It has been some time since we last published a global product report for the Librem 5 phone. This is not because of slowing down our development effort, it is the opposite. We have been very busy and we have made substantial progress during the last few months.
We have been listening to our customers and realized that while most of what we had initially planed to implement for the Librem 5, in PureOS, and for the Librem line in general was already there, it was just missing the finishes that make a coherent and polished experience. Therefore, we decided to reorganize our development goals toward putting all the pieces together and polishing the default experience of the Librem devices. Convenience is critical for wider adoption and easier use.
A few years ago I made a blog post saying that Purism’s design would comply with the Ethical Design Manifesto from Ind.ie and this is still the case.
We have invested heavily in solidifying the foundation of this pyramid and are half way through the second portion of that diagram. We will now work on getting up to the top improving our products’ defaults to value Human Experience while continuing to advance Human Effort and Human Rights.
In this post I will go through the main points, feel free to jump to the section that is the most interesting to you.
Many improvements for the Librem devices’ experience are not tied to the Purism development team effort only. One of the beauties of Free Software is that it is a global effort from a huge world wide community. Therefore, catching up as well as staying up to date with the latest improvements from the community will make a real impact on the Librem devices’ experience. It will also let the Purism developers build on top of the latest technologies out there and especially GNOME technologies where we put significant effort.
PureOS’s next release “Crimson” is advancing rapidly, which will be based on Debian Bookworm. After that release, we will keep putting effort in our infrastructure to be able to release new versions of PureOS more frequently so that all our customers stay up to date with the latest software and benefits that come with it.
Along with this work, we are also advancing the Phone Shell (Phosh) and the Phone Compositor (Phoc), that are getting to a state of being full featured, convenient, and stable. Byzantium is already featuring their latest versions and with the release of Crimson we will be able to polish the Librem 5’s default interface even more by implementing nice visual effects from the latest GTK libraries. We will also improve convergence, and make Phosh as convenient and fast on a big desktop screen as it is on a small mobile screen. By using PureOS, you make sure to stay up to date with Phosh’s improvements.
The battery life of the Librem 5 has continually improved over the years through improving kernel power optimizations, these improvements have extended battery life to support hours of continual usage.
Our Linux Kernel Team is currently working on further extending battery life to support a full day of normal usage.
This is a very high priority on our roadmap and will come with some updates very soon, so stay tuned!
Thanks to the new Sparklan board, now shipping with every Librem 5, and with the upcoming release of the next major version of PureOS, called Crimson, we will be able to improve the overall Bluetooth experience on the Librem 5. We also plan to support more devices, including cars.
On the latest Librem 5 hardware GPS is already working and our tests have shown it to be reliable for car navigation. The next step will be to increase the speed of initializing the GPS chip from satellites to have a shorter first-use experience.
Work on the camera has also been quite impressive during the last few months. Automatic adjustments (gain, exposure, balance, focus) have been implemented and it is now possible to record videos. All this is already available on the latest Camera app in PureOS available on all Librem 5 phones!
That said, be aware that it is still a work in progress. Some automatic adjustments need some more work to be reliable in all situations.
Next is the polishing of the existing features, along with some improvements in the quality of the final image. Then, when the image processing back-end is in good shape, we will update the entire interface to something much simpler, friendly, and more coherent with the rest of the default apps. For example, we may use Snapshot as the front-end for our default Camera app, as it already implements the design we want.
Due to the popularity of Firefox vs. GNOME Web, we have decided to feature Firefox as our default web browser for the desktop and the mobile platform.
However, our development team will continue to contribute to improving GNOME Web until it can be widely adopted by our customers. We believe that in the longer term, GNOME Web, which is built on GTK, will feature a better integrated experience within the system over Firefox.
We are excited to announce that we are implementing end to end encryption for conversations on both Chats and Calls, that rely on the Matrix protocol. Our goal is to improve security for the Librem 5 smartphone without compromising convenience.
Aside from adding new encryption features, our development team continues to make improvements for regular phone calls and SMS/MMS conversations.
Our journey for implementing Matrix conversations in Chats is already quite advanced and I have started to report on its progress. The road is still long but the feature is already usable for basic conversations. Our end goal is to make IP messaging over Matrix as simple as doing SMS conversations.
A simple login with a Librem One account through the GNOME Online Accounts settings will setup everything in the Chats and Calls apps.
The Contacts app will feature Librem One/Matrix entries. This way, Chats will be able to merge 1 to 1 conversations with the same person so that it happens in the same conversation view.
So no matter if you talk to your best friend through SMS or Matrix, it will all happen in the same conversation view. It will feature a convenient way to switch from “SMS” to “Secure”, and replies will be automatically set to be sent to where the last received message was from. It will be seamless and it will feature an easy way to spot when the conversation is secure (Matrix) or not (SMS) through different colors.
Calls will use Chats’ Matrix back-end to handle audio and video calls. This way, we won’t need to implement another calling interface. One will be able to place and receive end to end encrypted phone calls through the exact same interface as with doing regular phone calls.
This blog post is already pretty long and covers the top priorities toward our development goals, but as we progress with them, we will also take care of other very important apps and features, toward making and selling Librem devices that implement the best defaults for everyday usage.
Therefore, we will also keep focusing on improving Phosh and Phoc, improving the PureOS Store experience, improving the Music experience, improving email and calendar apps, implementing data synchronization across devices, and much more to come!
I will do my best to publish regular product reports in this blog, and I may come back pretty soon with some exciting news, so stay tuned!
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