Nine months - Librem 5 as my only phone - my review and workflow

Hello everyone,

I’ve been using my Librem 5 as my only phone for 9 months and thought I’d share my feedback. Long story short: I love it. It pisses me off sometimes, but not enough to stop loving it. Many things got better during the last months.

TL;DR: I love love love it. It has quirks, but they are easy to go around and only manifest 0,01%. Most days, I even forget I am not using a non-mainstream device.
On the other hand, I can imagine a “plug-and-play” kind of person getting annoyed at it, unless it’s a person with very basic usage patters.

  • How did I get to the Librem 5? I got really upset after finding out that my Cosmo Communicator was never going to get another update, and the Linux experience was subpar.

  • My personal profile? Tech-savvy. I host my own email server from my home office (two redundant lines) and I am mostly concerned about my privacy. For work, I mostly use FreeBSD, but sometimes I need to boot Windows. But I never log into anything. For general web browsing, I use a coreboot ThinkPad X230 with Qubes OS. I don’t do social networks or linkedins or instafaces or facegrams or any of the sort.

  • My usage profile? Light Web browsing, rarely a YouTube video, sometimes I listen to Podcasts and to online radios. Email. SMS and calls. Waydroid for my bank MFA and for Signal. I am usually on data, rarely on wifi (switch remains mostly off). I am a serious photographer, so I hardly ever use the camera and I am not the kind of person who goes littering the Internet with snapshots of my personal life. I do understand that some of the problems I am going to relate here are due to the nature of Linux and not something that Purism has done or not with the phone.

  • What do I think? I love it. It does everything I need a phone to do, I enjoy the freedom of running whatever I want in it. It also helped me overcome my addiction to mobile phones. However, it is only for the tech-savvy or for the person who uses it for calls and web browsing. Intermediate users expecting an iPhone-like smooth experience will be disappointed.

Phone functionality: I have no issues with missed calls or SMS. Sometimes the data connection goes stale, but it is way rarer lately than it used to be. I can go weeks without any issues.

When I am on the phone, the screen doesn’t turn off, only goes blank. When I am in a call, I need to press the power button to turn it off. I’ve made very long calls, 2-3 hours, with no problems.

Sometimes it doesn’t wake up from suspend (the screen blinks very fast and goes back dark). I still don’t know what is the matter here. Sometimes it is not responsive when waking up, but in a few seconds I can see that the clock updates and the phone is back alive.

Sometimes the PIN pad does not respond, requiring a quick visit to the power button.

VERY BAD: In a high contrast scenario (when under the sun and with high contrast mode engaged), it highlights and keeps a circle around the numbers I’ve typed when unlocking the phone.

Battery life: I can spend the whole day out without any problems, doing basic online checks, reading an article here and there, making calls. HOWEVER, I must be very careful when I stop Waydroid to make sure it is really dead (sometimes I kill the service but it mysteriously remains), otherwise I will get back to a very warm phone and no battery. =( Also sometimes Waydroid suppresses standby, also killing the battery. I developed the habit of checking these things, but it is something that the average home user won’t do. =(
99% of the times it is just fine.

The new keyboard is nice (I need diacritics), but when used in landscape mode it covers the terminal and I can’t see the command I am typing. The out-of-box keyboard leaves one line visible.

The ugly: my 60MHz HP 712 workstation running nextstep 3.3 and 64MB of RAM is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay faster to operate than the Librem 5. I understand web browsers being a bag of bloat, given the current state of the web, but nothing justifies 3GB of RAM not being enough to do EVERYTHING ELSE with aplomb. I know this is not Purism’s fault, but damn… software is inefficient these days.

Apps I use:

  1. Phone, Chatty, Contacts, Calendar (using my personal DAV server).
  • Never got MMS to work (but I didn’t try hard enough). My carrier publishes the settings in detail, so it’s basically my fault. Most settings are not available via GUI.
  1. Firefox, with extensions: AudioContext Fingerprint Defender, Canvas Fingerprint Defender, Consent-O-Matic, DDG Privacy Essentials, Mobile View Switcher, Port Authority, Privacy Badger, uBlock Origin.
  • I hate the flickering of the menus but overall it works ok.
  1. Authenticator
  2. Dialect
  3. Feeds
  • after switching to the backpak, I can’t copy-paste from it and sometimes pages don’t break line at the width of the screen, pissing me off very much. It wasn’t a problem before, but I already lost all my feeds once (moving from package to backpak) and I am lazy.
  • suuuuuuuuuper duper slow (python?)
  1. Geary
  • I hate when I tap and it activates buttons that are on the background, otherwise fine for my basic mail needs.
  1. My girlfriend’s picture - I tap the picture and it calls her. Best feature!
  2. Maps
  • Slow fixes aside, it does the job. I wish for something like OpenStreetMaps in Android. What an excellent application that one is!
  1. Podcasts
  2. Portfolio
  • tap and touch friendly partial replacement to Files
  1. Pure Maps
  • I don’t use it so often as to get around the interface and manage to actually build my trips. It is not very intuitive. But maybe I just need to learn how to use it.
  1. Shortwave - I love it. I discovered so many nice jazz radios there!
  2. Solanum - I love it.
  3. Space Launch - makes the space geek in me very happy.
  4. Terminal
  • I hate when the keyboard covers it.
  1. Usage
  • Why the heck is the Usage application saturating the CPU to redraw the charts? Damn, make it less smooth or give an option to set the refresh rate please. On the bright side, if you scroll down beyond the chart, CPU usage reduces.
  1. Waydroid - I love how well it integrates and how I can even have Android and native apps side by side in the app switcher. (need to remember to close them down properly though)
  2. Weather
  3. Wordbook

Apps I use on Waydroid:

  1. my bank’s MFA app
  2. Signal
  • I made the big mistake of creating my Signal account on Waydroid, so now I can’t log into a Linux-native compatible client because I can’t take a photo of the QR code from within Waydroid. =(((

Apps I’d love to use:

  1. Files
  • requires calling Terminal keyboard for ctrl commands because right clicking is not working.
  1. Foliate
  • it always crashes when loading an ebook. =(
  1. Stream
  • choppy, uses a lot of battery, slower than Firefox or NewPipe on Waydroid
  1. Web
  • I prefer the interface to Firefox but it scrolls very slowly - I can’t stand it.

Take a picture if the qrcode :joy:

1 Like

Flickering in Firefox ESR is nearly non-existent on Crimson.

If you use the Terminal layout (en-us) a lot like me and want a more accessible layout, you can follow the instructions in this thread:

Crimson provides a much more snappier and usable experience for Firefox ESR, but if you are feeling experimental, you can try out nightly Flatpaks from GNOME:

Here are instructions for installing the nightly version of GNOME Web (Epiphany):

flatpak remote-add --if-not-exists gnome-nightly
flatpak install gnome-nightly org.gnome.Epiphany.Devel
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The OSM Scout Server allows you to download maps offline and use them with PureMaps. Works very well for me.

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Can you give detailed instructions to reproduce this?

Comment for the future: One of the brilliant things about being in control of your phone, instead of the other way round, is that in the future you may be able to use other forms of unlock that are not so vulnerable to shoulder-surfing (i.e. for when you are unlocking in public) - such as one-time PINs or picture password (and that is only scratching the surface).



@st.boom The problem is that the QR code is being generated by the alternative client and I need to take a picture of the QR code with the official Signal application, that is running within Signal. It would be lovely to need Waydroid only for the bank application.

@FranklyFlawless I look forward to Crimson!


  1. Flatpak OFC - mega brain fart! =)
  2. To reproduce the login screen issue I am mentioning:
  • Go to Mobile Settings > Sensors
  • Enable Automatic High Contrast and choose a light intensity threshold that is low enough to be triggered for the test.
  • Lock the phone and go to the lock screen.
  • Under heavy light, wait until the high contrast theme kicks in and your pinpad goes white.
  • Enter the digits. In the dark theme, the highlight fades away when you tap the next number. In the light theme, a dark circle remains around them, so the digits you’ve tapped remain always visible.

I’d be interested in PIN-pad + yubikey or something like that, like I have for my Qubes password. Full badass alphanumeric password or numeric password + yubi tap. It’s perhaps even doable as it is now, I’d only need to configure PAM.

So I would:

  • hide pinpad and enter the fully alphanumeric password
  • insert the yubikey, enter a numeric PIN and confirm with the yubi.
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I personally disabled standby as I use Signal via WayDroid or messaging which is currently a core aspect of my workflow. As a result, my battery life expectedly takes a hit.

Regarding WayDroid not actually closing, how are you killing the service? I’ve found the waydroid session stop command to work reliably in almost all scenarios, and often keep a terminal open in the background to stop WayDroid if the phone becomes overburdened for whatever reason. I created a repo with random quality-of-life improvement scripts that I posted on Purism’s GitLab; maybe this script could be useful?

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OK, good pickup. I can reproduce that. But. It is quite inconsistent. Not all digits remain highlighted. No digit consistently? And sometimes the PIN-pad comes up initially with a digit already highlighted which, in the face of this bug, could be construed as a security feature. :joy:

Workaround: Touch the keyboard icon at bottom left to bring up a full keyboard and unlock from there? Seems to avoid the problem.

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I’ve been daily driving my L5 for 16 months. Similar background, similar use case (you are a bigger privacy nerd than I, but I will be checking out your FF extentions), very similar experience and expectations.


1 Foliate works great for me, and I’ve read scores of books with it.

  1. FF is not perfect, but it seems to work better for me. Are you using @Emma json mods? I love them.

Viva la libertad… viva la L5!


@JCS: I used to do the same but I put some effort into not being always availabe and having people in my life know I won’t always react immediately to everything, so now I stop waydroid when I don’t need it.

I created two “launcher shortcuts” to stop Waydroid. The first one does waydroid session stop and the second one does systemctl stop waydroid-container.

After that, sometimes when I go to switch my phone off (sometimes even hours later), I get a popup saying that some applications are inhibiting power off (or whatever the wording is) and waydroid is there, even after very diligently closing all waydroid applications and then running both my shortcuts. (The waydroid-container service is disabled at boot)

So sometimes I used to suspend my phone and find out it had not suspended because of waydroid. I ended up developing the habit of always rebooting my phone when I want to be sure it will suspend, in case I am going to spend the day out.

Another interesting symptom is… sometimes I close waydroid and the phone screen never goes off, even if the phone is disconnected from the charger.

This sounds crazy and if someone would be telling me this story, I’d be skeptical. =)

@irvinewade: Yea, I guess going the full keyboard route will be the solution. In that case, I can already switch to a full alphanumeric password. It’s not like I unlock the phone too many times per day.

@Photon: I assume you have Foliate installed from a flatpak? I have it from the flatpak repository, installed as user. What happens to me is the following:

  1. Find a book.
  2. Download it.
    So much happiness!!!
    Oh no, it hasn’t. I managed to open a book once and now it is not working.

So I can download a book and when I tap OPEN, the application closes. I somehow managed to open a book, so now when I reopen Foliate, I am back to that book. If I go back to my library and try to open another book, Foliate crashes and when I reopen it, I am back to the book I managed to open.


I have Foliate installed from Flathub. Same use case – open direct from download to EMMC (I need to resurrect and update my Calibre server).

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As alternative for Signal running via Waydroid. You could do that on a desktop with a v4l2 compatible webcam for example. That might work. Or you can use QEMU/KVM until libcamera support is working in Waydroid. Either way I think it’s the better option to use Signal Desktop built for arm64 so you don’t need to mess with Waydroid for Signal.

Would be honestly pretty good if Purism could add Signal to their own repositories. So you don’t have to rely on third parties for that.

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Yeah, you should check out my Mobile-Friendly-Firefox (FriendlyFox) project on Codeberg. I’m pretty sure I have solved all of the flickering issues, though there may be some that I haven’t noticed because of the way I use the browser. Definitely let me know if you use it and still notice something wrong or broken.

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It seems Molly supports linking devices without a camera: