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article imageThis Linux-powered phone wants to give you back your privacy

By James Walker     Aug 24, 2017 in Technology
Purism has announced a crowdfunding campaign for a Linux-powered smartphone. The company is known for its Linux laptops. It's now turning its attention to creating an open-source mobile device designed to put you in control of your data.
Purism is seeking to raise $1.5m to make the Librem 5 a reality. Described as a "security and privacy focused phone," the handset brings some new ideas to the smartphone space. Unlike its main rivals, the Librem 5 will leave out Android and instead run a GNU/Linux distribution.
By default, PureOS will be installed out of the box. You can install "most" other Linux distributions though, placing control of the operating system in your hands. Since everything will be open-source, you can also tweak, customise and pry apart the phone's software.
Purism Librem 5 concept image
Purism Librem 5 concept image
Purism
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Purism expects this to be one of the phone's main selling points. Unlike iOS or Android, the Librem 5 pledges not to track you, invade on your privacy or create a walled ecosystem. You'll have complete control of your data and what the phone can access. This extends down to hardware kill switches for the camera, microphone, baseband, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
"Our phone will not wholesale gobble up your data for profit. It will not lock you into an ecosystem that controls you. It will not require you to enter banking details to simply get an app from an app store," Purism said on its website. "Our phone will be built to protect you by default. It will never exploit you for profit. It will be a phone for the people, by the people."
Purism Librem 5 concept image
Purism Librem 5 concept image
Purism
Purism's preparing an ambitious attack on the walled gardens of iOS and Android. There's still a lot to be confirmed about the Librem 5 though, including its hardware specifications and just how open-source it can really be. Purism conceded that the mobile baseband chip "will most likely use" ROM-loaded software, preventing it from being modified by users.
There's still a long way to go before the Librem 5 will be ready to use. Assuming it reaches its crowdfunding goal, Purism currently intends to start shipping the handset in January 2018. It also admitted the initial release will probably be limited to comparatively basic features, such as calls and messages. More advanced capabilities will be added through software updates.
Purism Librem 5 concept image
Purism Librem 5 concept image
Purism
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Even with the challenges ahead, the Librem 5 remains an interesting proposition. It's also a new take to putting Linux on phones. Unlike previous efforts, Purism's taking a regular Linux distribution and adapting it to smaller screens. Attempts such as Ubuntu Phone and Firefox OS started from the bottom, building an entirely new distribution especially for smartphones.
Purism said it wants to "tear down the walls" of mobile platforms to create a standards-based system. The result will be able to run any major Linux distribution. Because it's really just a desktop device with a phone's display, the door will also be open to community mods for Windows and Android.
More about purism, librem 5, Linux, Smartphones, Mobile
 
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