Purism launches Librem 5, a smartphone to protect privacy

Posted Sep 9, 2019 by Colin Moore.

After years of developing a 100% free mobile OS, Purism is now shipping its new smartphones.

As scandals explode on the questionable practices of GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft) that often flirt with the limits of legality, and as users desire devices that are fully transparent and easy to understand, solutions are emerging. Purism is known for its computers with the OS of the same name that share two sizes (13 and 15 inches) and more recently for its Librem Key, a security token and tamper detection tool. The company launched a crowdfunding campaign in 2017 to help build a smartphone for the protection of privacy and the public.

The answer to a public need

Mobile security solutions are geared towards professionals and governments, from Bull’s Hoox m2 to Sectera Edge from American General Dynamics, and Teorem from French Thales. By tackling the creation of a smartphone for the general public, Purism responds to a growing desire to regain control over data pulled, shared and monetized by the giants of the web. In just two weeks, the crowdfunding campaign had reached $1.5 million in donations and ended after two months with a total of $2.1 million. Just under two years later, the company has began shipping its product.

Neither Android nor iOS

Launched at $699, the mobile does not offer a high-end technical sheet, focusing instead on the protection of privacy. To do this, Purism has developed a free mobile OS and open source based on Gnome. Its call and messaging application is the first to rely on Matrix, an end-to-end and decentralized encrypted network. Everyday applications will all be launched and isolated through a “sandbox” browser to prevent them from communicating with each other. The mobile has a removable battery, a 3.5 mm audio jack and hardware kill switches that really cut off access to the camera, microphone, Wifi / Bluetooth and network. Plus, a lockdown mode will disable sensors (lights, accelerometer, gyrometer, magnetometer). Applications can be created by developers before appearing on the PureOS Store.

A light configuration

On the technical sheet side, the mobile sports a 5.7-inch IPS display with a resolution of 1440 x 720 pixels. Under the hood is an i.MX8M processor (Quad Core, max 1.5GHz), 3 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of eMMC memory. We can expand the storage space via a microSD card. For connectivity, it is based on a GPS chip Teseo LIV3F GNSS, a modem Gemalto PLS8 3G / 4G, has WiFi 802.11abgn 2.4 Ghz / 5Ghz and Bluetooth 4. The front photo sensor offers up to 8MP resolution; at the rear, there is a 13 MP main sensor with LED flash. The mobile has a 3500mA • h battery that charges via a Type C (3.0) USB port.

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