Kyle Rankin

Kyle Rankin

President
PGP ID: 0xB9EF770D6EFE360F
Fingerprint: 0DFE 2A03 7FEF B6BF C56F73C5 B9EF 770D 6EFE 360F
Librem Social
Kyle Rankin

Latest posts by Kyle Rankin (see all)

It has been a long and difficult journey to build a freedom- and privacy-respecting phone like the Librem 5. While the end of this journey is in sight, we aren’t quite there yet, and I wanted to take some time to do something we should do more often: acknowledge and thank all of you who have joined us in this journey, some since the beginning. I also wanted to give some tangible examples of what your support has allowed us to do. But first, to all of you who have backed the Librem 5 project, however long you have been with us: thank you for joining us.

Hardware Is Hard

Hardware is hard in the best of times. It is even harder to make a phone from scratch that respects your freedom and doesn’t run Android nor iOS. You only have to look at all the past efforts that have failed to see just how challenging it can be. We chose the hard path for this project, because we couldn’t settle for off-the-shelf phone hardware and software. We designed the phone based on the Respects Your Freedom standards; with a removable battery, modem and WiFi card; hardware kill switches; and a CPU that had the best chance for mainline kernel support. This truly unique set of requirements meant building something from scratch.

Making a phone from scratch doesn’t come cheap, and it was the support of our early backers that allowed us to fund development first of our Librem 5 devkit, and then the first batches of our Librem 5. Many of you also supported us by ordering devkits of your own, or by choosing our very early, pre-mass-produced batches when they started shipping.

Testing calling between to Librem 5 devkits

These early batches of the phone allowed us to refine the design, ultimately resulting in our “Evergreen” mass-produced version, and having people in our community test and provide feedback on the hardware was invaluable.

The “Birch” version of the Librem 5

Software Is Also Hard

The software side of the Librem 5 turned out to be just as hard as the hardware. When we started the Librem 5 project, most of the efforts around “mobile Linux” were focused on “mobile-only Linux” that is, software environments that were designed specifically for mobile devices and not for convergence. Almost none the software we ran every day on PureOS on our laptops would actually fit on the Librem 5 devkit or Librem 5 screen. The mainstream desktop shells also weren’t mobile aware. In short, desktop Linux for the most part simply hadn’t taken mobile environments and form-factors into account, much like browsing the web in the era before “responsive web design” took hold. Of course there was also the matter of having apps to make phone calls, send text messages, and type on a touchscreen.

Your support allowed us to build a team of developers to tackle all of these problems and pay their salaries throughout the entire Librem 5 project. There was a lot of work we had to take on ourselves from scratch, starting with the libhandy library to make it easy for regular GTK applications to fit on the screen (work that’s now in libadwaita), the phosh shell and phoc compositor so we had a mobile-aware “desktop” environment, squeekboard so we had a way to type on the touchscreen, Calls and Chatty to make calls and send text messages, respectively, and feedbackd to handle mobile notifications. Plus there is the work so the kernel supported our hardware, work that we continue to move into the mainline kernel so the hardware can be supported indefinitely. We don’t want to silo our work and have moved much of our other software to be hosted by GNOME. A lot of our efforts are not Librem 5-specific, which means the wider community has been able to benefit.

Where phoc, phosh, squeekboard, and feedbackd fit on the GNOME stack

While the support of early backers allowed us to kickstart this massive software project, the continued support of all of you who joined us throughout this journey has allowed us to continue it. While hardware certainly requires funding, ongoing software development also requires a large investment to start, and more importantly, to maintain. This development has continued throughout, and regardless of, any delays on the hardware side, and continues today. With each passing month we see the software side of the Librem 5 improve whether it’s in battery life, features, ease-of-use, and even always important, but often overlooked bug fixes and maintenance.

HighContrast Phosh and Squeekboard

The community has also helped us by using this software throughout the development process both on and off Librem hardware, and providing valuable feedback. Since this is all free software, many of you have also contributed code, which has helped immensely. This has helped our software to spread far and wide, now finding its way onto a number of other mobile devices and OSes. It has even become a popular alternative, if not default, on many of them.

Your support has led to software everyone can share, that I suspect will be seen in the future as the legacy of the Librem 5 project even more than the hardware. We are entering a new era of interest in free software alternatives on mobile platforms and not a moment too soon.

Going Viral

The pandemic had, and continues to have, a direct and major impact on the Librem 5 project. We started feeling the effects of the first ripples in China at the beginning of 2020 here at Purism, and the ripples in the chip market continue today. While there are many different effects from these disruptions, the overall effect has been large delays, more expensive components, and everything becoming more difficult overall. We ultimately had to increase the price of the Librem 5 to account for these changes.

One benefit (if you can see it that way) to these delays is that software development has continued along steadily throughout the pandemic. The Librem 5 a customer receives today is faster, lasts longer, is easier to use, and is more capable, than one shipped six months or a year ago (which itself was an improvement over even older releases). Even with the delays we have still been able to ship Librem 5s to customers, though not in the quantities we’ve wanted. It’s been gratifying to hear the excitement many of you have shared with us on receiving and using the Librem 5 you have been waiting so patiently for. We share these kinds of messages internally and your kind words and excitement really do mean a lot and give us a boost.

The Last Mile

As I mentioned in the Where is My Librem 5? post, the following table shows the current manufacturing run we are now shipping through, and the remaining ones:

Batch NameBatch StatusOrder Date Range
E3Production Run Complete, Shipping in Progress2018-09 - 2019-02
E4Production Run Pending2019-03 - 2020-12
E5Production Run Pending2021-01 - Shipping Parity

As I also mentioned in that post, we have a Librem 5 USA upgrade offer in place for people who want to support us further while also getting the Librem 5 USA immediately, by contacting support to arrange the upgrade. Customers who paid $799 or less for their Librem 5 will get a $899 coupon toward their Librem 5 USA purchase as a thank you for your support.

Of course our work is not yet done. We still have a majority of our Librem 5 orders to process through. The team here is dedicated to making the Librem 5 a success and we work hard every day both to get the phones to those of you who have been supporting us all along, and to make the phone you get the best it can be, and one that improves with age. We aren’t at the finish line yet, but it’s finally in sight. To all of you who have journeyed with us through this marathon of a project, thank you so much for all of your support.

Purism Products and Availability Chart

 ModelStatusLead Time 
Most Secure PC Purism Librem Mini
Librem MiniIn Stock10 days
Most Secure Server Purism Librem ServersLibrem ServersOut of Stock--
USB Security Token Purism Librem KeyLibrem KeyIn Stock10 days
Most Secure Laptop Purism Librem 14Librem 14In Stock10 days
Made in USA Phone Purism Librem 5 USALibrem 5 USAIn Stock10 days
Librem 5Currently shipping backlogs52 weeks
The current product and shipping chart of Purism Librem products, updated on September 2, 2022

Recent Posts

Related Content

Tags