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A Purism Librem 5 render depicting Plasma Mobile

That’s it: time is up on the Purism Librem 5 crowdfunding campaign.

The bold project to build a privacy-orientated smartphone powered by free software ends with over $2.1 million raised against its $1.5 million goal (which it reached in early October).

That’s over 140% funded in just under 2 months — not bad for a project that a few people thought would fall well short of its funding ambitions.

The aim is to deliver the Librem 5 to backers in January 2019.

But while the first hurdle has now been cleared, there are more than a few more standing in the Purim’s way.

Nearly 3,000 Librem 5 Phones Ordered

I’ve seen a few people do this, so I figured I’d do the same. If you break down the number of pledges to the campaign into the number of units (effectively) sold, things look a little more sober than they sound:

  • Librem 5 Dev kits: 224
  • Librem 5 pre-orders: 2,800+

I’ve seen a few folks remark that selling fewer than 3,000 phones isn’t, in the grand scheme, too big of a win.

After all, Ubuntu phones sold about 10x that and still couldn’t tempt app developers to create apps or port existing ones over.

But is that comparison really fair?

We need to remember that the Librem 5 and the Ubuntu Phone are not similar products beyond the OS they use.

More Focus than Ubuntu Phone

Ubuntu Phone was rather confused; its handsets were aimed at ‘early adopters’ and Ubuntu fanatics willing to overlook bugs, but they shipped with a user experience that tried far too hard to cater to the ‘regular smartphone user’ demographic.

There was also a less-than-fantastic developer experience, whack-a-mole availability of the more powerful handsets, and a little reciprocal engagement from the wider open-source community.

Purism is more focused in what the Librem 5 will offer.

The KDE project threw their collective credit behind the project in August, followed shortly after by the GNOME Foundation; the pulse of Reddit and social media is one of enthusiasm and support; and Purism effectively “sold out” its first batch of devices the moment it skirted past the $1.5 million mark.

The chief aim of the Librem 5 is to deliver a privacy-focused smartphone running free software. While I’m sure greater success would be welcome, there are no loftier ambitions here; no goal of rivalling Android, no intention of out-innovating iOS; no trying to placate the needs of fickle mobile carriers.

And it’s because of this stringent focus that the Librem 5 is likely to do better many think.

Purism is not a band of rookies, either. They’ve successfully crowdfunded several open-source laptops and delivered them to backers despite encountering set-backs and issues that were out of their control.

A Roaring Success

The Librem 5 campaign has been a roaring success – no question about that. Not only has it generated a tonne of press, drawn a lot of attention, and (obviously) raised a stack of money, but it also triggered debate and discussion around privacy, encryption and the role of free software projects in the mobile space.

Of course, Purism do now have a bit of competition in the convergence space now that Samsung has announced its ‘Linux on Galaxy’ project.

librem phone librem5 purism