I have owned several of the Librem line of products and eagerly awaited the Librem 5. Like the rest of us, I waited 3 years for the phone to arrive, even upgrading to the Librem 5 USA, as I was told it had a shorter line. It was very expensive to do so, but I wanted to support Purism’s mission and believed in the Librem 5.
When the phone arrived, I was beyond excited. I knew it was going to be a major change from Android, but I didn’t care about the apps. I just wanted to be able to make phone calls and send texts. My Android phone had just broken, so it was good timing to get the Librem 5.
Unfortunately I hit several major issues:
- I frequently, randomly, wouldn’t receive phone calls or be able to place them. Using the same SIM card in my girlfriend’s Android, calls worked fine. Rebooting the Librem 5 would usually resolve the issue (but of course I wouldn’t know I wasn’t receiving phone calls until I tried to place one, so I would miss quite a few calls, with no record of it)
- I didn’t get any MMS texts and I could not send them. All as silent failures, so it looked like I was sending these texts.
- The phone would stop charging randomly and wouldn’t start again until I rebooted it. This meant the already very short battery life was next to nothing and I could more or less only use the phone plugged in.
Unfortunately, it was clear I could not use the Librem 5 for only calls and texts, which was my baseline requirement for a phone and that I would need to buy a new Android if I wanted phone functionality. At this point, I can not sustain two phones at the high prices they are at, so I emailed Purism to try to work with them on returning the phone.
To my surprise, they agreed to let me return the phone and that they would try to work on the issues. This was major for me and I carefully packaged the pristine condition phone in the box and packaging they sent it to me in and sent it back via UPS, from their shipping label.
I waited and didn’t hear anything, so I sent a cordial email, to make sure they had received the device. I knew they had from the UPS tracking, but of course things can go wrong with that sometimes and it had been some time since it said it was delivered. The response I got back was: the device was received, we are denying the refund request because it is damaged and per our policy we can deny any refunds if there is user caused damage. See attached picture for evidence of the damage you caused.
Needless to say I was incredulous. I had only had the device for a week and I packaged it myself in their packaging. I knew their was no damage when I sent it, which meant any damage must have occurred in shipping (again in their packaging, per their instructions) or at their facility.
On opening the picture, there is a minuscule scratch near the top of the screen. I emailed back, explaining that I did not cause this scratch and that I followed their shipping instructions, so that I should not be held liable for any damage caused during shipping. I even explained how if they were concerned on resale they could use it as a dev device or sell it as “refurbished.”
I got no reply for quite some time, so I followed up and asked if they had reconsidered. I got a short: Your request is rejected, send us your address so we can return the device to you.
So, out of this, the net result was I got the phone back, scratched. It was certainly a terrible customer service experience for me and left a very poor taste in my mouth for Purism. I was really excited to come back to the Librem 5 once it could handle some basic phone functionality, but at this point I don’t trust the company enough to return as a customer. It was sad to have my hopes dashed, especially after floating them a loan for three years. I had told them I understood that it is an enormous challenge to launch a new hardware product and to do the software for it and that they are almost certainly in the red on it, but I don’t think hanging onto money in any way possible is the best long term strategy. Based on the responses I got from Purism during this period, I am frankly not certain that they didn’t intentionally scratch the device at their facility to avoid having to refund it.
I hope y’all have better experiences than me…