Purism has partnered up with UBports to offer Ubuntu Touch as a supported operating system on its Librem 5 smartphone. The crowd-sourced, open-source smartphone runs Purism's PureOS, by default. Purism is also working with GNOME for a version of PureOS with the KDE Plasma Mobile environment, giving users a choice between three OSes.
Some five years ago, Canonical tried to challenge Apple's iOS and Google's Android with Ubuntu Touch, an alternative OS for smartphone. However, lack of support from manufacturers, carriers, and the open-source community meant the development had to stop. Later, UBPorts decided to take up the Ubuntu Touch development work.
Purism, meanwhile, wants to build a Linux-powered smartphone with a focus on privacy and open source software. The startup raised more than $2 million last year for its project. It now hopes to deliver the first Librem 5 smartphones in early 2019, with PureOS and Ubuntu Touch.
The phone is expected to ship with an NXP i.MX8M 64-bit, ARM Cortex-A53 processor, supported by 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. It'll feature a microSD card slot, a headphone jack, USB Type-C port, and front and back cameras. For a change, the phone will have physical switches to disconnect the camera, mic, and WiFi/Bluetooth when not in use. This will certainly add a layer to security and privacy of the user.
As mentioned above, the phone will run Purism's PureOS, by default. But users will have two other OSes and user interfaces to choose from: PureOS with KDE Plasma Mobile, and Ubuntu Touch.
PureOS is Purism’s own Linux distribution and is still adapting to work on phone-sized touchscreen devices. KDE Plasma Mobile is a mobile project from the team behind the KDE desktop environment for GNU/Linux. And Ubuntu Touch, it's the version of Ubuntu Linux that Canonical developed, and then scrapped, and was later picked up by UBPorts.
Now, UBports and Purism are working together to develop Ubuntu Touch to the extent that it can be considered as a full-fledged mobile OS. Purism hopes to begin shipping the Librem 5 smartphones in January 2019.