• The Librem 5. This is the home screen, I guess? It is just totally blank. [credit: Ron Amadeo ]


It is hard to do something truly different in the smartphone industry. Companies, especially smaller companies, are all working from the same parts bin with the same manufacturing partners. You take your Qualcomm SoC, your Samsung display, and your Sony camera sensor—and you take a flight to China and visit Foxconn, which, in addition to manufacturing, will even do engineering for you if you want. Smartphones are so samey because they have an established, for-hire supply chain that has a certain way of doing things, and it's much cheaper, faster, and easier if you just "go with the flow" and do what everyone else is doing.
Big companies like Samsung and Apple have enough money, control, and connections to move the supply chain in whatever direction they want. In terms of smaller companies though, there is a single one trying to blaze its own path: Purism, the maker of open source Linux laptops, is building the Librem 5 smartphone. Not only is the OS open source and based on GNU/Linux—not Android—the hardware is open source, too. The core components have open source firmware, and there are even public hardware schematics. This is as close as you're going to get to a totally open source smartphone.
If you haven't noticed, open source smartphone hardware is not a thing that existed before now. There have been phones that run open source builds of Android, or other Linux phones like the PinePhone, but those are full of closed-source firmware from non-open components. The usual hardware companies cautiously guard their hardware designs and drivers, and Purism's hardline stance on open source has ruled out almost the entire established smartphone supply chain. As the company writes in a blog post, "When we first approached hardware manufacturers almost two years ago with this project most of them instantly said 'No, sorry, impossible, we can not help you'." Others warned us, that it could never work, that it was too complicated, 'the industry does not do that,' and so forth."

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