The Purism Librem 5 was one the most powerful smartphone capable of running mainline Linux software when the first units began shipping in limited quantities a few years ago. But it’s also one of the most expensive – and that’s even more true after a price hike that took effect this month.
When Purism launched a crowdfunding campaign for the Librem 5 in 2017, backers could pre-order the phone for $599. The price has gone up several times since then, and now the Librem 5 costs twice as much.
As announced a few months ago, at the start of November, Purism raised the price of the Librem 5 to $1199.
Not only that, but there’s a long wait time for the phone – customers who place an order today will have to wait about a year to actually receive the phone, due to supply chain issues… although to be fair, there are still some customers who pre-ordered a Librem 5 years ago that are still waiting for their phones, so the global supply chain shortage is clearly only part of the problem. It’s also taken Purism a long time to ramp up production of this unusual phone, and the company’s still not really there just yet.
In the time since Purism first announced the Librem 5, the Linux Smartphone landscape has changed quite a bit. These days you can pick up a PinePhone for as little as $150, and a more powerful PinePhone Pro is coming soon for $399, with a more powerful processor than the one used in the Librem 5.
Meanwhile, mobile Linux developers have made progress porting mainline Linux to run on some phones that originally shipped with Android, including models with Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processors like the OnePlus 5 and OnePlus 5T.
All of which is to say, the value proposition of an $1199 Linux-friendly smartphone that won’t ship for a year is questionable in late 2021, to say the least.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that mobile Linux distributions like PureOS, postmarketOS, Ubuntu Touch, and ManjaroARM are still very much works in progress and best suited for Linux enthusiasts and early adopters rather than folks looking for full-featured replacements for Android and iOS.
That said, it’s unclear if things would have progressed as much as they have in the mobile Linux space in recent years were it not for Purism’s work with the Librem 5. The company not only put the work into sourcing hardware components that would be compatible with free and open source software and firmware, but Purism also developed the phosh “phone shell” user interface for Linux phone that’s now widely used by other mobile Linux distributions (although there are other options including Plasma Mobile, Lomiri, and Sxmo).
Anyway, I guess my point is that spending $1199 on a Librem 5 isn’t quite the same as spending that kind of money on an iPhone or Android device. You’re not just paying for hardware, but also to help fund the development of a free and open source alternative to those platforms. It’s just that you now have to pay a lot more to support that effort than you would have if you’d purchased a Librem 5 a few months or years ago.
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|