone is now shipping. The Librem 5 is a smartphone with a 5.7 inch display, an NXP i.MX8M quad-core processor, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and a 4,500 mAh battery.
It’s also one of only a handful of smartphones designed to ship with a GNU/Linux distribution rather than Android or iOS.
The phone has been under development for several years, and a small number of dev kits and pre-production units have already been shipped. But mass production of the first “Evergreen” batch hardware began recently, and earlier this month Purism announced that it would begin shipping the mass production version of the phone to customers.
Now that day has arrived.
The company says the first customers should receive their phones this month and/or in early December, with all pre-orders scheduled to ship by January or February.
Purism is still taking pre-orders for the Librem 5, but if you place an order today you’ll be placed at the back of the line and your phone probably won’t arrive until after all the early pre-orders have been shipped.
You’ll also have to pay a bit more for the price – the $50 pre-order discount has ended, and the Librem 5 is now selling for the full retail price of $799.
The company eventually hopes to reach shipping parity, meaning that customers who order a Librem 5 at that point will only have to wait 10 business days for their phone to ship. But we probably won’t know when that will be until early next year, after all existing pre-orders are met and the company begins shipping out newly placed orders.
Purism is a social purpose corporation that’s been selling hardware designed to emphasize security, privacy, and software freedom for a number of years. The company started with laptops that ship with a GNU/Linux distribution called PureOS, and over time added features like kill switches that would let users physically disconnect the camera, mic, and wireless hardware when it’s not in use.
The company carried the same ethos over to the Librem 5, which was first announced in 2017. The phone has hardware kill switches and ships with a version of PureOS that’s been optimized for phones – although users will be free to replace the operating system.
Purism isn’t the first company to ship a modern smartphone designed to run GNU/Linux software. The PinePhone hit the market sooner, and at a much lower price point – Pine64 sells its phones for $149 and up.
But the Librem 5 has a faster processor, a larger battery, and perhaps most importantly, it comes from a company that helped create the modern Linux smartphone space.
Purism created the phosh “phone shell” user interface that’s one of the three main desktop environments for Linux smartphones (the others being Lomiri and Plasma Mobile). Purism has developed a suite of apps and services designed to bring Linux to phones, including the phosh user interface, phoc Wayland compositor, squeekboard keyboard, chatty SMS and XMPP chat app, and many other tools… some of which are used by other Linux smartphone operating systems.
Here’s a run-down of the key specs for the Librem 5.
1440 x 720 pixel
|Processor||NXP i.MX8M Quad|
4 x ARM Cortex-A53 CPU cores @ 1.5 GHz
Vivante GC7000Lite GPU
|Wireless||WiFi 4 (dual-band)|
GPS (Teseo LIV3F GNSS)
4G LTE (Broadmobi BM818 or Gemalto PLS8)
|Battery||4,500 mAh (removable)|
|Hardware kill switches||WiFi/Bluetooth|
(Turn off all three to also disable IMU+compass, GNSS, ambient light, and proximity sensors)
|Dimensions||153 x 75 x 15.5mm|
The Librem 5 also supports convergence – you can connect the phone to an external display, mouse, and keyboard and use it to run desktop Linux applications on a large screen for video editing or other tasks that would be difficult on a phone-sized screen.
Keep in mind that while a Librem 5 will be able to run thousands of desktop apps, the selection of phone-friendly Linux apps is still rather small compared to the Android or iOS ecosystems. And the overall state of Linux phone software as of late 2020 can be generously described as a work in progress that’s still pretty rough around the edges.
But now that the PinePhone will have a bit more company in the Linux phone space, we could see the pace of third-party software development pick up. Purism is also committed to porting some popular apps to run on the Librem 5. The company’s Fund Your App page asks folks to vote (and donate) for the apps they’d most like to see brought to the phone through native apps, emulation, web app containers, or cloud-based emulation.