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KDE, Purism plan smartphone based on free software

San Francisco-based computer manufacturer Purism has joined hands with the KDE Desktop project to bring out the world's first free smartphone.

The word "free" does not refer to price but rather to both the hardware and software, with the phone to use Plasma Mobile, a mobile version of the KDE software that is used on the Linux desktop.

Purism is running a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to build hardware that will be open, with the smartphone to be named the Librem 5. The target is US$1.5 million and so far the campaign has raised US$322,157, just over one-fifth of what is needed.

The mobile operating system for the Librem 5 will be fully standards-based and freedom-oriented. It will be based on the Debian GNU/Linux distribution.

The Librem 5 is claimed to be the first IP-native mobile handset, using end-to-end encrypted decentralised communication.

kdephoneSome details about the handset:

  • Does not run Google Android;
  • Does not run Apple iOS;
  • Runs PureOS by default, can run most GNU/Linux distributions;
  • World’s first ever IP-native mobile handset;
  • End-to-end decentralised communications via Matrix;
  • 5″ screen;
  • Security-focused by design;
  • Privacy protection by default;
  • Works with 2G/3G/4G, GSM, UMTS, and LTE networks;
  • CPU separate from baseband; and
  • Hardware kill switches for camera, microphone, Wi-Fi/Bluetooth, and baseband.

"Building a free software and privacy-focused smartphone has been a dream of the KDE community for a long time. We created Plasma to not just run on desktops and laptops, but for the whole spectrum of devices," said Lydia Pintscher, president of the KDE project.

"Partnering with Purism will allow us to ready Plasma Mobile for the real world and integrate it seamlessly with a commercial device for the first time. The Librem 5 will make Plasma Mobile shine the way it deserves.

"KDE has created an evolved, completely free platform in Plasma Mobile," said Todd Weaver, chief executive of Purism. 

"We feel that Plasma Mobile will become a serious contender that may break the current duopoly and bring a full-featured, fully free/libre and open source mobile operating system to the market. We look forward to trying out Plasma Mobile on our test hardware and working with KDE's community."

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.