The Librem 5, a crowdfunded Linux phone with user privacy at its heart, has begun shipping to backers.

American-based Purism, SPC has shared photos of what it says is the first batch of handsets to ‘roll off the assembly line’ and on their way to customers.

Backers of the phone can get it now, or wait until Q4 2020 for a more powerful model

“The Librem 5 represents years of work, building the software and hardware required to make this phone a reality,” Todd Weaver, founder and CEO of Purism, is quoted as saying.

The Librem 5 was successfully funded back in 2017, raising just over $2.1 million in two months.

While the device was initially expected to ship in late 2018 the release was later pushed back to April 2019, then “Q3 2019”.

Today the handset finally begins shipping — though not to everyone…

Purism Librem 5: ‘Aspen’ Batch

As we reported last month, Purism isn’t releasing the Librem 5 in one go, but in distinct batches. Each wave iteratively improves the handset in some way, be it through improved tooling, a tighter case fit, or ‘capped’ switches.

Backers of the campaign (and presumably anyone who placed an order after the event wrapped up) get to choose which batch they receive: opt for it sooner, and the device is quite literally ‘rougher around the edges’, or wait until Q4 2020 and get a revised, faster spec’d “version 2” model.

The ‘Aspen’ batch features a handcrafted case with ‘loose fit’ and ‘unfinished’ switch caps

Naturally lots of folks are opting to get their $699 phone ASAP, and those receiving the “Aspen” batch — the first of six planned batches — get a phone “with complete initial board and all hardware components included”, a handcrafted case with a “loose fit” and variation in alignment, and “unfinished kill-switch caps”.

Software is also likely to be a little raw at this stage too. Purism say updates will need to be installed using the command line (which sounds like a benefit to me, tbh).

The device will also sport what Purism generously refer to as “early power management” — let’s hope the over-heating exhibited in some of the Librem 5’s more recent demos have been solved.

a graphic listing the specs for the Librem 5 handset

Of course, the real lure of the Librem 5 is not in its (modest) specs, whether it has a injection moulded case (not yet), or even in how long the (as yet unmentioned) battery life is.

No, this phone is about more than superficiality; it’s about giving its user total control over their data and their privacy.

“[The Librem 5] …is a phone that represents the largest of visions shouting from the rooftops, ‘I will not give up my freedom!’”, Weaver adds.

Purism has expended a fair bit of effort in the software stack (which is based GNOME Shell) helping to fund advancements like libhandy for responsive GTK apps.

They’ve also ventured into online services through Librem One, a monthly subscription service offering access to privacy-minded alternatives to to Twitter, Gmail, WhatsApp, et al.

If any of that sounds like a phone you want to sport, you can still “pre-order” the Librem 5 direct from Purism. Prices start at $699.

Pre-order the Librem 5 from Purism

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