Making smartphones is hard business, especially if you’re not a giant like Samsung or even someone smaller like Motorola. It becomes even more difficult when you’re using a combination of hardware and software that no other company uses, specifically those geared towards open source solutions and privacy. With that in mind, it’s not hard to imagine that Purism would run into issues even as the first batches of its Linux-powered privacy-focused Librem 5 phone. That’s exactly what happened but the small company is confident it can course-correct after just one slight delay.
Purism’s announced schedule of shipping its crowdfunded phones in batches sounded both unorthodox and almost unfair. It has, however, proven to be strategic as it is allowing Purism to learn about bugs and fix them quickly before making all the devices in one batch and sending them all. Of course, that means that those opting into the earlier batches are practically volunteering to be product beta testers with little compensation other than getting their kits early.
Perhaps Purism hoped there wouldn’t be significant changes needed between batches but that didn’t turn out to be the case. The first batch “Aspen” revealed three problems in particular: suboptimal antenna routing, thermal throttling, and CPU placement for thermal dissipation.
The next batch, “Birch”, will be addressing the antenna placement but that will cause a delay in shipment. Instead of starting on October 29, the batch will start shipping November 15 but Purism expects all of those have been shipped by November 26, which is a pretty tall order. That’s because it expects there will be no further delays in any of the batches.
That said, the next two batches (“Birch” and “Chestnut”) won’t get the CPU placement fixed in time either. Thermal throttling can be addressed via software, Purism assures, but CPU placement needs a redesign of the PCB. That will only be ready for batch #4 “Dogwood” in Q1 2020 before the final mass production “Evergreen” batch in the second quarter. That is if no other major hardware design flaws are discovered.