Purism Librem 5 dev kits ship, bodes well for Linux phone

With all the privacy issues popping up left and right, you'd think people would be more concerned about the things they put online or even just on their phones. But without options that protect users' privacy and security, they really have little choice anyway. Companies like Purism are taking steps to fill that need and it has just taken one major step forward by finally shipping the development kits to its backers, which could be good news for a promised April 2019 launch of the Librem 5 smartphone.

The dev kits are actually already months late. They were supposed to ship to backers by August but the final date eventually became December. Fortunately, that wasn't delayed any further and the boards should land in developers and tinkerers hands this month.

Of course, these are far from the finished product but their availability is a major milestone for the project. For one, it upgrades the platform to NXP's more recent i.MX 8M processor from the previous i.MX 6. There were concerns whether that chip would make it in time for the Librem 5 development schedule and if i hadn't, developers and users would have been stuck with an eight-year-old hardware platform.

Second, it means that more developers will be able to start more serious work on preparing software for the Librem 5 phone. As a true open source smartphone, a large chunk of the work will have to be done by the community, with Purism providing most of the necessary foundations. And as attempts like Openmoko, Maemo/MeeGo, and even Ubuntu Touch have proven, it takes more than foundations to truly sell a smartphone, figuratively and literally.

With dev kits along the way, it does seem that the April 2019 target, which itself is already delayed, is at least remotely possible. That may still be a generous estimate, even without taking software into consideration. Hardware products like this can be very tricky and it's even trickier when smaller, less known companies are involved.