Comparing specs of upcoming Linux phones


#1

To help people who are trying to decide which Linux phone to buy, I have created a table to compare their features.

Model PINE64 PinePhone (specs: 1, 2) Purism Librem 5 (specs) Necunos NC_1 (specs)
Announced Feb. 2, 2019 at FOSDEM Aug 24, 2017 Nov 29, 2018
Expected Q3 2019 for prototype, late Q4 2019 for sale (pending software availability) Q3 2019 Summer 2019 (no update since April 1)
Price $150 for 2GB RAM and 16GB Flash Currently $699 (was $599 till 2019-01-31, and $649 till 2019-07-31) 1199 euros
System on a Chip* Allwinner A64 (40nm) NXP I.MX 8M Quad (28nm) NXP i.MX 6 Quad (40nm)
  SoC
  announced
Jan 8, 2015 Jan 4, 2017 Jan 2011
  SoC
  released
June 2015 Jan 2018 Nov 2012
  SoC
  cost
$5 per chip in large quantities $20 per chip in 10k quantities
  SoC
  package
FBGA 396 balls, 0.65mm ball pitch, 15x15mm FBGA 621 balls, 0.65 mm pitch, 17x17mm FCPBGA, 0.8 mm pitch, 21x21mm
  SoC
  benchmarks
Geekbench 3, Truebench, PassMark PerformanceTest Boundary Devices Boundary Devices, Geekbench 3, OpenBenchmarking, TrueBench
  CPUs 4x Cortex-A53, 64-bit, superscalar 4x Cortex-A53, 64-bit, superscalar 4x Cortex-A9 MP, 32-bit
  CPU clock 1.2 GHz 1.5 GHz 1.2 GHz
  L1 cache
  per core
32KB instruction & 32KB data 32KB instruction & 32KB data 32KB instruction & 32KB data
  Shared
  L2 cache
512KB 1MB 1MB
  Secondary
  CPU
266 MHz Cortex-M4F, 16KB instruction and 16KB data L1 cache, 256KB TCM cache
  GPU ARM Mali-400 MP2 (Utgard) Vivante GC7000 Lite Vivante GC2000
  GPU
  announced
Feb. 6, 2008 April 3, 2014 2009
  GPU cores 1x geometry processor/vertex shader, 2x Pixel processor/fragment shader 16 Vega shaders 4 VEC-4 shaders / 16 VEC-1 shaders
  GPU clock 416-500 MHz (in other devices with same SoC) up to 1GHz in shader cores, up to 800MHz in GPU in 28nm HPM node according to Vivante 594 MHz
  GPU
  benchmarks
Notebookcheck, CNX Boundary Devices OpenBenchmarking, Vivante, Boundary Devices
  GPU specs Triangles/sec: 267 million
GFLOPS 32-bit: 32,
16-bit: 64
Gtexels/sec: 1.6
Gverteces/sec: 1.0
Triangles/sec: 200 million
  APIs OpenGL ES 2.0, OpenVG 1.1 (The Lima FOSS driver supports OpenGL ES 2.0, but still some problems in Mesa, so may have to use proprietary driver.) OpenGL ES 1.1, 2.0, 3.0, 3.1, OpenCL 1.2, Vulkan 1.0 (Vivante also lists OpenVG 1.1, OpenGL 3.0 and Direct3D 11, but those aren’t listed in the NXP docs. The Etnaviv FOSS driver only supports OpenGL ES 1.1 and 2.0.) OpenGL ES 2.0, OpenCL 1.0, OpenVG 1.1
  HDMI SoC supports HDMI 1.4, up to 4K@30, but PinePhone probably won’t support HDMI alt mode over USB-C because not mentioned in wiki. SoC supports HDMI 2.0a, up to 4K@60, but requires binary blob, so Librem 5 either needs a separate DSI->HDMI chip or won’t support HDMI alt mode over USB-C. SoC supports HDMI 1.4, up to 1080p@60
  DisplayPort PinePhone provides DisplayPort alt mode over USB-C (at 1080p according to UBports) SoC supports DisplayPort 1.3 (up to 4K@60) and eDP 1.4 (up to 4.32 Gbps), but Librem 5 needs other chip(s) to provide DisplayPort alt mode over USB-C Not supported by SoC, so will need separate chip(s) if Necunos decides to support DisplayPort
  Video
  Decoding
4K@30: H.265
1080p@120: H.265
1080p@60: H.264, MPEG 1/2/4, VP8, AVS/AVS+
1080p@30: VC-1, JPEG/MJPEG
4Kp@60 with HDR: H.265, VP9
4Kp@30: H.264
1080p@60: MPEG 2 / 4p2, VC-1, VP8, RV9, AVS, MJPEG, H.263
(can only find MPEG-2 and H.264 open source drivers for the Hantro G1/G2 video decoders, so probably have to decode in software)
1080p@30: H.264, MPEG-2/4, VC1, DivX/XviD, AVS, H.263, RV10, Sorenson, VP8
  Video
  Encoding
1080p@60: H.264
JPEG baseline images: 8192 x 8192
1080p@30 : H.264 (in software) 1080p@30: H.264, MPEG-4, H.263
JPEG baseline images: 8192 x 8192
  Audio 4 channels in/out, 24-bit, 8 - 48 KHz 20+ channels in/out; 32-bit up to 384 KHz, with DSD512 support SSI block supports audio, up to 192 kHz in/out ESAI supports audio up to 260 kHz with 7.1 channel outputs
  Camera
  interface
MIPI CSI, 8-bit YUV422, parallel interface
Max video capture: 1080p@30
Max still image: 5MP
2 x MIPI CSI-2 (4-lane)
Max bit rate: 1.5 Gbps (per lane?)
Parallel Camera port (up to 20bit, up to 240MHz)
MIPI CSI-2 (4-lane)
Max bit rate: 800 Mbps per lane in 4 lane mode or 1 Bbps in 1/2/3 lane mode
  USB USB 2.0, OTG 2 x USB 2.0 or 3.0 3 x USB 2.0, OTG
RAM 2 / 3 GB LPDDR3 3 GB Micron MT53B384M32D2NP-062 WT:B LPDDR4-3200 1 GB (SoC supports DDR3, DDR3L, LPDDR2)
Flash memory 16 - 64 GB eMMC 5.0 32 GB eMMC 5.0 Toshiba THGBMHG8C2LBAIL 8 GB (SoC supports both eMMC 4.4 and UHS-I SDR104 at max of 104 MB/s)
Display 5.95″ IPS LCD, 720x1440 pixels, 16M colors, hardened glass 5.7″ IPS LCD, 720×1440 5.0" (attached or detached)
Cellular baseband Quectel EG-25G (soldered to logic board) Gemalto PLS8-E/-US or BroadMobi BM818-E1/-A1 on a M.2 3042 B key card (via USB 2.0) None for security reasons
Supported bands GSM: 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz
WCDMA: B1, B2, B4, B5, B6, B8, B19
LTE-FDD: B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B7, B8, B12, B13, B18, B19, B20, B25, B26, B28
LTE-TDD: B38, B39, B40, B41
VoLTE supported
PLS8-E:
GSM: 900, 1800 MHz
WCDMA: B1, B3, B8
LTE-FDD: B1, B3, B7, B8, B20
PLS8-US:
GSM: 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz
WCDMA: B2, B4, B5,
LTE-FDD: B2, B4, B5, B17
BM818-E1:
GSM: B2, B3, B5, B8
WCDMA: B1, B2, B5, B8
FDD-LTE: B1, B2, B3, B5, B7, B8, B20
TDD-LTE: B38, B40, B41(120M)
BM818-A1:
GSM: B2, B5
WCDMA: B2, B4, B5
FDD-LTE: B2, B3, B4, B5, B12, B13, B17, B25, B26, B66
TDD-LTE: B41(200M)
SIM 1 Micro-SIM 1 Nano-SIM None for security reasons
External storage microSD, supporting SDHC and SDXC, bootable microSD (max 2 TB)
Back camera OmniVision OV6540, 5MP, 1/4″, LED flash 13 MP with LED flash
Selfie camera GalaxyCore GC2035, 2MP, f/2.8, 1/5″ 8 MP
Sensors Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, ambient light, magnetometer (compass) STmicroelectronics LSM9DS1 3D gyrometer, accelerometer & magnetometer; Vishay VCNL4040 proximity and ambient light sensors None for security reasons
Hardware kill switches - LTE/GPS,
- WiFi/Bluetooth,
- microphone,
- cameras
(4 switches under back cover, which this tweet says is easily removable, but tllim later posted on IRC that “back case can peel off using finger nail.”)
- Cellular modem,
- WiFi/Bluetooth,
- microphone/camera
(3 together kill all sensors and GNSS)
Audio DAC Wolfson Media WM8962
3.5mm audio jack Yes Yes (stereo out, mono mic) Yes
Speaker One 1 earpiece speaker, 1 loud speaker (case image shows speaker holes on bottom bezel) Two
Battery Li-Po 3000 mAh (same as Galaxy J7 battery), 5V 3A (15W) Quick Charge, easily replaceable so can carry spare battery, a higher capacity battery in same form factor may be possible 3500 mAh, user replaceable with screwdriver 3500 mAh (not soldered, but screen must be removed to replace the battery)
Port USB Type-C USB 2.0 (Slimport, USB Host, DisplayPort Alternative Mode output) USB Type-C USB 3.0 data, charging (dual-role port), video out (TI TPS65983) Micro-USB 2.0, data transfer disabled
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, single-band (2.4 GHz), hotspot Redpine Signals RS9116 802.11 a/b/g/n 2.4 & 5 GHz via SDIO 2.0 on a M.2 2230 B key card WiFi (via SDIO) WF1801, single band (2.4GHz)
Bluetooth 4.0, A2DP 4.0
NFC No No
GNSS GPS, GPS-A, GLONASS STMicroelectronics Teseo-LIV3F (GPS/Galileo/Glonass/BeiDou/QZSS, but no GPS-A) None for security reasons
Vibration motor Yes Yes
FM Radio No No
Case Matte black finished plastic, phone structure is also plastic Likely metal Aluminum
Dimensions (mm) 160.5 x 76.6 x 9.2 147.1 x 72.25 x 15 (preliminary)
Weight 180-200 g
OS Linux with KDE Plasma Mobile; the dev kit runs postmarketOS (based on Alpine OS and Wayland) PureOS (derivative of Debian Testing, endorsed by FSF because contains no binary blobs) Choice of no OS, Debian with Plasma Mobile, postmarketOS with Plasma Mobile, Maemo Leste, Nemo Mobile or LuneOS (A donation will be made to community providing the OS)
Software stack Linux / Wayland / QT / KDE Plasma Mobile Linux / Wayland / GTK / libhandy / phosh Linux
Where assembled Silicon Delta, China Probably Silicon Delta, China, but Weaver said in an interview, “we are considering fabricating it in the US, Germany, even Switzerland.” The dev kit was assembled in the San Diego area, California, USA. Finland
Other features - RGB status LED.
- No glue so can disassemble with only a screwdriver.
(Liliputing mentions a 6 pogo pin connector to I2C bus, so that mods can be added by changing the back cover, but it’s not on the PINE64 wiki)
- RGB front LED.
- End-to-end encryption for messaging over XMPP (and Matrix as well?).
- 2FF smart card slot (and 80MHz Cortex-M4 STM32L432KC controller) so an OpenPGP card can be installed for secure cryptographic operations. (Future plans to use free firmware in Cortex-M4.)
- Can install additional apps at the PureOS Store with badges showing user rights with each app.
- Extra programmable button,
-100 Mb/s Ethernet jack
Longevity - Promises to produce the phone for 5 years.
- Will use mainline kernel so easier to support long-term.
- Battery can be bought from many sources.
(No promise so far to sell replacement parts.)
- Promises “lifetime support”
- Designed to avoid planned obsolescence
- NXP promises to sell the i.MX 8M until Jan. 2028
- Will sell replacement batteries. Nicole Faerber says “since we are in direct contact with the factory we can (and will) stock spare parts and will try find ways to make most of the parts replaceable. But I can not promise this for all and everything.”
- Upstreaming code (1,2,3) when possible for better long-term support.
Free/open source software Binary blobs in the kernel and U-Boot for DRAM initialization, power management and HDMI (which PinePhone probably won’t use). It will probably also have blobs for the Quectel EG-25G modem and Wi-Fi. Goal to be the first phone to receive the FSF’s Respects Your Freedom certification for 100% free software. All drivers in Linux kernel will be FOSS, but there will be proprietary firmware in components (Wi-Fi, cellular baseband, etc.) which don’t need to be updated and proprietary code to initialize DDR4 by U-Boot will be moved to a separate SPI Flash chip and executed by the M4 core. Will have a binary blobs, but no proprietary firmware will have memory access. According to the FAQ, Necunos is considering trying to obtain FSF’s Respects Your Freedom certification, so probably only has blobs for U-Boot that can be moved to a separate ROM.
Free/open source hardware PINE64 posts the logic board schematics in PDF for their hardware on their wiki, but there is no license for use. Purism’s SPC charter states “The Corporation will release all hardware schematics authored by The Corporation under a free hardware license.”
Purism released the KiCAD schematics files for the dev kit under the GPL 3.0+, and everything was designed with free software tools.
CEO Todd Weaver says that the schematics files will be released immediately, but Purism needs to recover its development costs before releasing the Gerber files, which they are “thinking about releasing in a time capsule” of “3 years, 5 years, something like that.”
Other chips From preliminary device tree listing:
- Goodix GT5688 Touch IC,
- ROHM BD71837MWV power management IC,
- TI lm3560 Synchronous Boost Flash Driver for camera,
- TI bq25890 I2C controlled charger (supports up to 14V 3.25A fast charging),
- Maxim Integrated MAX17050 battery monitor
  • All specs for the SoC in italics are what the SoC supports, but there may not be FOSS drivers, configuration, thermals, or other hardware to use it.

Will the Librem 5 be a white elephant or the first in a wave?
Librem 5 — Promise Delivery Chart
Librem 5 Investor Question Thread
News regarding Librem5 on Chaos Communication Camp 2019
Librem 5 — Development Chronology
Librem 5 — List of Apps in Development
#3

Thanks! Wow, now the L5 looks like a great deal compared to the others (it already is). :stuck_out_tongue:


#4

Thanks for catching that. I have corrected it.


#5

Wow! Great phone that Librem 5. Glad I ordered one.


#6

So also the wifi will have blobs? I understand about cellular to be isolated but i don’t think wifi could be isolate too, or i’m wrong?


#7

Purism is controlling the RS9116 over SDIO 2.0, so no direct memory access like with the PCIe bus (which most other devices use to access Wi-Fi/Bluetooth). Purism says that it won’t have any blobs in the Linux kernel or U-Boot, but there will be proprietary firmware installed in the components.


#8

Thank you very much for the comparison, it is very helpful.

I didn’t know the NC_1, but I don’t see it as a very interesting device. In addition, the price is abusive. Why does it cost so much (much more than Librem 5)?

My idea is to buy the Pinephone when it is on sale this year. The price is very attractive and is a good phone to start messing with.

In the case of Librem 5, I will wait for it to go on sale when it is already manufactured. Maybe I’ll wait for a more powerful second version.


#9

This Necunos shouldn’t be on this comparison list. Or the title should be worded differently.
No basebands for “security reasons”? Ok, then it’s not a phone. They can call it “Communicator” / WiFi VoIP Media Player, etc.


#10

I agree that it is misleading to call it a phone, given that it looks like a smartphone. Necunos’ press release calls it a “smart mobile device”

However, a few people have discussed removing the cell modem from the Purism 5 to make it into a WiFi only device. Purism calls their phone a IP-native mobile handset, which means that while the cell modems are designed to do normal cell phone voice calls and text, we could just use the cell modem for data only and receive voice calls via VoIP over the top of the cell data network and through WiFi when available.

“Linux smart mobile handsets” might be a more accurate label, although it sounds unconventional and wordy.


#11

The first production run for the NC_1 was 500 devices, whereas Purism is producing 10k, so you have a lot more overhead costs per unit, plus Necunos is assembling in Finland, which is very expensive compared to China. I think that the people who pre-ordered the NC_1 want a mobile Linux device company focused on security to exist in Europe. If Necunos doesn’t manage to ship soon, however, I can’t see the company managing to survive, because Purism will take its niche market.
However, Necunos plans to also offer a custom commercial version of the NC_1, and Necunos might be able find enough companies that have special security needs and need customized devices.

I predict that the second version of the Librem 5 will have more RAM and Flash memory, but it will probably use the same SoC. I don’t think that Purism will switch to the i.MX 8M mini despite the fact that it is more energy efficient, because it has a less powerful GPU and little video out, so it won’t work well for convergence as a PC, which is one of the goals of the Librem 5.

Maybe Purism can switch to Rockchip in the future now that the Lima drivers have improved, but it sounds like the future RK3588 won’t use the standard Mali GPU, so that probably won’t be a possibility. As I see it, Purism is probably stuck with the i.MX 8-series for the next couple years, so we have to pray that NXP will decide to either offer the i.MX 8M mini with a more powerful GPU/VPU or do a die shrink on the i.MX 8M Quad.

If the better version of the PinePhone with 3GB RAM 64 GB Flash costs $250 or $300, I think that a lot of people will order it, but PINE64 expects users to solve a lot of their own problems. It will be a great DIY phone, but probably not a good phone for people who aren’t tinkerers.

The Librem 5 will be a thick brick (and probably require frequent charging), so people who want a normal sized phone will have to go with the PinePhone. PINE64 doesn’t have many software developers and is relying on the community to provide a lot of the software, so I expect that using the PinePhone will be a real challenge in the first year.

Here is how I would summarize it:
PinePhone:

  • Outdated SoC
  • Low resolution camera and can’t be improved due to the SoC
  • Economical
  • Software will be very rough and don’t expect much hand-holding from the manufacturer, but can get help from the communities providing the software
  • Slim case, so easier to carry

Librem 5:

  • More modern SoC (but still underpowered compared to today’s Snapdragon, Exynos and Helios)
  • Acceptable camera
  • Software will be rough at first, but it will improve, so will probably be good enough that a normal person can use it as a standard phone in a year or two.
  • Very thick, so only for people who don’t mind the large size
  • First phone in the world with replaceable Wi-Fi and cellular baseband

#12

These go to a different category - especially from software perspective as they are not open to user (although there seems some effort to make Google stay away): Bittium’s (another Finnish secure coms firm) Though Mobile 1&2. What I find interesting, are some of the HW decisions. Physical aspects are impressive (water and shock proof), but cameras are slightly lesser quality etc. But the main similarity (and reason to mention here): physical button to affect sensors: a “privacy mode” that (if I’ve understood correctly) reduces accuracies (may not turn them off?). Interesting idea to compare to.


#13

The Librem 5 at $699 looks like a steal compared to 1550€ for the Bittium Tough Mobile 2. According to the description, the “privacy button” provides: “Hardware-based privacy mode for disabling microphones, cameras, Bluetooth, and reducing sensor sensitivity”.

If they went through the trouble of adding a separate Bluetooth chip, why not use a separate Wi-Fi/Bluetooth chip?


#14

Doesn’t it just :slight_smile: But I’m pretty sure they target governments and affiliated orgs.

But I couldn’t find any specifics either on the buttons boyond that.


#15

It’s fine for a first gen, i hope a librem5 v2 will be completly open


#16

Unfortunately that is not possible. The only processor that doesn’t require a binary blob to set the timing in the DDR PHY is the POWER 9. There is no way to get that chip into a phone. It looks like SiFive’s RISC-V mobile processor (which is supposed to be ready in 2 years) will be even worse in terms of binary blobs since it uses a PowerVR GPU. The Rockchip RK3588 doesn’t look like it will use a standard Mali GPU, so there won’t be any free drivers.

Nobody makes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cellular modem or GNSS without proprietary firmware. The best that you can do is put it on a separate chip and use a bus that doesn’t provide Direct Memory Access (DMA). This stuff is so locked up in patents, that I doubt that any manufacturer will ever make any of these components with free firmware and reverse engineering the proprietary firmware is incredibly hard. If anyone tried to produce an open hardware LTE modem, they would be sued out of existence and the patent holders would never allow them to license the patents if they wanted to publish the code. Maybe you could take all of them to court and force them to license the patents under the FRAND laws, but the legal fees would drive you into bankruptcy.


#17

Like a steal?

it seems to me that your affirmation is rather exaggerated, considering the commitment to something totally new, the use of isolated hardware, the creation of non-existent software.
Mah!


#18

Patents eventually expire.


#19

Patents do expire. When they do, the cell technology will be taken out of service. So it will not be possible to use those expired patents unless you start your own network and license the spectrum for use with obsolete technology. The only way to avoid this is to innovate in the open, and let the open technology replace the proprietary via superior functionality.


#20

20 years is a LONG time in a technology context. sheesh …


#21

Agree needs better name. How about gnu-phone? (gphone for short). … Because it was the GNU project that started this all off. Linux only came later.