I have worked on board development and I currently work in a software company. A 7 month delay is pretty common in this industry and it really hard to predict how long a project like this will take. Purism is a young company and it had to hire a lot of new people to undertake this project. What it has managed to accomplish so far is quite remarkable in my opinion.
Almost all the phone makers just buy a standard Snapdragon or MediaTek SoC with cellular modem which is designed for cell phones (or they are behemoths like Apple, Samsung or Huawei which modify the standard ARM design). They add a skin to Android and develop a few proprietary apps and call it a day. It is much easier to meet deadlines when you develop phones that way, rather trying to create forge a new platform like Purism with special hardware.
Think of the technical challenges that Purism is trying to tackle:
- Use a new SoC which isn’t designed for cell phones. They found bugs in the i.MX 8M Quad’s power management.
- Separate the CPU from the cellular modem. Nobody else in the industry (except Apple) does this.
- Use an M.2 connector for the cellular modem, making it future upgradeable. Nobody else in the industry does this.
- Make hardware kill switches. This requires specialized board design and separation of components, which makes everything more difficult. Nobody else does this.
- Create new open source libraries in the Linux stack to handle mobile devices.
- Create a new open source GUI built on Wayland and GTK+ for mobile devices.
- Set up a new app store.
- Create the most essential apps to make the phone functional. Most other companies add a skin and create some apps to add on top of Android, which is MUCH easier.
- Work with other communities (UB Ports, KDE Plasma, Lineage OS) to help port their phone to their software stack.
- Work with Redpine Signal to get a Wi-Fi/Bluetooth chip that doesn’t require proprietary binary blobs to work. The current Atheros chip in the Librem 13/15 requires proprietary firmware blobs to support 802.11ac and the Bluetooth doesn’t have an open source driver. See: https://puri.sm/posts/librem5-2018-09-hardware-report/
- Create code for the M4 core to train the DDR PHY in the i.MX 8M Quad to use DDR4 so it doesn’t require proprietary blobs. See: https://puri.sm/posts/librem5-solving-the-first-fsf-ryf-hurdle/
Look at the number of things that Purism is trying to do, which no other company does, and it is doing it with very limited funds and a tiny staff. I give Purism a ton of credit for tackling such a monumental task.
Honestly, I expect version 1 of the Librem 5 to be barely functional, because I know how hard it is to do hardware/software development. I think of this as an investment in the future to create a viable alternative to Android and iOS. Version 1 of Android wasn’t that great, and expect the same for Pure OS on the Librem 5, but it is paving the way for others to follow. Once Purism creates the platform, more apps will be created and the underlying libraries will be improved over time. You have to take the long view of what Purism is trying to do, and expect a lot of hiccups along the way.