I really want to try this phone but, compared to android or iphone, all I see is at least twice price and half the features. I understand Google and Android have a huge lead and advantage but maybe I am missing somethiing? No 5G, no wifi calling, less than half the GB per month. Does it make up for these things in security some way?
Let’s get this answer started.
Secure supply chain, check.
Sandboxed desktop applications, instead off mobile apps that all want to track you, check.
Linuxed-basd Mobian OS which gives you more control instead of Android or MacOS which locks you out, check.
So that is a start but it does not seem enough to balance out the sacrifices. Can anyone help fill in the blanks?
PCB, PCBA modem have any more advantages over 5G or wifi-calling?
Linux Phone like Librem 5: You control the device. vs
Android or iOS: The device can do things out of your control.
At the moment Android and iPhone would outperform Librem 5 in possibly everything.
The thing is that the only PRO is a really bad ass PRO. It is like being a free man Vs not being a free man.
As a slave, you would get your shelter and food provided by your master, while as a free man you might be hungry and homeless but free.
Android and iOS give you the roof over your head and your bread with their fancy performance and fancy features and apps. But they own your digital twin. They know who you are, they know where you are, they know what do you do. And you can’t really do anything about it because you don’t control the device. When you ask your Android/iPhone to switch off, you don’t even know if it is really switched off. It is a black box.
With a Linux phone you can do way more to be unknown, in an unknown location, doing whoever knows. But you don’t get the performance and you don’t get the fancy features and apps.
Potentially you could have them one day just like a hungry homeless person could get one day a house and food. It is technically possible to build a Linux phone with specifications as good as Android/iOS and it is technically possible to build all features and apps that make the difference. But this is not the status quo. Because the investment in Android / iOS phones and ecosystem over the years has been many billions of USD, while the investment in Linux phones has been orders of magnitude less.
More or less this is the important part. If freedom is not sufficient factor for you, then I doubt that any tiny details here or there would be the decisive factor. And the experience with a Linux phone is so rough that if you don’t value the freedom sufficiently, you have a high chance to end disappointed.
You touch on so many different topics that one would need to write a whole book to deliver a complete answer.
You’re conflating two different products: (1) Librem 5 phone and (2) the Mobile Virtual Network (AweSIM/SIMple) that Purism operates for their subscribers using any non-carrier-locked GSM-type phone that uses a physical SIM card.
The L5 is a full-fledged desktop-style GNU/Linux computer on which you have admin privileges, and in addition is a phone. It is designed to respect the user’s privacy and to prevent data-exploitation by any operating system or applications, and by corporations seeking profit at the user’s expense. The user still has to take care to protect him/herself while browsing websites, for example.
Androids and iPhones are not full-fledged desktop-style computers and do not grant the user admin privileges. They have been designed from the start to collect data on you and your activities, and even in the background when you’re not engaging in any activity at all. This data is then used to further those corporations’ commercial-surveillance-for-extreme-profit agenda.
The L5 is not designed for performance, but to be as freedom-respecting and user-respecting as currently possible while providing advanced computing possibilities and basic (albeit rough around the edges still) call and messaging functionality.
It’s separately replaceable (by the user), you can cut its power supply any time you want with the flick of a switch, and it’s totally isolated from the CPU. With Androids and iPhones, the baseband is integrated into the CPU (I hope I’m using the correct terminology, but I’m not an expert), and you can’t be sure it isn’t still doing something when you switch to “airplane mode.” A black-box situation.
There are other existing topics that you could review for more thoughts on this subject.
They may not in fact be sandboxed but it is less important because you can verify that the application is not doing anything evil and many people will already have done so.
If you are comparing with the Apple ecosystem (iOS on the phone) then bear in mind that if Apple decides your phone can do something then it can and if Apple decides that your phone can’t do something then it can’t and if Apple decides that your phone must do something then it will. This by itself is such a profound departure from freedom that this one factor, in my opinion, justifies putting up with less than stellar hardware specs (and Apple phones are relatively expensive compared with Android phones so the price comparison between Apple and the Librem 5 is not as jarring).
Another consideration is the extent to which Apple and Google are subservient to your government. Whether this is a major consideration, a minor consideration or not a consideration at all depends on how you feel about your government and whether the government is part of your threat model (which it obviously should be in some countries at least).
For hard-core Linux enthusiasts, it is just good to be able to run the same software and same commands on the phone as on all my other computers. As it used to be said: “desktop to data centre”. Of course Microsoft wants the exact same thing but they gave up on their phone, and they want to lock you in to the Microsoft ecosystem on everything from phone, to desktop/laptop, to server.
The potential exists that this functionality will appear in the future. But, yes, Apple and Google do have a huge lead.
Only relevant if 5G is available at all in your area. I assure you that my existing iPhone is capable of 5G but 5G never pops up on the top line of the screen because 5G is just not available in my area. Maybe 15 years down the track it will be a problem i.e. if 4G is shut down.
Even the added bandwidth available with 5G is not that big a deal if the phone (application) can’t shift data that quickly. It depends on what content you are accessing of course. With small data you aren’t going to notice the difference between 1 ms to download and 2 ms to download. The speeds available with 4G are still very reasonable. But that’s without getting into congestion i.e. 4G, 5G, anyG - it can be more about marketing than reality.
With the Librem 5, the whole premise of the relationship between the phone owner and Google, Apple, Microsoft, and any other big tech provider is radically different. You can’t even log in to an Android or Apple phone without first, giving away all privacy rights and protections from advertising. With a Librem 5, you do not give up any rights at any time as you use the phone. So despite the limitations of the Librem 5, no one has a right to spy on you or advertise to you unless you install software that forfeits your rights
The price of the phone is high yes, but we are not only paying for the hardware the price also includes the financing of part of the software development.
With android or iphone the development is financed by your data.
It is quite possible to make a call while connected in wifi via the Telegram application
But in my opinion, Librem 5 is still too young for the general public who are not aware of data protection issues and who have a minimum of knowledge of the Linux GNU world .
Adding my 2 cents. I’ve had my librem 5 for just over a week now and I love it. FYI I have a brand new Samsung S22 provided to me by my company, I work for a telco. I find myself reaching for the Librem 5 more and more for everything despite knowing the S22 can run circles around the Librem 5 on the spec sheet. The reason is the comfort I feel using it, plus being a linux nerd for some time now I love the idea of opening up a terminal window and having the world as my oyster. I want to try running docker on it, something I could never do on the Samsung.
I just want to cogratulate the team for pulling this off. It really has exceeded my expectations.
I will repeat one paragraph from what I wrote there:
The Librem 5 is encouraging me to try things that I wouldn’t even try on my previous phone (iPhone), for various reasons. It’s not so much that you can’t do it on an iPhone. It’s that you wouldn’t try to do it on an iPhone.
One cool thing about the Librem 5 relative to the iPhone is that your USB peripherals can just work.
Case in point: I have some files on a (full-size) SD card that I want to transfer to my phone.
Librem 5 solution: USB-C to USB-A adapter in bottom of phone, then USB-A SD card reader, then insert SD card. Job basically done.
iPhone solution: Who knows? I’ve had to do this sort of thing in the past and ended up doing ridiculous solutions like … first of all, you have to get the files off the SD card using another computer, then even then it’s a pain: either email the files to an email account that is configured on the iPhone or put the files up on a web site and download them to the iPhone.
Of course the iPhone makes it easier if you want to use iCloud for the purpose but it will come as no surprise to anyone that I don’t wish to share my files with Apple.
Plus, last time I checked, you can even use a standard Android phone without creating an account. Throw in a tracker blocker app and a couple of blocklists and you greatly improve privacy. Of course, a degoogled ROM with tracker blocking is the better solution, though.
it cannot survive a night idle without charging (not speaking about day time)
99.9% apps don’t scale to the screen to a point of being unusable
the cellular connection is randomly lost
besides modem software, wifi firmware, gps (firmware ?), and memory initialisation, only free software
modem is well isolated from main memory (this is an advantage that no android/iOS phone has)
any process can read any file provided it has permission to do so (not like android)
These advantages are enough for me to be excited about this device, although my samsung galaxy note 2 running replicant is much more usable and will probably remain my main phone until 3G is phased out where I live (then if still no 4G device is supported, I’ll probably have to get a LineageOS device).
It looks like I’ll need to carry and use two phones. My Librem 5 will stay on all the time and I will use it for everything that it’s capable of doing. My Android phone will stay turned off all of the time, except for when I have a need that my Librem 5 is not capable of doing. Then when I use my Android phone I turn it on, use it, then turn it off. It’ll be inconvenient. But from the first day I carry the Librem 5, my privacy will go way up.
I also have a Pixil 6 with GraoheneOS on it. After having it for several months now, I can report on it here.
Yes, it’s very secure, probably almost as good as a Librem 5 for security. It sandboxes applications and is optimized for extreme security. But as a trade-off, you’re very isolated. Keeping secure often means using an inferior app or installing the Google Framework, even though it is theoretically still supposed to be secure that way. The ads and Trojans are still there, trying to get in, even if you’re still mostly safe. The app stats in the Aurora store document them. Most common Android apps have several Trojans and ad-ware built-in still. So you have to hope that the sandbox is working well. You still don’t own the OS like you would in Linux. GrapheneOS can be rooted, but rooting can be problematic as it is still Android. The author of GraoheneOS says that the phone becomes unsecured if you root it. A lot of conveniences go away when the apps can’t see eachother nor the browser. So you kind of get a Windows 95 experience. But some things don’t work because the phone is paranoid and blocks a lot of things unless you want to give the apps permissions that have implications that you don’t understand. When it asks for more permissions, the desire to say “hell no” needs to be tempered by the choice of either things working and you’ve just compromised security, or things not working at all. So you have control and more security. But if you lock everything up to stay completely safe, you barely have even a phone, much less a computer.