[MyL5] Librem 5 thoughts

I received my Librem 5 (Evergreen) a couple weeks ago. To be frank, I’m not terribly thrilled with it.

I contributed to the kickstarter back in 2017. I knew this would be a first-generation device and would be very underwhelming, but it’s worse than I thought. This phone is essentially unusable.


  • It’s massive.

After the 12th notice that my shipment would be delayed, I finally bought a new Android phone two months ago, upgrading from my previous 7 year old phone. I had been delaying getting a new phone because Purism was promising to ship “any day now”, but I needed a phone and my previous one, which I’d constantly upgraded and replaced the battery several times, was literally falling apart. So I could delay any longer.

My new phone, a Nokia, is just under 9mm thick. The librem is 16mm. It might not sound like much of a difference, but it’s very noticeable. I’d be embarrassed to be seen using a phone this large and bulky. It looks like it’s about to give birth.

  • Terrible UI.

The UI feels like generic Gnome with some very minimal attempts to make it “mobile”. Emphasis on the minimal. There’s a top bar that you can tap to expand a mobile menu, and a bottom bar to expand an application menu, but they’re missing all the functionality that’s been on Android for the last decade. Everything has to be very precisely tapped and swiping doesn’t appear to be supported anywhere except on the lock screen. Not being able to swipe anything is very frustrating and unnatural.

  • Terrible power management.

When I unpacked the phone, I plugged it, and then largely have just let it sit there. Despite it literally doing nothing, it’s noticeably very warm. My new phone can run GPS, play music, and hold a call while still feeling cold. Even without being plugged in for hours, it barely uses its battery.

Meanwhile, with the Librem, as soon as I unplug it, it shows its battery at 75%. Since it’s already very warm, if I seriously started to use this phone, would it catch on fire or melt? Or would the battery die long before that after maybe an hour of use? I’d like to try using it, but that brings me to my next point.

  • No apps.

Other than the built in calculator, web browser, and chess program, there are virtually no apps you’ve come to expect on a modern phone. There’s a “PureOS Store” but it’s slow, takes forever to open and “download the catalog”, and even then there’s very little there that actually works on the phone.

One of the apps I use a lot on my Android phone is AntennaPod to listen to podcasts. It’s open source and works very well. The closest thing to it I could find in the store was gPodder. I installed it, and then clicked “launch”, and the store just freezes and the app never launches.

If I kill the store app and launch gPodder through the app menu, then it runs, but it’s largely unusable. It only semi-works in landscape mode, which is another annoyance. Apparently, Librem doesn’t have an accelerometer, so it can’t do auto-rotate, so you have to manually switch orientation based on what the app requires. This is very frustrating, since the normal impulse to switch modes is to simply turn the phone on its side, which you can’t do with Librem.

I found gPodder had a screen to search for podcasts via Soundcloud, and I tried adding a few, but it never seems to be able to download anything. Eventually, I realized it was downloading a list of all the podcasts episodes, which numbered in the thousands, instead of the last few dozen as most apps do. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any way to actually listen to the podcasts. I suspect there are some controls I’m not seeing, as I see some controls at the bottom of the screen clipped off by Librem’s insanely small resolution, but that means gPodder doesn’t work on PureOS. And I suspect most other apps have the same problem.


Physically, it feels solid and looks nice aesthetically as long as you don’t view it from the side. So there’s that.

Am I being too harsh? Can someone talk me down? I want to like this phone, but I’m not seeing any silver lining. Like I said, I knew this would be a first generation device. But the Purism laptop was generally pretty good, albeit it also had some novice design flaws in its physical chassis.

I honestly don’t know what to do with this phone since it’s unusable as a phone, but it also feels like a waste to just throw it away.


It seems like you expected an Android replacement complete with apps and polish instead of a “Linux device in a phone package” that you were backing.

Did you follow or see the other batch release videos and/or reviews as you were waiting? Most were clear on the state of the device, but it seems like you still thought a sleek phone with Linux inside was coming your way.

I don’t mean to say you’re wrong about your list of cons (in some regard at least) but that it feels misplaced especially coming from such an early backer.


I think some of the big picture issues that you raise were known about before the phone arrived and, as you say, go with being a first gen phone i.e. where the spiPhone was 13 years ago.

Word on the street is that swiping is coming. Wait for updates.

Apparently the percentage displayed isn’t reliable unless you have the latest updates.

It is supposed to have an accelerometer but I would gather that the software isn’t doing auto-rotate (yet).

Whether any given customer wants either swiping or autorotate … well that’s up to the customer.

The most sensible course of action, if you don’t want to persevere, would be to put it aside (shut down) for a few months and come back to it then, to see how the software has improved.

The silver lining is that software can be updated via the internet.

The only things that can’t be “fixed” would be the physical size (obviously) and I don’t think the power consumption will ever be spectacular but it can definitely be improved by future updates.


Recently I learned that I was spreading “fake news” and there’s actually more that needs to be done to fully fix the battery meter - sorry (it’s a Evergreen specific issue and I’m still waiting for my Evergreen to arrive; customs have a busy pre-holiday season it seems :frowning: ).

Indeed, auto-rotation works fine with this (yet unmerged) patchset: https://source.puri.sm/Librem5/phosh/-/merge_requests/434

Some tweaks to improve power consumption with modem and wifi cards on are coming soon :slight_smile:


LOL. OK. I’m spreading your “fake news”.

OK: Apparently the percentage displayed isn’t reliable (yet).


This patchset may fix (or come very close to fixing) it though: https://source.puri.sm/Librem5/linux-next/-/merge_requests/198


It’s amusing to think that if this device had been marketed as the world’s smallest touch-interface full GNU/Linux computer that fits in your pocket and, oh, also is a phone, we wouldn’t give the thickness and weight a second thought.

Most of the perceived shortcomings are just software-related; they can and will be improved by regular updates, and I believe it will happen quickly, because that’s the way it is with Linux.

We’re in this for the love and aspiration, not for a fully evolved and mature device on Day 1.


I don’t know if I can talk you down or not…

Massive? Really? It was expected to be very large from the beginning and the actual size (minus 3mm length) has been known for a long time – certainly plenty enough time for you to get a refund if you truly have a size complex.

I too had to buy a new Spydroid because my Galaxy S3 died and my Pinephone isn’t yet ready to be a daily driver. The new Alcatel is a total P.O.S. Multiple hard taps to type a letter or activate a button. The screen is debonding from the touch sensor and there is a massive blotch in the middle of the screen. Only 2 months old! Constant coercive popups trying to get me to help “Don’t be evil” to spy me easier. Oh, the battery life is great and the phone is a bit smaller than the Pinephone, but the whole experience is like a ice pick to the forehead!

I love Phosh – can’t wait to use it on an Evergreen. I like the Pinephone running Mobian, but everything I’ve read tells me that the Librem will be a better experience and will be ready for daily use sooner, including the store and apps.

I also use Antenna Pod on the Spydroid. Very, very nice. If only they would make Linux version. I use gPodder on desktop and laptop. Not as full-featured as AP, but it works well. I tried it using Manjaro/Phosh on the Pinephone. I got farther than you did, probably because I know how it works on the desktop. My feeling is that when it is fully working with libhandy, it will be fine for daily mobile use.


There are more programs/apps available, they just aren’t in the store yet. I think I remember reading somewhere that Purism is trying to limit the store to apps known to work with the mobile interface, but if you use the terminal you can install many more apps. Whether or not they’ll work with the phone’s touch interface is a toss up.

For the gpodder issue with not being able to play podcasts, does downloading a podcast episode, then selecting the episode and going to Episodes > Play not work?

That seems like the right approach - otherwise there will be other topics complaining about apps that are available but which don’t work properly.

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Gnome podcasts (flathub) worked well for me on my pinephone iirc

I like being on this forum to see optimistic people post about their experience about the Librem 5, but I am also happy to see an honest opinion from someone which is not a loyal fan but just a normal customer.

If I were you I’d either

  1. Sell it, then wait for the next revision (Fir) which should have better battery life and less heat. By then the software should also have matured.
  2. Put it in the drawer for 4-5 months and try using it again.

The thickness probably won’t improve for Fir I’d assume, so that’s a flaw you’d have to live with.


I’d also recommend Gnome Podcasts as the best option. Antenna Pod can export your existing subscriptions as an OPML file and Gnome Podcasts can import that so you can pick up right where you left off.


It doesn’t have a podcast “store” to search unfortunately so to add new podcasts you do need to find the url outside the app and add it directly but other than that it works well and is adapted to mobile.

What other apps were you expecting/are you missing?

You might also find this thread useful, has a few recommendations for flathub apps that work well:

you would be correct. it’s pregnant still because it’s not RISC-V … YET


First of all, thanks for helping to finance the Librem 5. Purism never would have gotten this far if a lot of people like you hadn’t taken a chance and stuck with the project for 3.3 years.

My advice is to sell the phone if you don’t think that you can live with the weight and thickness of the phone, because that isn’t going to change. Once Purism can get suspend to RAM and wake on call working, I assume Purism can get the Librem 5 to a state where it has a 24 hour battery life, but it looks like that is going to take a while.

The one good thing about the Librem 5 is that it isn’t going to lose its value over time like other phones. The software is going to keep getting better and the functionality is going to keep improving. With lifetime software updates and the ability to change the cellular modem to support new/different LTE bands, the Librem 5 is going to have good resale value, because nobody else can make anything like it that will have better performance and can run on 100% free software.

The only chips on the horizon that will be able to make a phone with hardware kill switches that have better performance than Evergreen are the RK3588, RK3566 and RK3530 and it is unclear at this point whether there will be FOSS drivers for its new Mali “Natty” GPU. If Natty gets FOSS drivers, it will likely be 2-3 years in the future. I expect that it will be 3-4 years before PINE64 releases the PinePhone 2 with the RK3530, since it plans to first release an SBC to debug the design and PINE64 isn’t a company to do kernel development, so it is going to wait until others have perfected the mainline drivers. It is possible that some company like Olimex will release a phone based on the i.MX 8M Quad or Plus, but I think it highly likely that the Librem 5 won’t have any competitors in its market niche for the next couple years.

What this means is that you aren’t taking much of a risk if you put the Librem 5 in a drawer and wait a year to decide whether you want to keep it. Yes, the warranty will run out, but I’m pretty sure that you will be still able to resell it for at least what you paid for it in 12 months, because $599 is still 25% cheaper than the price of buying it new.

Looking at how long it is taking NXP just to release the i.MX 8M Plus, I don’t think you should fear Fir making Evergreen obsolete any time soon. Judging from how long it is taking to get mainline driver support for things like suspend to RAM and the MIPI CSI2 camera interface, I predict that it will be at least 2 years before the Plus has decent mainline driver support.

Even when Purism releases a phone based on the Plus, there will still be people who prefer Evergreen, because it has a significantly better GPU and VPU, so it is a better phone for convergence. It would not surprise me if there is still an active market for old Evergreens in 3-4 years time, because there simply won’t be a better Linux phone on the market for convergence.


Sorry that the phone has so far been a disappointment for you. :frowning_face:

I think that your comments are valuable in terms of providing input into the technical and design areas that need to be looked at, and also from the perspective of improving communication about the progress and status of product development. Clearly, if a customer is disappointed with their purchase then their expectations have not been met, and that should be something that causes reflection.

What you do with the phone now depends on what your plans were when you backed the project back in 2017, though now that you are using another phone as your primary phone perhaps that changes things a bit. If you were interested in just using it as a phone then I think that others have given fairly reasonable suggestions. I would also suggest looking at using the browser to access the mobile versions of podcasting sites – hopefully the experience is closer to the one you are looking for.

If you were interested in exploring application development, or just programming in general on the phone, you can still do some interesting things with what is otherwise a small form factor computer with a built-in screen, sensors, wireless network modules and various inputs and outputs.

Over time, maybe it will become more usable for you as a phone, and hopefully you will have got some use out of it for other purposes. :slightly_smiling_face:


Basically Google’s normal suite. I currently rely on Gmail to sync all my email/contacts/calendar with my phone. I’m not adverse to switching away from that, but there doesn’t seem to be any alternative anywhere in the Linux world. There are obviously email and calendar apps, but they don’t sync across devices.

I also use Google Maps for navigation very heavily, and I don’t think there’s any alternative for that either.

Did you check gnome-online-account ? That can be configured from the control center and it enables use of Google contact and calendar.

Gmail can be used through Geary email client

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I’ve installed all the latest updates the package updater recommended. So I don’t think it’s just a display issue. Just now, I unplugged the phone and let it sit with its screen turned off and no SIM card installed. After an hour, it was down to 25% battery. Is ~1 hour of standby power what everyone else is seeing?

Thanks, I’ll check those out.