Tag: Physical robustness

Librem 5 design report #5

Hello everyone! A lot has happened behind the scenes since my last design report. Until now, I have been reporting on our design work mainly on the software front, but our effort is obviously not limited to that. The experience that people can have with their physical device is also very important. So in this post I will summarize some recent design decisions we have made both on the software side and the hardware product “experience” design.

Thinking about the physical shell

Our goal with the Librem 5 is to improve the visual identity of the Librem line while staying close to the minimalist and humble look that characterize the existing Librem line.

The main challenge of case design is the need to balance aesthetics, ergonomics, convenience, and technical limitations.

As you know, the Librem 5 is a special phone that will not integrate the same CPU and chipsets as usually implemented in the vast majority of smartphones in the market. Power consumption is a very important factor to take into account, but so is battery capacity and printed circuit board arrangements, and we don’t want to sacrifice battery life for a few millimeters of thickness. Therefore:

  • We are now aiming for a 5.5″ to 5.7″ screen with a 18:9 ratio that would let us incorporate a larger battery without affecting the shape of the phone.
  • We are also opting for a shape with chamfered edges (as pictured below), instead of the usual rounded ones. Not only do we think it looks elegant, the general shape would provide a better grip and it give us a bit more room inside for components.

Simplifying the UI shell

As the implementation of the Librem 5 goes on, we are quite aware that time is limited given our January 2019 target, and we are therefore focusing on robustness and efficiency for the first version of the mobile UI shell (“phosh”), which we wish to push upstream to become the GNOME mobile shell. As you may recall from our technical report from early March, we had discussed with GNOME Shell maintainers, who recommended this clean-slate approach.

We revisited the shell features and decided to split the design and implementation into several phases.

Phase 1 defines a shell that is at its simplest state in term of features and usability. This is the shell that should ship with the Librem 5 in January 2019.

This shell includes :

  • A lock screen.
  • A PIN-based unlock screen for protecting the session.
  • A home screen that displays a paginated list of installed applications.
  • A top bar that displays useful information such as the time, battery level, audio level, network status…
  • A bottom bar that simulates a home button (only visible when opening an application).
  • A virtual keyboard.
  • Incoming call notifications.

The “call” app is indeed a special case application on a phone, and that’s why we’re prioritizing it for the notifications feature: it has to work from day one, and it has some requirements like the ability to interact directly on the lock screen (to answer an incoming call, or to place an emergency services call).

Multitasking UI workflows, search and more flexible app notification features/APIs should be implemented during phase 2, available a bit later.

While “phase 1” might not be the all-you-can-eat features buffet some may be accustomed to, we think that this minimalist shell will be extremely simple to learn, use and will favor a quick and painless adoption. And it’ll be a great starting point.

Designing the Contacts application

The Contacts application will be at the center of the communication features. It is the application that will handle the contacts management that other applications such as Calls or Messages will rely on.

For that matter, we are adapting the existing Contacts application by designing its mobile layout and adding extra fields that will be required by the different communication applications.

Librem 5 & Fractal team hackfest in Strasbourg

This week, a few members of the Librem 5 team (including myself) are attending the 2018 Fractal design hackfest in Strasbourg, with the goal of helping the Fractal team to make a beautiful and secure Matrix-based IM application to be used on both the desktop and mobile platform. I hope to do a report on the communication features of the Librem 5 in a future post where I will talk about what happened at the Fractal hackfest.

Bringing Librem 13 v2 and Librem 15 v3 prototypes back from LibrePlanet for further coreboot porting work

A few days ago we gave you a very quick sneak peek of the Librem 15 v3’s anodized black finish as we were doing final preparations for our LibrePlanet 2017 attendance. We were very happy to support the Free Software Foundation by sponsoring LibrePlanet! On Saturday morning, we started setting up our booth slowly, thinking there would not be much activity going on at the beginning of the day. We were proved wrong:

There was a crowd around our booth at pretty much all times (except lunchtime) throughout the day Saturday, during which it was revealed that Todd is possibly a cyborg, as he stood there answering questions for eight hours straight, without needing to eat, drink, or sit:

Great discussions were had. James was also present, attending talks and officially winning our photobomber of the year award, as you can see him in the lower-right corner of this photo:

New passions bloomed among attendees:

People who saw and touched the Librems found them to be quite impressive. For instance:

Some of the frequent comments we heard were “Wow. They’re even better than on the photos!”, “When can I buy one?” and “I was a Purism skeptic, but I see you are delivering on your promises and making the impossible possible.”

Really encouraging!

Upcoming coreboot work

While we were hard at work answering thousands of questions at LibrePlanet, our coreboot developer Youness was on vacation while waiting for some more testing hardware. This week he will be resuming his work on preparing/packaging coreboot for release, and with the two new prototype units I brought back from Boston he will also be able to begin the coreboot port for these devices. We hope to do that in time to factory-flash them for the next batch of deliveries in May-June, but we’ll see how the development work pans out. If it’s not ready within that short timespan, we will provide coreboot as an update that you can flash yourself.

Youness has also made some additional progress on the Intel ME, thanks to information and data that Igor Skochinsky was able to share with us. Stay tuned for Youness’ next report!