iFixIt Repairability Rating

Android Enterprise Recommended Rugged Devices 9.0 - 10.0 are supposed to get 5 years of security updates. Unfortunately, Google dropped this requirement in its Rugged Devices 11.0 spec. Of course, this means that the phone has to be upgraded to a newer version of Android, since Google only provides 3 years of security updates for each version of Android.

Some of the phones in the list aren’t really getting 5 years of updates, but they are pretty close. For example, the Sonim XP8 was released in April 2018, and its web site claims that it will get security updates until December 2022, so it will get 4 years and 7 months of updates.

I doubt that the Librem 5 will get 10 out of 10 as long as it doesn’t offer replacement parts, but it should score pretty high.

While I think the modular parts with pogo pin connectors in the Fairphone are an awesome idea, the ability to easily change/upgrade the cellular baseband and WiFi/BT in the Librem 5 is far more important in my opinion for the long-term use of the phone. I foresee a lot of spectrum changing its use in the next couple years with the shutdown of 2G and 3G and the way 5G will push networks to shift LTE to TDD bands to save spectrum space, so the ability to change the cellular modem will be very useful.

Modular cameras made sense in the Fairphone 2, because it allowed upgrading from a 5MP to a 13MP camera. I don’t think that the i.MX 8M Quad processor can support much more than a 13MP camera and cameras in smartphones don’t often break, so I don’t see much point in making them modular in the Librem 5. I can’t see anyone wanting to upgrade the Librem 5 sensors and they rarely break.

The things that people will want to upgrade (the processor, RAM and eMMC Flash) are hard to make modular inside a phone. In my opinion, it would be better for Purism to design the main PCB in the Librem 5 v2 to be backward compatible, so it can fit into the Librem 5 v1, and to sell the main PCB as a separate part than can be used to upgrade the Librem 5 v1. The SHIFT5.1, SHIFT5.2 and SHIFT5.3 from ShiftPhone were all backward compatible in this way to allow upgrading.



Product Shipped officially supported/updated (as of Febrary 2021)
Librem 15v1 (*) 2015-05 5 years, 9 months
Librem 13v1 2015-09 5 years, 5 months
Librem 5 DevKit 2018-12 2 years, 2 months
Librem 5 Birch 2019-12 1 year, 2 months
Librem 5 Evergreen 2020-11 3 months

(*) Note: this includes OS updates, but also backporting of PureBoot and freeing more parts of the BIOS, AFAIR.

1 Like

Good point on the camera but I was using it more like an example. Then again, the camera could be better in other ways than Mpix - more dynamic range (night/lowlight), more cameras (depending on zoom level or for depth effects), IR-camera, thermal camera, radio camera etc. or other sensors. Ay, the memory increase would be nice and maybe more likely.

1 Like

I do hope you update that at least yearly for the next decade or more :slight_smile:
Or maybe automate the update to Wall-E :wink:

We’ll see :slight_smile:

The point is more, it’s funny that the 300 (!) dev kits received more updates and love than some Android devices in their whole life span. And that there is no indication that a Librem 5 will stop receiving updates in 5 years from now.


It’s retaliative though. The level of functionality of those dev kits compared to a completed phone sent to normal consumers is quite the gulf of difference. The level of updates and fixes are probably quite different. Along the lines of the devkit doesn’t turn on, and I don’t like the color of the loading wallpaper.

Just saying.

I’m not sure where you’re seeing the gulf. Apart from having one camera less, no displayport over USB, and obviously no chassis, the devices have the same main parts: display, modem, speakers, video output, USB, switches…

The dev kits get all the same software as the phones, except when the hardware differs: the Ethernet port, different camera, different display panel, USB details, video output, way to turn on.

The loading wall paper is the same, and I can assure you that my dev kit didn’t lose the ability to turn on. So what do you mean?

Sorry, I didn’t mean for my post to be insulting in that manner. What I was getting at was the devkit was very much a work in progress. The Android phones in question were not. They were completed products ready for user consumption.

One would expect a project in development to receive more updates than one not still in development. This is all I’m saying. it is not meant as a slight, but rather a pointing out of how the comparison doesn’t really mean much in this context.

The L5 receiving support for a long time is a great point of the device, and one thing I wholeheartedly support.

I didn’t take it to be insulting, just… unclear and confusing. It looked like you were comparing the dev kits to the completed Librem 5 phones. I’m still not sure what you were getting at with the “doesn’t turn on”, and I had to react due to the way it sounds.

It was just an over the top exaggerated example of the types of differences between the android phone and the devkit. You guys are doing awesome work!

1 Like

No, it isn’t. Almost all updates affect all batches and the DevKit in the same way. Only where the hardware differs, you’ll have fixes that only affect certain batches.
You know, I actually expected the DevKit to basically receive no more attention after Aspen / Birch. However, it just recently received specific love: “The Librem 5 devkit saw a minor update that will save some power
Really? Somebody took the time to save some energy on… the DevKit??? :slight_smile:
That’s actually why I included it here.

Many people are so used to the ways of other systems (e.g. Android, often having very dedicated images for each and every device iteration), that it seems hard to grasp that it’s not much effort to just keep old devices working. It’s the exact same OS image, and somtimes a different driver will be loaded, and it will just continue to work without a lot of attention usually.

In the past, many have doubted that Purism can or will provide updates for 5+ years. One point of the above chart is: They have a track record of doing so, it’s not much effort, and they even sometimes go the extra mile to improve obsoleted revisions… :slight_smile:

I don’t think you’ve understood my point.

Well, you probably meant that the initial fixes were life-essential for the dev-kits. Of course, by Aspen, the severity of improvements had already decreased. But what’s the point?
By now, almost all fixes/updates improve all revisions in the same way, and will continue to do so for the next 5+ years.

The point was, and I think I articulated it well enough, that one product was complete when shipped, and the expected update cadence for it not even close to something still in active development.

For the comparison to be fair, you’d need to take the Librem 5 after all components are green and the phone is fully functional and then judge based on the number of updates received from that point on. Both of us agree that you will be right from that point on but for now the comparison isn’t a fair one. Apples and Oranges.

I think that the Librem 5 should have had a pogo pin connector on the back for adding mods like IR cameras, just like the Fairphone and PinePhone do. Ideally, it would be connected to the USB 3.0 bus, so it has enough bandwidth to handle mods that need high speed transfers.

The other thing that I would alter about the Librem 5’s design is changing the bus from the microSD card from USB 2.0 to USB 3.0, so that that we aren’t limited to 32GB of fast storage. An eMMC 5.1 should be able read at 400 MB/s, whereas the Librem 5’s microSD card will probably read at 35-40 MB/s.

Hopefully Librem 5 v2 will fix these aspects of the phone. If v2 uses the i.MX 8M Plus, I would like to see 8GB RAM, because people using the phone as a desktop PC will need it. If v2, stays with the Quad, then 4GB RAM is the max available, but if Purism is going to keep marketing the Librem 5 as a general purpose computer, it needs at least 128GB of eMMC storage in my opinion, because you need that for desktop PC usage. Of course, that means no longer using expensive automotive RAM, but that kind of RAM is hardly necessary for a phone/PC.

Looking at the changes that I want to see in the Librem 5, Fairphone-style modularity in the parts won’t help much, but having an upgradeable PCB will help.

The Fairphone 3 has made the following parts modular:

  • 8MP front camera (removable from top module)
  • earpiece speaker (removable from top module)
  • headphone jack and proximity and ambient light sensors are soldered in the top module
  • 12MP back camera and sensor (removable from camera module)
  • LED flash soldered to the camera module
  • vibration motor (removable from bottom module)
  • USB-C port and microphone soldered to the bottom module
  • bottom loudspeaker in its own module
  • fingerprint reader
  • power and volume buttons
  • antennas
  • battery
  • screen

In comparison the following is modular in the Librem 5:

  • bottom PCB with soldered USB-C port and bottom speaker
  • glued together screen + case
  • battery
  • cellular modem
  • WiFi+Bluetooth
  • antenna

Roughly 60% of phone repair is screen repair, so making this easy to repair is essential. Librem 5’s design that joins the screen to the aluminum case is bad design that makes screen repair more expensive and wastes resources. A replaceable battery is essential for extending the lifespan of phones, which both phones have. Another thing that is likely to need repair is the USB port because it can get ripped loose from the PCB, so it is important that this is modular.

About 10% of phone repair is water damage. Replaceable speakers are useful when there is water damage, but water damage can also fry something on the main PCB, so selling replacement main PCBs is important.

Everything else that is modular in the Fairphone 3 is unlikely to break and people aren’t going to want to upgrade, so there isn’t any point to making them modular. Making a part modular requires more use of resources and raises the cost, so it should only be done when it is likely that the part is going to be replaced or upgraded. The only thing that people are likely to want to upgrade among the modular parts of the Fairphone 3 is the camera. Fairphone is offering a back camera upgrade from 12MP to 48MP, but the Snapdragon 632 doesn’t support that high of a resolution, so it combining 4 pixels into 1, so the photos with the upgraded camera are only 12MP. The upgraded camera can’t provide 1080 and 4K video at 60 frames per second, because the Snapdragon 632 doesn’t support it, so it is stuck at 30 fps just like the old camera. In other words, to really upgrade the camera, the SoC also needs to be upgraded, which isn’t something that Fairphone offers. The 48MP camera upgrade will provide improved low-light performance, but it doesn’t really provide higher resolution and it doesn’t provide higher frame rates, because the SoC can’t be upgraded to support it.

Most of the things that people would want to upgrade on the Fairphone 3 (a better CPU/GPU, a more powerful DSP and ISP that supports 60 fsp video, more RAM, more and faster UFS instead of eMMC Flash, support for 4K video out, a 5G cellular modem, different cellular bands, etc.) are all found on the main PCB, so being modular doesn’t help.

Let’s compare the design of two phones:

Advantages of the Librem 5’s design over the Fairphone 3:

  • Allows changing/upgrading the cellular modem to support new/different LTE bands, so not forced to throw away the entire phone when moving to another part of the world or changing to networks that use different cellular bands.
  • Allows changing/upgrading the WiFi/BT to support new standards or using for ham radio tinkering.
  • Because using 6 chips in place of one integrated mobile SoC, can run on 100% free software on main CPU cores, can provide free/open schematics (which isn’t allowed by reference designs of the integrated mobile SoC’s), and can have hardware kill switches.

Disadvantages of the Librem 5 design compared to the Fairphone 3 design:

  • Requires replacing both the screen and case to fix a cracked screen.
  • Requires replacing the entire bottom PCB with the bottom speaker to fix a broken USB-C port.
  • Can separately replace the speakers (common problem if suffering liquid damage).
  • Pogo pin connector in back allows for adding mods (but no mods available and little hacking done with the phone).

Fairphone has some advantages in terms of repairability, but a lot of its modularity is unnecessary and wasteful in my opinion, since it created separate parts for a lot of things that are unlikely to ever break and there are only two parts that can be upgraded (the front and back image sensors and their lens). Assuming that Purism will keep its promise to provide replacement parts, I personally think that it is better designed for long-term sustainability, because separating the integrated SoC into multiple chips allows for free drivers that the community can maintain and the selection of chips with long support cycles that are likely to receive keep receiving proprietary firmware updates for the next decade. The use of an integrated SoC and Android makes it impossible for Fairphone to offer lifetime software updates like Purism.

Since 80% of the total energy and total greenhouse gas emissions from a smartphone come during the manufacturing, the most important factor in designing an environmental phone is making sure that it lasts as long as possible.


Also that allows to support latest Linux kernel and provide lifetime updates, which is one of the most important advantages, making Fairphone 3 less nature-friendly in comparison.

There is an extension connector on the back with I2C, UART and power (page 14 of the schematics). Not in the form of pogo pins, but it’s there and can be used for adding mods.

Requires replacing both the screen and case to fix a cracked screen.

I don’t think it does?

Requires replacing the entire bottom PCB with the bottom speaker to fix a broken USB-C port.
Can separately replace the speakers (common problem if suffering liquid damage).

I have replaced the bottom PCB on my L5 once already and didn’t have to replace the speaker (it’s not part of the board).


@amosbatto Your comparison above, along with the corrections by @dos and me would be a nice addition to the FAQ I guess.

So Purism send you another bottom PCB, right? Can you tell us some detail about this support? Would be nice to hear about how easy or difficult it was to get this new part and also how long it took and also if there were any additional costs to you.

Dos is part of the Librem 5 team :slight_smile: It’s not like we can break phones left and right, but if one of the developers needs a working phone for development, they get one.