It’s a “good news, bad news” kind of thing over at Purism. The small company that continues to deliver privacy and security-focused “ethical” Linux laptops have generated quite a lot of hype, interest, and support for the promise of a similar device in phone form factor. The Purism Librem 5 is still coming, or at least there doesn’t seem to be any more major obstacles in sight. But while the company has finally settled on what CPU to use, it has also announced that, for the second time, the phone will be delayed by another quarter.
To be fair, what Purism is doing is no walk in the park, which is why very few attempt it. While there’s no shortage of attempts at making purely Linux phones, Purism has very specific and stringent requirements. From the software down to the hardware, the phone must be free of proprietary software. But even then, Purism had to make a small compromise there because of how cellular modems are made these days.
Then there was the problem of the CPU that Librem chose, NXP’s i.MX 8M. A bit late on delivery, the system-on-chip revealed an efficiency problem that had Purism scrambling to research about an alternative, the i.MX 8M Mini. Fortunately, NXP has apparently rolled out a software fix for those and Purism can finally proceed with the i.MX 8M Quad.
So now the Librem 5 phone specs are locked down in some parts. It might not all look good on paper though, at least compared with today’s generation of smartphones. The i.MX 8M Quad itself is a quad-core 1.5 GHz processor using the power-efficient Cortex-A53 ARM cores. No mention has been made of RAM but the Librem 5 will have 32 GB of internal eMMC storage. The display hasn’t been decided yet but it will be anything from a 5.5 to a 5.7-inch HD, not even Full HD, display. Cameras are also still to be discussed, but it’s probably best not to keep hopes high.
Purism already once delayed the Librem 5 to the second quarter of 2019 but due to the problems with the i.MX 8M, they’ve now pushed back delivery to the third quarter. Fortunately, things have progressed more smoothly on the software side, especially with the shipment of the developer kits last December. If all goes well from this point, 2019 might finally be the year the world sees the first ever non-Android, purely open source, ethical Linux smartphone.