[MyL5] YET Another Librem5 review

Hi all, after using my new phone for a month I thought the forum needed one more Librem5 review :slight_smile:

Icon key: :white_check_mark: = works great, :heavy_check_mark: = works OK, :neutral_face: = usable but very limited

General Impression

  • Works well, but not as well as my linux laptops. Applications sometimes crash, sometimes the entire phone crashes and I need to long-press the power button to restart
  • Battery life is very short (typically five hours on light use) and phone often dies before I have a chance to charge it. So I need to be aware of when I’ll be able to charge it next and tune my usage accordingly. ON THE OTHER HAND, unlike my former (Android) phone it doesn’t kill applications randomly, so I know that if I’m at my computer and my phone is charging somewhere I can just SSH into it and expect things to work. If I start a program and never use it, the program stays open and keeps doing its thing, which is really nice. On the other other hand it means I need to remember closing programs which consume battery and I don’t need. But it’s nice, I like being in charge of my own phone!
  • Everything is open source which is great. I just submitted a PR to improve the public transportation application I installed. I started working on improving the e-mail app (Geary) to only notify me of new mail I care about.
  • Not having a way to run Android applications is a bummer because I still need to carry my old Android phone whenever I need to do second-factor authentication to work or bank.

Phone Functionality

  • Receiving/Making calls: most of the time sounds perfect, maybe 10% of the time people complain that they can’t hear me well :white_check_mark:
  • Receiving/sending SMS: :white_check_mark:
  • Mobile internet: sometimes stops working, I need to disable and re-enable mobile internet and then it works again :heavy_check_mark:

Communication

  • CalDav, sync of my calendars: :white_check_mark: (had to install Evolution, setup, then uninstall Evolution. UI of Calendar is cramped, can’t read most of the entries unless I click on them. Also I don’t see my calendar when having no connectivity, wish it would do some caching)
  • CardDav, sync of my contacts: :white_check_mark: (same setup with Evolution. To see my contacts’ phone numbers I need to edit the entry because it’s truncated, annoying but ok)
  • E-mail: :white_check_mark: (but notifications are useless because there’s no way to say which folders I want to be notified about. Am studying vala/gtk and hope to fix that soon)
  • Browser: “Web” is not reliable enough to be any use. When pages happen to work, it will crash anyway. So I installed Firefox. Being able to install any extension (unlike mobile Firefox) is GREAT, I have all my extensions from desktop Firefox, in particular xbrowsersync to share bookmarks. Some websites (looking at you, arstechnica.com) don’t show the mobile version so still inconvenient. Probably I need to tweak the user agent. :heavy_check_mark:
  • IM: I have a Jabber server and use that to communicate with my family. Image attachment is unsupported and I can’t even open the link in a browser if they send it encrypted. Chat history usually disappears, I only see SMS conversations when I start Chatty :neutral_face:
  • Telegram: I tried to get Telegram libpurple integration but could not get it to work. Telegram-desktop works fine, except that it sometimes stops accepting keyboard input and I have to kill and restart it. I tried audio/video calls a few times but it wouldn’t really work, and was generally unusable because the UI was half outside the screen. Still putting OK sign because I really just need chatting and image exchange. :heavy_check_mark:
  • Signal: I have one contact which uses Signal but I did not try to install signald-libpurple integration, as the author is saying it keeps breaking because of protocol changes. I put Axolotl which appears to work, but does not download contact list, does not integrate with phone (Gnome) address book. I haven’t yet tried messaging that contact. I didn’t try signal-desktop because I know that one regularly requires re-activation from an Android phone. :neutral_face:

Camera

  • works, both front and back. Images are good enough and I actually like having to set exposure and gain manually, stills fits with the theme of being “in charge” of what my phone does :white_check_mark:
  • Creating the image takes FOREVER. Sometimes it seems to actually hang and I just close the app because I need to get moving, and get no photo in that case. :frowning:

Others

  • Internet Radio: I use Shortwave to listen to my local radio and it works great :white_check_mark:
  • RSS: I use Feeds to follow my favourite web sites, works great :white_check_mark:
  • “Convergence”: I bought a docking station, and it works great, except that I have to reduce the external screen’s resolution to HD instead of UHD because the Librem5 is not powerful enough for 4K screens. I need to do that each time I plug, because it can’t remember, but then it’s all good. :white_check_mark:
  • Public transportation: I tried KTrip but it doesn’t work at all. Never finds anything. Luckily I live in Switzerland and found another app (chefe/SBB on Github) and it works flawlessly :white_check_mark:
  • Kill switches: all good. One caveat, I need to disable and re-enable mobile internet whenever I re-enable the Mobile switch, otherwise there’s that orange exclamation mark saying there’s no mobile internet. :white_check_mark:
  • Wi-Fi Hotspot: works great, I use it from my Linux laptop, my work (Windows) laptop, and even my Android phone :white_check_mark:
  • Maps: it showed once where I was, now doesn’t anymore. Still useful, though. :heavy_check_mark:
  • Weather: doesn’t show amount of rain, which is IMO more important than exact temperature. Just says rain or no rain. (Thinking of trying to implement that after I’m done with Geary) Searching for a location doesn’t work very well but is usable. :heavy_check_mark:

Spying, Advertisments

  • Feels great to have no ads, no one following where I go and what I do, programs that work for me, and not for someone else. Having a phone doing what I ask it to do, not what some other corporation asked it to do, even if it’s for my own good. I don’t need to think carefully whether I feel safe putting some photo or document on my phone. No annoying ads anywhere, on the web or in the apps :white_check_mark::white_check_mark::white_check_mark:

Conclusion

I’m REALLY happy with the phone. Many things are immature or disfunctional but improving, and I know I can fix them over time if no one else does it. I wouldn’t get one for my wife (even though she’s on Linux on her laptop) because she likely doesn’t care about the things I really like in the phone, and would very much care about shortcomings I can live with. But maybe in a year or two I’ll get her one.
:star_struck:

22 Likes

Is there a place to follow your progress?

2 Likes

Awesome! Thank you for the review.
Regarding 2FA for work. This should be doable without limitation if your work needs TOTP. So I encourage you to try.

Regarding 2FA for the bank. I think it would be nice if we in the community create an overview page for all options for running Android apps with reviews on the different approaches. If Sailfish OS is able to run proprietary Android apps, Pure OS should also be able to do the same. And if one has to pay a licence to Jolla for it, then let it be. I am for the freedom of people to have the choice to install whatever they like and it is better to install an android app on a phone like Librem where you could controll the hardware more (using a HW kill switch for example) than to use an Android phone.

Maybe there can be something like Wine for Android apps? The fun would be thinking of an acronym for it that makes a word.

The ticket is this one: https://gitlab.gnome.org/GNOME/geary/-/issues/1242

I’m working locally on my computer for now, though I guess I could push my development branch there if you want to follow it. It’s a very small change, with very few things to do, but I spend most of the time to understand how everything works, and read GTK documentation, so most of the action takes place in my brain (which is private).

2 Likes

Yes, there’s Anbox (which stopped working before I received my phone, due to some API being removed in the Linux kernel). And there’s Waydroid, which nobody managed to get working on Librem5 yet AFAIK. So currently there’s nothing.

1 Like

What about this development?

1 Like

You might like Weather (KDE, flatpak): List of Apps that fit and function well [Post them here.]

Check out OTPClient (flatpak): List of Apps that fit and function well [Post them here.]
and
Secrets (flatpak, based on Keepass): List of Apps that fit and function well [Post them here.]

1 Like

Which dock did you buy? I’m in the market for one for my L5.

1 Like

I looked at this page which mentioned an i-tec dock. My local shop had the “nano” one i-tec, so that’s the one I got.