Thursday, 25 January 2018 11:17

Free software smartphone now in design phase

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A project that raised money last year to build a mobile phone based on free software has finished assembling its design team and is in the planning phase of development.

In an update on the development of the Librem 5 smartphone, creative director François Téchené said developers were now working on designing user interfaces and user experience for the device.

The company behind the phone, Purism, raised a total of US$2.279 million in a crowd-funding effort, far above the target of US$1.5 million.

"Free" refers to 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.

The mobile operating system for the Librem 5 will follow existing standards and will be based on the Debian GNU/Linux distribution.

kdephonePurism has in the past used crowdfunding campaigns to build their business around secure laptops.

Téchené said: "The general appearance of the user interface we’ll be designing is expected to follow current visual design approaches in the mobile industry."

As Purism has partnered with both KDE and the GNOME projects, Librem 5 UI/UX design and development work will be a direct contribution back to the parent projects that they are based on.

Since KDE already has a full-featured mobile interface, Téchené said that "Purism’s contribution to KDE may be generally focused on hardware integration and testing, rather than design".

He said in the case of GNOME, more work was needed as the developers on this project had not been focused on the mobile experience.

The Librem 5 is expected to ship in January 2019. Its basic features are:

  • 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 encrypted 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.
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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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