Librem 5 - Full Linux OS, but ARM64

So as I explore further into buying a Librem 5 as an enthusiast toy, to dabble with moving from my iPhone 13 Pro Max (which is about half way through its service life and for the first time; starting to degrade a little!).

I love the idea of full Linux OS on a phone. Especially docking it and having the real estate ‘just like’ desktop Linux PureOS - is that right? I understand it’ll be limited by the phone processor power and an assumably older one, but I can deal with that.

I can deal with the battery if it’s bad too since at work, in the car and at home I have access to quality charging.

What are the other big limitations of it being ARM64? I have an M1 Mac and I’m aware of limitations on it such as not being able to natively run Linux or Windows x86 anymore despite really good polished emulators on the Mac side. I don’t expect that level of fit and finish here.

I just want to know what real world limitations I’ll run into… say if I eventually move all of my photos and music library over to it - will the music player apps and photo apps run and run workably or will I end up finding that ‘out of the 10 best ones, only two have ARM ports and only one looks good on a phone size display’?


The most important limitations are already said. Especially to be aware of battery and how to deal with that is a good thing and I guess you will have no issue as you described. What you should be aware of is the 3GB RAM on standard L5 and 4GB on L5 Liberty (~1GB used for system) as well as 32GB or 128GB storage. Especially for the standard device you should also buy a micro SD to put all your media on.

Not all apps are available for ARM, but most are. In general it shouldn’t be a problem, especially not for foss apps, but maybe for proprietary ones. So things like Signal and such non Linux native apps can be tricky to run or even (currently) impossible. The biggest issue you may run into is the supported screen size and/or touch support for such apps. Therefor you may want to give a look into this thread. Non-fitting may can be used with little adjustments. For example I’m using KeePassXC and that has no good phone UI, but with little adjustments it’s at least usable (but not very comfortable).

The camera app is not state of the art, but photos and videos can be made. Sometimes you need to adjust parameter manually (via GUI) to make the photo look good. I think we will get further improvements over time, but that requires a lot of work. Also the camera-API is not fully implemented yet, so other apps have no access. That can be worked around with an USB-webcam if needed. But that API will come.

By the way, I was speaking more about limitations since you asked for them. I just want to mention that it also has advantages over iOS and Android. For example you also can run other systems like Mobian or PostmarketOS. But I think you get the idea of the system. I hope I could answer some questions.


Yes, the Lapdock Kit is designed specifically for that function:

See also:

Some applications may have x86 dependencies. Mullvad Browser and Tor Browser, for example, cannot be natively run.

Music player and photo apps function fine, but they may be different applications than what you are used to on desktop. My music player of choice is Lollypop, and for a photo app, I simply use Image Viewer (Eye of GNOME).



I’ve copied all my music over and I could not in practice have done that without putting it on the µSD card, rather than on the eMMC drive.

That’s probably the work in progress at the moment.

Given sufficient motivation, considering that it is 100% open source, the lack of an ARM port need never be a problem. But, compiled for ARM, it might not work well anyway on a small screen or in a phone environment (e.g. touch / gestures). You can partly cover the screen size issue by using per-app scaling i.e. if you only just need an application to work quickly and once / if the app is “usable” when scaled.

Note that some apps are adaptive i.e. same app but different UI depending on whether running on desktop/laptop or running on phone undocked or running on phone docked. This is the gold standard.

Other apps might not be adaptive but are simply set up to work well on the small screen.


What I find hits me worse than ARM is actually the issue of OpenGL support, and the phosh/phoc bug with Java Swing or whatever that is. There is some issue that the JFrame class used by almost everything universally in Java Swing will instead display nothing on Librem 5, whereas all the rest of the Java libraries basically work on the Librem 5.

I have some hobby apps that I would definitely try running on the Librem 5 if it were possible, but they use some newer OpenGL version in a not-very-compliant way and use Java Swing, such that they only really work on the Librem 14 that I bought. But on the L14 they run pretty flawlessly even with just integrated graphics, so, on the Librem 5 that has a GPU it’s quite possible they would run similarly well if I fixed my software to be (1) not java swing, and (2) not using newer OpenGL instead of the more commonly supported GLES2 or whatever

For example, a desktop java game project that doesn’t use custom shaders and instead uses some off-the-shelf third party solution (libgdx) runs great on the Librem 5 if its docked, so I can have epic space battles on the Librem 5 and build thousands of spaceships and fly everywhere with little stars and meteors drifting by in the hundreds in the background in real time, all in my own little universe. And that works just fine.


I looked at a few photo apps when messing around with a VM of Linux on my Mac. Looks good and straightforward, there’s one called PhotoQt which can handle Apple Live Photos (of which the majority of my photos are since 2016). This has been a sticking point for me in previous years of trying out Android or Windows only to find iCloud dumps a bunch of unedited…edited and 3 second video clips into File Explorer and importing into various Android / Windows photo apps suck with their inability to handle or sort properly.

Do you know, or would you be able to try, running PhotoQt on the Librem 5? I was speaking to the developer who emailed back pretty quick and was quite talkative about why he put support in for Live Photos and I was just so stunned by that in all the right ways. Someone, on FOSS has done this whilst even paid or other big tech made photos utilities on other best-seller devices still haven’t even attempted to handle Live Photos, and probably never will. I asked him if it worked but not sure if he has or is aware of the Librem 5, and put in a word to say it’d be amazing to have such support even in a future release!

Have you ever connected your Librem 5 to a car via Bluetooth to play music from any of these apps? I have so, so many very particular questions like this about what owning one will be like. UI on the desktop wise I liked Lollypop too. Is it usable on the Librem 5 screen?

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Lollypop suits the Librem 5 screen very well. Either it is adaptive or it is specifically tailored for a screen the size of the Librem 5. I don’t know which because I don’t use Lollypop on desktop/laptop.


The docking station from Purism works great to have keyboard, mouse, and display attached to the Librem 5. YMMV with other docks. Read some of the forum discussions before you choose another dock.

A caveat on the lapdock kit from Purism. It has been on backorder for at least 7 months. I’ve been waiting 4 months, and I haven’t heard what takes so long. The person I heard is at 7 months ordered a kit from NexDock a month ago and got it already. (Note: Purism’s is a modified NexDock 360.)

Having said that, I’ve been very happy with my Librem 5, and has been my daily driver for over a year.


The Lapdock looks like an essential investment. I suppose what Iove most about the idea is, today I have to bring my iPhone and Mac to work to use it alongside / in between working. Need an internet connection… data… cloud providers to keep things in sync. With this, everything is where it needs to be. I love that idea. Only other question being how reliable are high capacity microSD cards for my most precious data. I seen a backup app comes, is this suitable for backing up to hard drives? Can the L5 drive a Hard Drive through an adapter?

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Is there much interest in the community to make apps more scalable in general or is that out the window with Ubuntu Touch etc no longer being pushed majorly?

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Is OpenGL and proper Java Swing support coming, or in development? Won’t this make the L5 worse as time goes on if apps in general are moving toward new versions of OpenGL / Java Swing and L5 gets left behind?

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I wonder what they modify with it…

I think mine will be a toy I carry with me for maybe a year as throwing it into the deep end to replace my iPhone 13 Pro Max today, it would probably fall flat through my lack of experience on Linux. If I carry it with me with the mantra that it’s a full computer, miniaturised, with the ability to make calls and texts I think that mindset will serve it better


I wasn’t interested in Convergence either, until I got my L5, and then it just made sense.

I prefer working on my desktop PC, so laptops in the past for me would go months without being used.
Then when I did need one, it was so far behind on updates that I spent more time getting things in order than doing actual work.

Now that my phone is my laptop, and I use my phone daily and keep it up to date, then my laptop is by default always up to date too :slight_smile:
Although I’d love it if there was more RAM/CPU for more intensive tasks. Maybe one day…

Can the L5 drive a Hard Drive through an adapter?

I have had success with external USB drives and microSD cards plugged in through the Lapdock.
Heck, I have even plugged old IDE/ribbon HDDs in through a USB adapter in to my phone.

Provided that the storage device is formatted property (i.e. not NTFS or HFS) my guess is it will work fine.


I just put a bid on the only L5 for sale used in the UK… Should I start a thread about what to check before buying used?


This is my “Lapdock”. A 3D-print stand I created with Blender and printed for 8€ where I can put in my phone in a readable direction. I have internet via W-Lan, physical keyboard (modified firmware to include mouse input on num-pad) via BT and power via USB. I also can cut power to use another USB-device like a real mouse or an USB-flash-drive.

What’s “essential” is what you need for your own purpose. :wink:

OpenGL ES 2 is currently supported. Hardware can handle OpenGL ES 3, but the driver has no support yet. So software can already make use of OpenGL. Since Linux software is usually made with support of old hardware in mind, I would not fear this too much. I just don’t know if someone is working on a newer OpenGL-version. About Java I don’t know (never thought about its compatibility).


Yes, I think there is. However inevitably the popular “high traffic” applications will get the love and the niche, obscure applications might not.

Java compatibility with the Librem 5 may best be pursued here: Java on Librem 5


Screenshots (with Compositor scaling enabled):

No, I have not used Bluetooth since acquiring my Librem 5 USA.


Reliable, as I depend on them whenever I reflash my Librem 5 USA.

You can use Jumpdrive for backing up the Librem 5 onto hard drives or other external media:

Not sure.

There is some interest, but development work is required.

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I’ve used a couple of different USB portable SSDs connected directly into the bottom of the Librem 5 (USB-C). Works fine. If by adapter, you mean USB-C to USB-A so that you can use a flash drive of some type that uses USB-A, rather than USB-C, then that also worked for me (with different drives).

I guess that would be a valid way of imaging the µSD card (i.e. stop using it temporarily, umount it, image it to the portable SSD, then remount it).

If you mean literally a hard drive (spinning rust) then I would be cautious about available power and how quickly the battery would deplete. I am not sure that I have tested that.

In my case the only data on the µSD is itself a copy of my media (music) from my server. So the data is not precious on the phone and doesn’t need to be backed up on the phone and could be re-established simply by copying it back from the server. Otherwise … well, if the data is precious then you back it up because no technology is perfect.


Wow, PhotoQt runs! That’s awesome. Tried running Debian on my M1 Mac yesterday and exporting all of my photos for the month of June so far and importing them into PhotoQt, well, locating that folder and viewing images. It looked fine but for some reason, Mac Photos didn’t export the separate parts, just the single file (as it views it) since it can handle live photos natively. Then, when moving into Linux, only the static photo files moved cutting out the moving part… I will keep experimenting. I know this is such a niche topic, but I bet as Librem 5 grows and someday gets more popular amongst more Apple users this could be a common sticking point / issue to be solved when making the move. So, it sounds like such a non-issue, just ditch the moving parts of the photos, right? For most of them I’d agree but I have very little photos / videos with my dad and he’s no longer with us. Of a few of the ones I do have, some are these ‘live photos’ that do add a little element of coming to life, so hence my quest to try and preserve them. PhotoQt is the only software, period, outside of Apple’s own, that supports them - that’s an amazing spectacle of the FOSS community in my mind.

Lollypop looks incredibly polished on the Librem in your screenshots! So you keep all your music files in the Music folder, presumably artist…album…songs and it preserves that structure?

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I’m thinking of using a powered 3.5" desktop class external drive via USB for backup, so hopefully that would take the demand off of the phone, my experience in the past with iPads etc trying to power 2.5" drives by USB-C was very disappointing, that was before I owned a powered desktop HDD.

I’m thinking main live data on the microSD in the phone, then a regular backup of the entire thing weekly

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