Librem 5 v1 and Planned Obsolescence


#1

Planned obsolescence is one of the social evils Purism has set out to face with the creation of L5. I would like to know what you think about this purpose and how effective L5 v1 could be to address it. Is it a short-lived phone or could it be recycled? What does it mean that Purism plans to release a second version around a year? Please, let me know what you think.


#2

the aspen will still be working in a year or 10. software will continue to improve . the gen 2 will simply be a more efficient soc not something that will replace the then defunct gen 1 soc


#3

It’s not really the second version. It’s exactly the same phone with upgraded processor. If it was available they would have done it now. There nothing to worry about. The phone will work just the same and would have the same support. There will be a slight bump in performance and power consumption, which is more than welcomed. :slight_smile: again, this is something they would have gone for from the day one if it was available. It’s not that they are doing it on purpose, to pump more products out.


#4

We had some extensive discussions about this topic previously in How long is the lifetime of Librem 5?


#5

A great deal of whatever was said before was based on speculation. Let me read what you would have to say today when speculation is not a major factor. Would you?


#6

One interesting thing that Gardiner Bryant (The Linux Gamer) reported from talking to Purism was that “the Librem 5 is a platform and there will be the kind of compatibility that you would expect from a platform.”

That comment gives me some hope that Purism is designing the Librem 5 like the SHIFT5.X phones so that parts from the SHIFT5.3 can be used in the SHIFT5.1, which makes upgrading possible. I would love to have a phone where the motherboard with the CPU, RAM and SSD can be upgraded and all the other parts can be reused, so I really hope that is the goal at Purism.

At any rate, the ability to change the cellular baseband means that you won’t have to junk the phone just because you moved or changed cellular provider and need to use different bands.

I also expect that the Librem 5 will have excellent resale value, so that if you decide to stop using it, there will be buyers who will give it a second life. Not everyone demands the latest CPU in their phones.


Librem 5.x as a modular phone?
#7

As others said, a minor upgrade does not obsolete v1.

The main obsoletion factor (except for the bleeding-edge cool-kids) is software. This is why mainlining and upstreaming (kernel, Gnome) are key factors to deliver on their promise to fight planned obsolescence.

Being able to upgrade the PCB(CPU/RAM/eMMC) sounds doable, but they will likely not commit to it just yet.

In general, @amosbatto pointed out to me that they plan to sell parts, at least batteries. (possibly more, e.g. displays, modems, cases)
So I added that to the Promise Delivery Chart.

From what we saw so far, the phone will most likely have one of the highest repairability indexes ever, on par with the FairPhone.


#8

The NXP i.MX 8M was released in Jan 2018 and NXP plans to support it for 10 years.

Source: https://www.nxp.com/products/product-information/product-longevity:PRDCT_LONGEVITY_HM

Under Category select ‘Processors’ and for Family/Series select ‘i.MX 8M Family’.

So you can mark the Librem 5 down for Planned Longevity.

Edit: Granted, I am not saying we will have the resources to support the Librem 5v1 for 10 years. Just saying this is one of the many upsides of selecting an NXP SoC.


#9

Thanks a lot guys for participating. I feel better about this issue which is the most important one to me. Having Purism all the way down in the Linux game (kernel, Gnome) plus a 10 years plan from NXP towards longevity, make me feel very strong about my decision of supporting this project. Let’s keep going and I hope the L5 community grows together with it!


#10

@joadri question seams answered but as i see some confusion not only here about planed obsolescence here is the first sentence from wiki pedia.

Planned obsolescence, or built-in obsolescence, in industrial design and economics is a policy of planning or designing a product with an artificially limited useful life, so that it becomes obsolete (i.e., unfashionable, or no longer functional) after a certain period of time.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_obsolescence

So an easy example might be a pair of shoes. Planned obsolescence might making it only last one season or use a design which is most likely totaly out of fashion next year. A long lasting and classic design might be used for a long time but the company don’t need to produce the product for a long time to make the shoe useful for a long time to the consumer.

So transferred to phones and the L5 it only needs to work properly for a long time to not be obsolescent and that is mostly guaranteed by software compatibility, replaceable battery and display.

Steadily improving a product doesn’t have to do any thing with planed obsolescence in my opinion. It can trigger one to buy the newest cutting edge product all the time, but that is a short coming in the consumers behaviour i think. Thought it can and is taken advantage of by companies. But that is not the case here.


#11

Certainly. It is not the case with Purism. I don’t think anybody here had that assumption for a second. The reason why I brought that up is NXP. Somebody said (now I know it was the wrong thing to say) the processor was to be back up by NXP for 5 years. What Purism is trying to do (doing) is very complicated and it is not on their hands to assure us total longevity on L5. I don’t know NXP but I know how the market system works and even though we would like to do things in the exact correct way, some elements may not be there for us.
So to summarize: Purism is doing a great job toward addressing Planned Obsolescence and we shouldn’t doubt it for a second. NXP seems to be a good partner in this battlefield and the fact that Purism went to them speak very well of itself.


#12

NXP was the most politically correct decison Purism has made since aiming for RYF and incorporating.


#13

As much as I lament the outdated CPU cores in the i.MX 8M compared to the latest mobile SoC’s (Qualcomm Snapdragon, Samsung Exynos, Apple A-series, MediaTek Helios, Huawei Kirin, Xiaomi Surge, UNISOC), we have to acknowledge that none of those SoC’s will be manufactured 3 years from now, so we have a fundamental tradeoff between performance and longevity.

NXP has the longest production cycles of any modern SoC maker (although you can find longer support for microcontrollers like PIC and 8051). I doubt that the Intel Atom x7-E3950, nVidia Tegra Xavier, Rockchip RK3399, Allwinner A80 octa and Amlogic M802 will still be produced in 2028.

Like many aspects of the Librem 5, you have major tradeoffs, and I think that Purism could really improve its public image by explaining those tradeoffs so that people understand them. The comments that I read about the Librem 5 in /r/linux and Phoronix forums show that most people are clueless.

I think that there are several possible models for improvement while trying to avoid planned obsolescence:

  1. Fairphone’s model is to produce one model every 3.5 years and try to keep updating the software (which has proven very difficult and expensive because of Google’s strict Android compatibility tests). This has forced people to install LineageOS and do most upgrading on their own, but luckily Purism won’t have this problem with Linux.

    Fairphone selects a higher end SoC which is slightly out-of-date at launch, but after 3 years, it is regarded as very antiquated, as are the rest of the parts. Then, Fairphone uses a modular design, so that new upgrades can be added. This worked with the 13MP camera mod for Fairphone 2, but Fairphone didn’t have the scale to be able to justify producing other mods like NFC, wireless charging, USB-C port, better speakers, larger battery, pico projector, Qwerty keyboard, etc.

    Pinephone appears to be trying to follow the Fairphone model of allowing mods, but its SoC is so outdated, that mods can’t be used for upgrading components like the camera, so mods can only be used to offer other functionality, but not upgrades. For mods to work well, the phone has to be reasonably thin for adding to the back or allow internal parts to be exchanged, but neither happened with the Fairphone 2.

  2. SHIFT offers another model of launching new models every year, but trying to make the parts backward-compatible, so that older models are upgradeable and selling parts so that people who need up-to-date hardware can get it. This solves the problem of being out-of-date in the Fairphone model, because the platform remains up-to-date, but it also means that upgrades require replacing the entire motherboard, which is basically half the cost of buying new. It also means that SHIFT has to stock parts, which adds to the costs. You either have to buy in large batches and store parts or pay the elevated costs of small batches and finding more-expensive suppliers who will produce at small scale for you.

    The other drawback is the requirement to be backward compatible, so that new models can’t adapt to some of the changes in the tech. SHIFT had to stay with the outdated 5" 9:16 screens in its SHIFT5.X series, although the industry has moved on to 6" 9:18-20 screens, which makes the old screens more expensive since they are now special orders. The only way around this problem was to create a whole new line, which SHIFT is now doing with the SHIFT6m. If SHIFT had followed convention in the mobile industry, it would have just launched a new model every year that changed in form factor and wasn’t backward-compatible, which would be much easier for a small company like SHIFT.

  3. The final option is the Apple model to keep releasing new updated models every year, but guarantee to keep providing software updates, so there is some improvement in functionality over time, but the extra processing and memory requirements of the new software often comes at the cost of lower performance. This can be mitigated to some degree by making heavier components optional and replaceable with lighter components in the operating system, and the modular nature of Linux makes this more possible that with other systems.

    You can try to provide replacement parts for the older models, but this is more difficult than with the other two models, because you have much less demand per part. With a long-selling model like the Fairphone 2, you have enough volume to justify manufacturing replacement parts. With a backward-compatible model, you only need to stock the latest version of the part, since it will work in all models.

    With this model, you get to keep your latest model hardware up-to-date, but it is hard to supply parts for older models as happens with Thinkpads, Latitudes and iPhones, because you don’t have millions of units being sold. The other drawback is that there is no possibility of upgrading the parts, so the whole unit needs to be junked in order to upgrade.

It seems to me that Purism has several options. I don’t know how realistic this is, but the two M.2 slots might provide some upgradeability or the ability to add mods. If the PCIe bus is disabled on the two M.2 slots (which I suspect it will be for security reasons), a lot can still be done with a USB 3.0 connection (but that also might be disabled for the M.2 B-key slot).

I would like to see Purism follow the SHIFT model, which should be easy since the i.MX 8M isn’t likely to have major architectural changes in the 14nm version. The fundamental question facing Purism is whether it wants to shift to a more powerful platform like the upcoming RK3588 or remain with the i.MX 8M and hope that NXP will both add Cortex-A7_X_ cores and keep shrinking the node size.

Now that we have decent Lima drivers for the Mali GPU, the RK3588 becomes a possibility (although we don’t know if if there will be other binary blobs that can’t be worked around). I’m very divided whether Purism should stay with the i.MX 8M or shift to the RK3588 in the future. If people today think that the Fairphone 2 with a Snapdragon 800 is antiquated, then the i.MX 8M Quad in the Librem 5 is going to seem even more ancient 4 years from now.


Librem 5.x as a modular phone?
#14

so what if it’s not state-of-the-art … people should listen more closely to what RMS keeps going on in his conferences about this stuff. state-of-the-art CAN be fixed down-the-road but public/personal-computing-freedom/privacy/auditable-computer-security CAN NOT if people don’t DEMAND and SUPPORT this stuff.