Comparing the PinePhone to the Librem 5

Wow, I haven’t seen such a big post I enjoyed so much to read for a long time. Thanks for your insights @amosbatto, I really appreciate that.


It cannot be proved, of course, but I am fairly convinced that without the presence of a Librem 5 in the market Pine64 would never pay too much attention to the freedom of the hardware.

Well, now Plasma Mobile (under development since 2015) has the corporate support of Pine64, which after energizing the enthusiasts of different mobile environments for months with its equidistance is now picking KDE as default UI. This happened despite Plasma Mobile’s underdeveloped state compared to Phosh, and despite a less convinving approach towards software freedom from the QT framework compared to the GTK framework (I will skip the technical weaknesses of QT compared to GTK, like the fact that the former is written in C++ instead of C despite being a core part of a Unix operating system where many programs are written in C…).

I agree, but it seems that Pine64 needs Purism more than it is willing to admit. What Purism also needs and is never mentioned enough is the existence of distributions like postmarketOS, which with their attempt to make GNU/Linux usable in current phones (albeit with plenty of proprietary blobs), help the spread of Phosh outside of its nest.

So far so good. I have only three wishes concerning the Librem 5 at this point:

  • That the Librem 5 keeps being successfull enough
  • That the future versions will be a bit thinner
  • That the future versions will be cheaper

I also wish that postmarketOS, Arch ARM, Manjaro ARM, Mobian and all the other mobile distros will be able to make GNU/Linux available for virtually every phone model in the market, no matter how many binary blobs its hardware requires.


To use Phosh outside of the Librem 5, PinePhone and PineTab, Phosh needs to be altered to allow it to be able to use libhybris, so that it can use Android drivers. (I read that it is also possible to use Android drivers by replacing libc with Bionic, so that may be another option.) I don’t know how hard it will be to make those changes to Phosh, but Purism has no interest in making those changes to the code, so it will only happen if some outside developers decide to implement it.

Sailfish OS and LuneOS support both Android drivers through libybris and Linux drivers. Ubuntu Touch used to only use Android drivers through libhybris, but it is now adding support for Linux drivers in order to run on the PinePhone/Tab and eventually the Librem 5. KDE Plasma Mobile recently decided to drop support for libhybris, so it will only be able to run on Linux drivers in the future (which is why it switched from the Nexus 5 to the PinePhone as its development device).

This is the hard part in my opinion. I speculate that Purism needs more Librem 5 orders to help finance mass production. I argue for the Librem 5 in Reddit’s r/Purism, because Purism is paying software developers which is expensive and the company needs the community to order a lot of the phones. I don’t worry about PINE64, because its business model doesn’t require crowdfunding software development, so there is little financial risk to the company.

Ideally, Purism would make a lower-end model based on the i.MX 8M Plus, that doesn’t have replaceable M.2 cards, which is thinner and cheaper, and make higher-end i.MX 8M Quad model with 4GB RAM and a 256GB eMMC which is designed for people who want a convergent PC.

My dream machine is a Librem 6 based on the RK3588 with 32GB RAM, 512GB eMMC, USB 3.1 Type-C, 8K video out, M.2 slots that support PCIe and pogo pins for adding USB 3.1 mods. In other words, I dream of a pcphone that can really replace the conventional desktop PC, but I suspect that the RK3588 will require blobs.

postmarketOS is already working to do that. For the rest of the standard desktop distros, you have the same problem with needing to use Android drivers through libhybris. With Plasma Mobile dropping support for libhybris and Phosh never having it, I can’t see it happening. Only with Lomiri (the Ubuntu Touch interface) may it be possible, but the current porting of Lomiri to Arch and Debian is based on using Linux drivers. Honestly, I doubt that Arch and Debian want to deal with Android drivers, since a lot of them are proprietary.


It would be easy to come to the conclusion that free hardware is very important even if it wouldn’t be your competitors strong selling point. Pine64 likely saw before they made the PinePhone how it was harder for the community to support their SBC when it needs proprietary drivers. You don’t even need to care about free software as an ideology to see that it has a business advantage in their case (though from what I’ve seen in their case they seem to care about it as an ideology too).

I do however think that they prioritize it higher now that they have the Librem 5 to compare themselves against, but I highly doubt that’s the biggest reason for them to push free software.

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You’ve worded that entire thing much better than I ever could ^^ thank you for the detailed explanation.

They did. But I think, of all the kind of rules we can try to live by, “Thou shalt not bite off more than you can chew” is not among the most critical ones. In fact, now that I think about it I kind of appreciate when someone takes a real good bite, even if it turns out to be a bit too much. Aim for the stars, maybe reach the treetops, you’re still better off than those still crawling around down in the mud who never dared to try something new.


Last time I checked postmarketOS was already able to use libhybris to run Phosh (see the pictures of Samsung Galaxy SII, OnePlus 6, Volla Phone, Samsung Galaxy A5 2015, Huawei P10 Lite and Huawei Honor 5X running postmarketOS with Phosh). That effort needs to be supported.

I believe that slowly Phosh will need to move into the hands of the GNOME Foundation and the community in general. It is fine if Purism develops its own apps and customizations like System76 does with Pop!_OS, but I think it will not have enough resources to take care of what the entire GNOME environment does when installed on a mobile phone.

Purism and Pine64 are not that different, they both sell hardware, although targeting different lines of products and audiences. If you are happy to have some sort of Raspberry Pi with a screen and a modem in your hands to tinker with, the PinePhone is a nice toy, but if you really want to have an actual smartphone, although a weirdo one, the Librem 5 is the only nice viable option as of today. Purism did an amazing job in adapting GNOME for its mobile phone, but sooner than we expect the only thing that will matter will be what kind of hardware they sell, not their contribution to the GNOME project (although that will be history and I am really thankful for it).

Purism is already on the right path. It needs just to keep moving.

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I’d agree, but the reason I mentioned that at all, is because that’s part of the issue that made people start caring about how many librem 5’s are released on certain dates in the first place. I know i can speak for myself, that I started to doubt if there would ever be a phone when I figured that purism might have took on a job that they might not have been able to finish.
For an eventual end result it may prove to have been worth reaching for the stars, but it would have resulted in a lot less rumors (and in effect, probably a higher number of sales), if there wasn’t so much doubt involved in purisms ability to deliver on it’s promises. Initial video’s from early backers that already have received their librem 5’s seem to indicate it has though :slight_smile:


That post on PINE64 is over a year old. I might be wrong but I believe that they have reversed engineered the EG25-G modem firmware so that it’s now fully somewhat open source.

No, not really. There is a community project that replaces the user space of the EG25-G firmware, but that’s very similar to flashing your custom ROM on a proprietary Android phone with integrated modem: the parts that do the real job are still as closed as ever.

This is a great development and certainly a welcome thing for user freedom (I’d like all modems to work that way!), but it doesn’t even stand close to “fully open modem firmware”. The actual firmware (Qualcomm DSPs) isn’t even touched at all.


I stand corrected. Thanks @dos.

Pine64 teaser

Pinephone V2 to be announced on October 15th ?


Nice. I’ll probably be able to get that years before the L5 that I ordered in January 2019.

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Given where Linux support currently stands with the RK3566 and Quartz64, PINE64 might be able to send you the hardware for the PinePhone 2, but it won’t be usable for quite a while. Unlike Purism, there are no employees at PINE64 who are going to do the kernel hacking. It looks like RK3566/68 will be faster than the i.MX 8M has been at getting good mainline Linux support, because Collabora has been working on getting mainline support for RK3566/68, so that should help. However, Rockchip is not like Intel and AMD in terms of getting their chips supported quickly in mainline Linux.

The PinePhone 1 had a huge advantage over the Librem 5 because it had good Linux support for its processor from day 1 and CRUST was already in development, but I expect the PinePhone 2 to be waiting on Linux support.

I think that the PinePhone 2 is going to eventually be the Linux phone that breaks into the mass market, because it will be cheap and it will have good enough performance to actually provide a decent camera, good convergence, and good graphics. However, I don’t expect it to happen fast, with a new chip and no paid software devs at Pine64 working on the phone.


I’m guessing the return of the Pinetab. What we can see of the shape of the device doesn’t match that of a phone


From what I understand, they will be using the same modem, so I’m pretty sure that everything will come together much faster than the PinePhone 1 did.

It might be their e-ink device, but everybody already knows about that.

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The main point being made by Amos was about the SoC / CPU, not the modem.

   I am rooting for both devices to catch on and make mobile Linux from the ground up make an impact even in some small way. Unfortunately I had to buy both devices off ebay as Pine64 and Purism and the way the world is right now, makes it really hard to get these devices, so I would like nothing more to support these efforts, not a fanboy or shill for either one. Anyway comparing them, my impressions:

Pinephone- essential to make a SD card with the multiboot distros, just to tinker and test out the device. Its a fun and interesting experiment, but none of the distros are ready yet for daily driver use as of writing this. Some are so limited its just a novelty like Lune OS for example, can’t do much with that one, but its interesting it could be run at all. I like the convergence package that comes with some Pinephones to create a hub to test out its features and play with linux. As a phone as of now, its not very useful yet, but its lower price makes it worthwhile to pick one up and play with it.

Librem 5- the standard OS is almost there, its very close for me to consider using as a daily driver. Purism has done a pretty good job so far. I have not tried to run other distros as I think the one it comes with is pretty functional right now. I am still new to it, so not sure how well packages run or the how SMS/MMS works, but a few things I have noticed need improvement but its doable, the standard web browser, functional, but some sites have their issues on a mobile screen, also trying streaming type sites like Youtube, I had issues on trying to maximize the video screen. Another big issue right now, the battery life is terrible, even if I am not using the device and just leave it laying around, battery drains like crazy. Like the kill switches on the outside, much better than the Pinephone switches, but Pinephone has more switches. If I can use the Librem 5 as a phone with SMS/MMS fully functional, battery life improves, and the web browser works more like a mobile device than a squished desktop, I would make it my daily driver. Its almost ready.