The month of April saw more advances on the software side, in particular where software integrates with the Librem 5 hardware.
Last month we announced progress with Librem 5 camera support, but at the time pictures were still being taken using command line commands. Now that the hardware is supported in the kernel, the next area of focus has been in post-processing the raw images from the camera sensors as well as providing support in user-facing GUI applications.
This month we added Librem 5 camera support to the megapixels app so now you can take pictures from a GUI application. Now that the camera is supported in the app, focus can shift (pun intended) to tuning color and white balancing and other post-processing in the live viewfinder (you can see in these example pictures that the live viewfinder image isn’t yet color corrected or white balanced while the picture the Librem 5 took is) as well as further refinements on image post-processing.
We have also made progress in location services support on the Librem 5, including integration of the geoclue location service libraries with PureOS and within Gnome Control Center. This means you can control not only whether location services are enabled, but also control which applications have access to them. Unlike in some other phones, when you disable location services on a Librem 5, you can trust (and audit) that the phone is honoring your request. For ultimate privacy you can even go into full lockdown mode to disable all radios, GPS, cameras, mics and other sensors.
As a result of this added support, Gnome Maps now can use location services to show your location within the app:
Many cellular carriers are in the process of moving their networks over to Voice over LTE (VoLTE) where voice calls traverse the 4G network much like regular internet traffic instead of falling back to traditional 2G or 3G networks. While we currently disable VoLTE support in the BM818 modem that ships in the Librem 5, the modem does support VoLTE and we have been testing this support across a number of cellular providers throughout the world with quite a bit of success. For some providers, enabling VoLTE support in the modem “just works” while for others we have needed to work with the provider to add the BM818 modem to their list of modems with VoLTE support so that both incoming and outgoing VoLTE calls work. While we aren’t yet ready to enable VoLTE support by default, we hope with some further testing and work with upstream cellular providers we will be able to do this soon.
PureOS 10 (code name Byzantium) is the current release we ship on our Librem 14 and Librem Mini computers and as we mentioned in our sneak preview post, we are working to make it the release we ship on Librem 5 phones as well. Unlike with PureOS 9 (code name Amber), there are no phone-specific software repositories in PureOS 10, so a lot of work has gone into integrating phone-specific patches into upstream software releases so that they work well both on laptop and desktop form factors.
Last month we mentioned that SIP support was being worked on in the Calls application and now we have released the first official release with preliminary SIP support. While we continue to improve support for SIP calls we are also working on updating the Calls UI so making SIP calls and adding SIP accounts is easy.
We are also making continual improvements in support for the Matrix chat protocol in Chatty and it already works well for unencrypted rooms. Supporting encryption in Matrix is a priority for us and we currently have initial support for it in Chatty as well.
The electronics supply chain has seen unprecedented disruptions over the past year that have not only made electronics supply unstable, it has also led to dramatic price increases in some cases for the electronics components that are still in supply. Back in January we warned of the potential for disruption in the CPU supply chain for the Librem 5 and that potential has now become a reality. Our CEO Todd Weaver just published a post titled The Ball and the Supply Chain that explains the effect of the global electronics supply chain disruptions from the perspective of Purism, and how we intend to manage through those disruptions in the coming year.
The Ball and Supply Chain post also contains a table of all Purism products and how supply chain issues might affect each of them. Of particular note for the Librem 5 is that due to large lead times for new CPU supply and other components we are pausing Librem 5 production until October, when we will be able to acquire enough CPUs to resume production. Due to the pause we are projecting we will hit shipping parity in early 2022. Also due to increases in electronics component pricing, the Librem 5 is going to see a $100 price increase on June 30th, with another price increase possible in Q3 of 2021, depending on whether the current trend of increasing electronics component costs continues.
While the Librem 5 is paused for the moment, the Librem 5 USA is full steam ahead with production starting in a few days. While we’ve certainly had challenges in sourcing parts for the Librem 5 USA, because the Librem 5 USA uses a different supply chain than the mass-produced Librem 5, we have been able to secure ample supply so that the Librem 5 USA will not only hit shipping parity (the point where we have satisfied all backorders and new orders are fulfilled within our 10-business-day window) in Q2 2021, but also we are projecting we should be able to keep it in stock from that point on.
May promises to see further advancements in camera support in particular, as well as overall improvements in PureOS 10 so that it can become the default OS on the Librem 5. Stay tuned for pictures and news on Librem 5 USA production throughout the month.