There are currently two open source Linux phones trying to make their way into regular consumers’ hands and one of them is getting all the spotlight but not all for good reasons. Although it was the first to launch and, on paper, has the better specs, Purism’s Librem 5 is garnering some controversy, raising questions on its capability to ship a finished product in a few months. As if it didn’t have enough to worry about, Purism just started pre-orders for a version of the Librem 5 that’s 100% made in the USA and costs three times the regular Librem 5 that has yet to ship in its final form.
To be fair, there might be some appeal to what the Librem 5 USA offers. The company and its products have always been about security and privacy and there have been some concerns that the Librem 5’s production pipeline, part of which happens in China, could be compromised there. Given recent events, the concern might not be simply based on paranoia.
Thus the Librem 5 USA is for those customers that want everything to be made and done in the USA. The US facility that manufactured the Librem 5 devkits and Purism’s Librem Key will be the ones handling the creation of the PCB (board), reducing the risk of any covert injection of backdoors and other security exploits. That said, it’s not exactly 100% Made in the USA as the chassis is sourced from China and some components are produced elsewhere.
The bigger question is where there will be takers of this phone, especially if it costs $1,999. Purism says that the phone could ship by Q3 2020 though that probably largely depends on the fate of the Librem 5 itself, which is already facing delays and criticism.
The Librem 5 is shipping to backers in batches but there has already been at least one delay. Insiders paint a picture of a disorganized company that raises concerns about the quality of the final product that will go on sale next year. Putting in $1,999 today for such a phone isn’t just a risky investment, it is a leap of faith in the company as well.