BY KYLE RANKIN – CSO
Purism, a Social Purpose Company (SPC) focusing on security and privacy with its hardware and software, has begun shipping its mass-produced Librem 5 phone to customers.
The Librem 5 is a one-of-a-kind general-purpose computer in a phone form-factor that Purism has designed and built from scratch following a successful crowdfunding campaign that raised over $2.2 million. Both the hardware and software design is focused on respecting the end user’s freedom and giving them control over their privacy and security. The Librem 5 doesn’t run Android nor iOS but instead runs the same PureOS operating system as Purism’s laptops and mini PC.
The Librem 5 has unique hardware features including a user-removable cellular modem, WiFi card, and battery. Like with Librem laptops, the Librem 5 also features external hardware kill switches that cut power to the cellular modem, WiFi/Bluetooth, and front and back cameras and microphone so that the user can control when these devices are in use. All hardware switches can also be triggered together to enable “lockdown mode” which also disables the GPS, accelerometer and all other sensors.
In addition to developing the hardware, Purism invested heavily into software to bring its PureOS desktop onto a phone form-factor. It developed libhandy, phosh, phoc, and squeekboard to advance the entire desktop Linux ecosystem on mobile platforms. This software suite makes it easy for existing desktop applications to be “adaptive” or change their appearance to be more usable on a smaller touch screen, much like “responsive websites” do on mobile devices. This allows developers to maintain a single application instead of multiple versions for different platforms. This suite of software has now become the most popular software stack to use on other handheld Linux hardware.
Another unique feature of the Librem 5 is convergence: the ability to connect the Librem 5 to a monitor or laptop dock and use it as a desktop computer running the same full-sized desktop applications as on Librem laptops. When in a phone form-factor, applications behave much like “responsive websites” and change their appearance for the smaller screen. This allows you to use the Librem 5 as a phone, a desktop, or a laptop with the same applications and same files.
“Shipping the Librem 5 has been an immense multi-year developmental effort. It is the culmination of people’s desire to see an alternative to Android and iOS and fund it, coupled with dedication from a team of experts addressing hardware, kernel, operating system, and applications that has turned a lofty near-impossible goal into reality. We have built a strong foundation and with the continued support of customers, the community, and developers, we will continue to deliver revolutionary products like the Librem 5 running PureOS.” — Todd Weaver, Founder & CEO, Purism