The upcoming Librem 5 smartphone doesn’t have the fastest processor, the most RAM, the highest-res display, the most cameras, or any of the other superlatives that phone makers are using to one-up each other these days. But what it does have going for it is an emphasis on privacy, security, and open source software.

Purism has been shipping Linux laptops that “respect your privacy” for the past few years, and the Librem 5 will be the corporation’s first smartphone.

Development kits have already shipped, but the final hardware’s not ready for purchase just yet… and that’s probably OK since the software is still very much a work in progress. But the latest update from Purism shows that the Librem 5 should be able to do a lot of the things you’d expect a smartphone to do when it does ship.

Most smartphone makers don’t have to worry too much about software, because they can just throw Google’s Android operating system on their phones as long as the hardware supports it.

The Librem 5 will ship with a free and open source GNU/Linux operating system called PureOS (although users will likely be able to replace it if they prefer a different operating system).

The down side is that you won’t get access to the millions of existing mobile apps that can run on Android phones. The up side is that you should be able to run thousands of Linux apps… but they might not all be optimized for mobile devices with small touchscreen displays.

So Purism has been working to make sure that its software includes a fully functional phone dialer application, a contact manager, SMS and chat apps, and a functional web browser.

The Librem 5 July progress update includes updates to the dialer, improved SMS reliability, and mobile ports of some GNOME desktop features including Clocks and Settings (with an emphasis on cellular networking settings).

PureOS also now includes an updated app switcher, a new background/wallpaper manager and a new virtual keyboard called squeekboard that shows an indication that you’ve pressed a key.

The Librem 5 is up for pre-order for $649 and it’s expected to ship in Q3, 2019… which theoretically means any day now — although I wouldn’t be surprised if that release date is eventually pushed back a bit.

Purism isn’t the only organization working on a Linux phone. The PinePhone is a lower-cost, lower-power alternative that’s expected to sell for just $149, while the Necunos NC_1 is priced at 1199 Euros ($1350), despite having pretty anemic specs.

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15 replies on “Purism’s upcoming Librem 5 Linux phone inches closer to being able to do what phones do”

  1. Of course, as soon as you connect to a cell service provider they will start tracking your location and every bit you pass through their network.

  2. For me, one more usb port, one to charge and one to data, standard replaceable battery, and some mobile operating system based on standard Linux, maby some micro hdmi, low price for all, like respberry pi with GSM module and better mobile, Linux based system. Oh and external phisical keyboard – as accesory. I think it Will be a hit.

      1. Ok, thanks for the info. I’m a fan of Nokia communicator series, but I missed Planet Cosmo on the CES expo (I know gemini pda) . Cosmo is a great device but in my opinion it is too big, which makes it unusable for mobile, for fast calling or messaging. I’m thinking more about Samsung Note 4, with Linux operating system supporting desktop mode, two usb c ports, and detachable keyboard something like the keyboard mod for Motorola Moto, or samsung galaxy s keyboard cover.

  3. Can it emulate or containerize android? I need to use android apps for work but dont want that shit tracking my every move

  4. I love this thing, but I would need to break my dependence on android apps. Finding a replacement for everything is not really possible

  5. I hope these Linux phones pan out. If they do well (features, apps, stability, long-term security updates, etc.), I may get one. It’ll probably be at least several years before that stuff can be determined though.

  6. I expect the basics (phone dialer, contact manager, etc) to work well. The key is a fluid and complete browser: this could make or break future enthusiasm. Email client as well as codec support for sound & video.

      1. No, a phone just as good as say the Samsung S10+ but without the froth/bloat that is:
        Assistant, Fitness reader, Pay system, News fetcher, Edge feature, Printer, VR services, Kids/Accessibility etc etc.

        So if there’s a regular:
        Phone, Messages, Contacts, eMail, Settings, Keyboard/Number Pad, Notifications, Lockscreen, Homescreen, Web Browser, File Browser, Media Player, Gallery, Camera, Calendar, Calculator, Voice Recorder, Screen Recorder, eBooks, PDF, Notepad, Documents, Sheets, Slides, Radio, Video Caller, OpenMaps, App Repository… that’s enough for most people (maybe 70%).

        …and later from the Repository you can install something like Emulators, Fart Apps, Social Media, and Clients that do things you can do through the Web Browser:
        (Banking, Shopping, RealEstate, Food, Task Hire, RideShare, Traffic Updater, Fuel finder, Parking Finder, Travel Helper, Translator, News, Weather, Health Tracker, Life Reminder, Virtual Assistant, Dating, Emoji/GIFs, Themes, Remote Controller, Printer, Wireless Caster, Game Centre, Instrument Assistant, Podcast, Music Finder, Music Streamer, Video Streamer, Video Editor, Sound Editor).

        So if say a Mobile Linux ecosystem was able to get the Top 3 Used Apps from each category, that would cover 98% and it would still be underneath a Total 100 Apps. There’s very little need or want for a further 900, or even 999,900 duplicate Applications. The only thing missing from that category list is Mobile Games, that’s a different kettle of fish.

        1. I guess they need WhatsApp or Messenger from day one or people will have to carry a primary phone with them and use this one as secondary.

  7. Right, on with the Apple competitors. Somebody needs an operating system that can scale from a desktop to a phone experience.

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