Comparing the Librem 5 USA and PinePhone Beta

I wrote up some observations about the differences between the L5USA and PP

I would like to hear any feedback/critiques and know whether other people are seeing the same performance differences between the two phones.

I’ll probably post more observations later about the PP on my blog, now that I have it in my grubby little hands and can try using it as a phone. Sadly, I had to send the L5USA back to Purism for servicing and I don’t know when I’ll get back to the US to pick it up.


Woah! That is an exhaustive comparison and I commend your effort. I will have to return to it later.

A lot of work. Thank you.

I really enjoyed your article/blog post. Even though you were unable to compare GNSS connectivity and phone calls, I am thoroughly impressed by research you have put into this.

I also enjoyed your other article/post, “What can be learned by taking apart a Huawei smartphone

Fantastic write up! I would love to see you get your hands on the Pinephone Pro as well.

As always @amosbatto, You give a detailed and in depth review. Far better than I’ve seen elsewhere.

I did find the mention that the phone only charges when the cable is inserted a certain way to be odd, as it works both ways with my phone. Might be something you should bring up with purism on your current warranty claim.


@steve, Interesting that you don’t have the USB-C cable orientation problem, because I know that @irvinewade has suggested turning over the cable, so that suggests that he also has it. When was your L5 produced? I assume that this is a firmware issue, so it is possible that you have newer firmware than me.

I also have no USB-C cable orientation problem for charging, but sometimes I have to insert the cable a 2nd time to get the L5 charged (without rotating it) and I do not think that this is a contact problem, perhaps a software issue to get the charging started.

I received mine in March 2021.

To be clear: It’s not a Librem 5 USA though. If that makes any difference.

I don’t have any issues with my cable orientation either. (L5 received Nov. 2020)

I really liked how you included the forum platform choice, as someone who almost always visits here on mobile it’s one of the reasons I dislike heading to the PinePhone forums so much especially when using my PinePhone - it’s just a pain compared to being able to open the web app version of this forum.

Glad you have had a chance to use both devices, though when I first saw “PP” I thought you meant the PinePhone Pro. I assume it’s not the most feasible shipping wise but if you ever get the keyboard case or any of the accessories I’d be interested in your thoughts.

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I have not noticed that cable orientation during charging makes a difference, for my L5 USA (but I will make a definitive check over the next few days).

Given that @Zimmy doesn’t see the plug orientation problem on his L5USA, and @guru, @steve and @amarok don’t see the problem on their L5, I think that we can conclude that this is a defect in my device. I added this note to the article:

EDIT: Other L5 owners have commented on the Purism forum that they can charge using both sides of the USB-C plug, so this plug orientation problem is probably caused by a defect in my device, which I have sent back to Purism for servicing.

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How do you sent it back, based on a RMA number?

@guru, I send an email to and explained the problems that I saw in dmesg. Purism’s support determined that the device needed to be serviced, and emailed me an RMA number and a mailing label. I printed out the mailing label and attached it to the box and then took the box to Fedex for shipping.

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I didn’t read the entire article as a significant portion, possibly the majority, of what I did read seemed off topic and/or unnecessarily in-depth/verbose.

The article makes mention of many product and component manufacturers by name then it throws in the phrase “A certain fruit logo”? My initial thought was to question what wrong doing Raspberry PI have been up to lately? followed by thinking may be it’s a reference to Adafruit? After some further brief consideration I concluded it was probably Apple but I’m not 100% sure. Just mention manufacturers by name, special casing one or two manufacturers in an article leads me to think the article is likely to be heavily biased.

For what it’s worth, I also don’t have any issues with cable orientation, I currently have two Evergreen phones here, one shipped in March, the other just a few weeks ago, both function fine with the supplied cable and other cables I have lying around regardless of orientation.

Additionally, the mention of problems getting the phone to power up some times could probably be dealt with by (with the USB cable disconnected) holding the power button for ~20 seconds. My own phone regularly discharges the battery to such an extent that it powers off and won’t power on after recharging with a standard short press of the power button, in almost all cases a long press ~20 seconds will have it powering on.


Yes and no. Mostly I haven’t had a problem with USB-C cable orientation but I think once or twice connecting random devices I have had the problem. I am not necessarily talking about charging.

Bottom line: If a random peripheral isn’t working, it’s worth rotating the cable to see whether it changes anything.

It could be but it could be a firmware issue in the other end, in which case there’s not much you can do about it (other than rotate the cable).

Possible. I doubt it, given that you have a much more recent device.

USB PD firmware can be checked with: sudo cat /sys/kernel/debug/tps6598x/0-003f/customer_use

If you get 0x4c35445000000200 then I believe you have the latest.

However you won’t be able to check this now, I gather.

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General comment: sudo echo "something" >root_writeable_file does not “work”. I don’t know whether this might have affected your testing.

It doesn’t work because even though echo is executed as root, opening the output file is still done as the normal user e.g. purism.

The unpleasant workaround is: echo "something" | sudo tee root_writeable_file

and you would use tee -a if you need >> rather than >.

However the original command will work if in fact the file is writeable to a normal user, in which case the sudo is redundant.


I haven’t found where Linux reports this information.

You can get all that from /sys/class/power_supply/max170xx_battery i.e. a shell script unless that doesn’t mean your usability requirements.

Bear in mind, if comparing the battery charging current with the current reported by the USB multimeter (I have a similar device) that they are two different currents. The Librem 5 is potentially drawing enough current from the power source to charge the battery and run the Librem 5. So they are only the same thing if the Librem 5 is itself drawing no current (so cellular modem and WiFi killed and system sleeping - which right now is not possible! - and also not possible if you intend to record the current going into the battery i.e. Heisenbug).

So typically you might see 1.6A going into the battery but, say, 2A coming in via the USB, with 400 mA being used to run the Librem 5.

For this reason, when I want to look at currents, I typically choose to leave the WiFi on, have the display off, and ssh in. That is inevitably a compromise.

Oh, that was a stupid edit. I always login as sudo -i when mucking around with system files to avoid these permission problems when chaining together commands. After I published the article, I edited it and added sudo to the front of the commands without thinking. So I don’t think that it was a permission problem that prevented me from increasing the brightness on the flashlight.

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Yes, I too spend a fair bit of time as root but I wouldn’t like to encourage anyone else to do that in any permanent documentation. So that means correctly making each individual command work when not logged in as root.

The | sudo tee hack is one approach. Another is to introduce a one-line shell script. A third is
sudo bash -c '... >root_writeable_file' but that may lead to quote-hell.

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I tried that and just a 20 second long press of the Power button didn’t work for me. I assume that this is another defect in the L5USA that I received. I think that my L5USA was one of the first off the California board assembly line, and it does look like it took Purism quite a while to get it right, because after I got mine, it was a couple months before other people reported getting the L5USA on this forum.

Given all the issues (audio, USB charging, cameras), I assume that Purism will have to install a new PCB in my phone, which is probably a good thing for me, because later production usually has ironed out more of the bugs.

I do meander, and I guess it depends on whether you want to read a quick product review, or you want to contemplate other things. For me, looking at the branding is an opportunity to contemplate how much credit the company deserves for the design of the product, and how much was done by other companies, but I can see how others would find this utterly irrelevant and off-topic. I simply care about things that others don’t.

No need to suspect that I am heavily biased. I definitely am, as I made clear in a later section of the article:

Fortunately, both the L5 and PP don’t contain any of these anti-features, which in my opinion, sets both the L5 and PP above the vast majority of smartphones on the market today. I have nothing but disgust for the phone industry for promoting planned obsolescence, and I particularly despise Apple, since it was the first company to mass market a PDA, media player, phone, tablet and laptop without a replaceable battery. For that reason, I have been boycotting Apple for the last two decades, but sadly Apple’s overwhelming profits and prestige in the electronics industry have now led most manufactures to follow its lead in designing hardware based on planned obsolescence. I tear out my hair every time I see Lenovo and Dell release another Thinkpad and Latitude that tries to mimic Apple.