The Purism Librem 5 is a smartphone that ships with PureOS, the same free and open source GNU/Linux distribution that ships on Purism’s laptop and desktop computers. The company first began taking pre-orders for the phone through a crowdfunding campaign that launched in 2017, began shipping hardware more than two years later, and then spent another four years scrambling to try to fulfill orders… with some customers waiting years for either a phone or a refund.
Now Purism says it’s finally reached shipping parity, which means that it’s caught up with its backlog and now if you place an order for a new Librem 5 phone, it should ship within two weeks. But it won’t be cheap.
Folks who orders a Librem 5 in 2017 were able to reserve a phone for $599. But the company has raised prices repeatedly over the past six years, and a phone with the exact same hardware now sells for $1,299.
There’s no getting around the fact that this is an extraordinarily high price for a phone with specs that weren’t even all that impressive by 2017 standards, including a 1.5 GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 processor, 3GB of RAM, and 32GB of eMMC storage.
But the Librem 5 is unlike most modern smartphones in that it has a user-replaceable battery, a 3.5mm audio jack, a microSD card reader, and hardware kill switches that can disable the camera, microphone, and wireless radios when you’re not using them.
Since the phone ships with a GNU/Linux distribution designed for “convergence,” you can also use the Librem 5’s USB 3.0 Type-C port to run audio and video output to a monitor and basically use your phone like a tiny (and rather sluggish) desktop computer.
And Purism puts an emphasis on free software: the phone may ship with PureOS, but users are free to install their own choice of operating system on the phone. Purism’s development of the Phosh user interface, along with other software for the Librem 5, has also been instrumental in making modern mobile Linux a thing.
That said, it’s really hard to justify spending $1,299 on a phone like the Librem 5 today when you can pick up a PinePhone Pro for $399 or try installing a mobile Linux distro like postmarketOS, Ubuntu Touch, or Mobian on any number of other phones from Google, OnePlus, or Samsung.
But I suppose if you really want to support Purism’s efforts in the mobile Linux space, have $1,299 to burn, are comfortable with the phone’s dated hardware, don’t mind that there’s are a limited number of Linux apps optimized for phones, and aren’t troubled by the company’s tendency to deny refunds indefinitely, it’s nice to know that Purism is now promising speedier deliveries for new orders.