PinePhone sets the record straight regarding proprietary blobs

Setting the Record Straight: PinePhone Misconceptions

From the article:

So let’s set the record straight: the PinePhone is not ‘full of closed-source firmware’ and, moreover, is one of the most open devices out there.

Looks like the PinePhone has used the same approach to Purism’s Librem 5 by keeping the parts of the phone that contain untrustworthy binary blobs at arms length. I.e. data exchange is over USB/UART, etc so it has not direct access to main memory.


I don’t think anyone here ever said they were.


I wasn’t saying anyone here did, except for a few comments here and there.

It was just an FYI as they use the same approach as Purism. I was under the impression that the PinePhone was indeed less freedom respecting than the Librem5. I’m happy to learn something :slight_smile: and thought the Librem5 community might be interested.


What makes pine different is not having swappable components; That has been discussed here, true. However, I’m going to need a link to someone here saying their product is ‘full of closed-source firmware’ because anyone who bought a Librem 5 knows that we too have issues with blobs yet Purism deals with them differently (so why on earth would the kettle call the pot black ?). Moreover, many of us are rooting for the Pine phone too :slight_smile:



  1. Let’s not count anything from jay-whose name shall not be mentioned for fear of summoning because everything that guy says is trolling

  2. K, this is valid (yet still not calling it full of closed-source)

The amount of proprietary blobs I don’t know about for both phones (?). Yet it is true that they do not focus on them the same way. Both have hardware switches :), but you also have the ability to pull the actual components (modem, etc.) that will not function now without the binary blobs from the Librem 5 (I say now, because I’m hopeful for nice surprises in the future :))


Hey, ya know what? I was just double checking something and I think I found the source of the misconceptions (stated by the author in your linked post that they didn’t know)

From a recent ars technica article:

An open source clarification
I originally lumped the PinePhone in with Android phones saying that they are “full of binary blobs,” which is overstating things a bit. From a whole phone perspective, the PinePhone and Librem 5 contain roughly the same amount of proprietary issues with the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cellular, and DDR initialization.

The Librem 5 goes the extra mile and puts the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular on user-removable cards. Together with offloading the DDR initialization, they have a recommendation (though tentative, since the phone isn’t done yet) from the Free Software Foundation, since the main system runs all free software. The PinePhone has the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Cellular on kill switches, but they can’t be removed by the user, which disqualifies them from an FSF endorsement.

Firstly, it was very nice of him to retract it :slight_smile: I think that’s probably the source though.


I would love a future L5 where the WiFi/BT card has open firmware and the where the cellular card has open firmware. I really don’t think that either will happen, particularly not if the EU is considering making it “impossible” i.e. radio transmitters have to be locked down and hence can’t really be open (NB: this is just something that is being considered).


You never know. Plus if that day ever comes, we’ll be ready because our phones will be cellular, modular, interactivodular! :smiley:


There’s one distinction that might be meaningful to some. From the link:

WiFi and Bluetooth firmware must be uploaded to the Realtek RTL8723cs on initialization, an optional auto-focus firmware (currently not used in any PinePhone OSes) can be uploaded to the rear OmniVision OV5640 camera

This means that any OS willing to use those features on the PinePhone will have to contain and distribute the blobs. PureOS doesn’t contain any blobs at all, and the Evergreen Librem5 doesn’t need the OS to have any.


Thanks for the clarification.
What about the RAM initialization? I remember that there is the M4 Core in the Librem 5 - this means that this Core is not part of where pureos runs and is flashed by purism once with the blob and never changes right? (Like cellular baseband)

1 Like

That’s the goal. I think current development images still have it in, but it’s not going to stay that way.


Yes, actually I think there might be two Cortex-M4 cores (the extra one relating to the smart card reader?).

As I understand it, correct. It is a separate CPU and it runs during boot to train the DDR interface.

The quad core ARM Cortex-A53 is the real CPU that runs the operating system and user code.


I’m thinking of getting a PinePhone.

Don’t get me wrong I love the Librem5 however it’s $750 and after the 20% VAT and any custom charges in the UK it’ll be about £1,000 ish and I really just won’t have that money.

I get why the Librem is the price it is, its just unfortunate for myself. So I think the next phone I get will likely be a PinePhone and maybe if the L5 comes down in price I could get one further down the line.

It’s also a real shame that the PinePhone almost definitely won’t be able to run PureOS because I’d love to run PureOS on my phone.

1 Like

Or maybe further down the line you will “have that money”.


I doubt it for some time unfortunatly. £1, 000 is a heck of a lot of money for a phone especially when it’s all upfront.


It may not run PureOS, but the GUI etc Phosh if you prefer that over Plasma Mobile should run. The same way as the L5 should run Plasma Mobile. I see no reason postmarket os could not include any blob necessary.

OT: Trade offs with the pine phone are for me the hardware kill switches in the phone and the smartcard reader. Also - the price and the community seems great with pinephone - but actually we don’t know battery life there either :wink:

More OT: If you really want to get a pine phone for production use only and not to support the community I recommend you waiting until there are the first reviews. Pinephone says right now very clear that the versions are only for experts while the librem 5 is meant to be for parents, children and CEOs so no technical expertise necessary.


PinePhone uploaded a video on YouTube of the phone running different OSes and showed PostmarketOS with phosh running on it, so it already works.


It’ll be some time ( well after ever green or the PinePhone full release) that id have the money anyway. So I’d definitely look at reviews.

Id much rather support the L5 and run all the free software but we can’t have everything in life. :joy:

1 Like