PinePhone vs Librem 5

I don’t know about other chips. But as an embedded controls engineer, the brand of chips that I use can change the function of the nRESET pin to disable it during initial programming of the fuse settings. In some chips, these ‘fuse settings’ can be written to from executable code (as opposed to initial programming). One possible result is that the chip could be programmed to allow executable code to disable your kill switch. If the chip manufacturer publishes the device data sheet, you could read that data sheet to find out what the chip can do.

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Not in the slightest

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Hi…i have a good review about the both. Having a FOSS telephone with equipment switches for mass parts is wonderful, as is assembly, and they are submitted 200% to it. My point is, and I state that as a resigned Firefox OS giver, they thought little of the work expected to clean an item, and there will be a great deal of bugs, accidents and issues.

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https://thatgeoguy.ca/blog/2020/12/06/Librem-5-Evergreen-vs-Pinephone/

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The good, the bad and the ugly …

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Interesting to read his assessment of the two phones.

In response to his criticisms of the Librem 5, it is worth noting that Phosh will be adding swipes in place of taps in many places in the future. Also worth noting that Ubuntu Touch’s keyboard is based on plugins that use the Maliit keyboard, which is used by Plasma Mobile, LuneOS and SailfishOS, so I doubt that the Ubuntu Touch keyboard is that much better than the others.

I also notice that there’s a lot of folks who are very ripe to jump in and defend Purism at a moment’s notice. Saying things like: “mobile linux wouldn’t exist without them,” or “I am doing this for despite the fact I disagree with their lack of transparency.” I think this is a bit of a toxic way to approach it. Look, I have the phone, I left my money with Purism and still want mobile linux to succeed. But the community at large has to call this sort of behaviour out if they don’t want it to continue happening.

…parts of the community has a lot of work to do to stop sounding like some crazy uncle at Thanskgiving; or at the very least, show the more positive aspects rather than permit lengthy diatribes around how we should support them despite Purism’s horrible communication, and think strategically about what we really want.

Since ThatGeoGuy specifically linked to my Reddit post and cited it as an example of “sounding like some crazy uncle at Thanskgiving,” he should have a blog that allows comments so the “crazy uncle” can respond. :slight_smile:

ThatGeoGuy characterizes me as a crackpot because I point out that the dev work for the Librem 5 is essential to the future of mobile Linux. My argument is that support for the i.MX 8M platform is essential for creating all sorts of future RYF devices and that Phosh is the mobile interface with the best shot of making mobile Linux a success. I ask critics of Purism what kind of future do we have without mobile RYF devices based on the i.MX 8M platform and how likely is mobile Linux to succeed without Phosh.

My argument is not that Purism shouldn’t be criticized, but people should be thinking about the strategic importance of Purism’s work when criticizing the company rather than simply trying to harm sales or drive the company out of business.

I point out that all the other mobile Linux interfaces have serious drawbacks. ThatGeoGuy praises Lomiri in his review, but he fails to address the fact that UBports only has 9 volunteers registered to make commits to its codebase on GitHub and Lomiri has only received 90 commits in the last year. UBports has to maintain a huge codebase without any outside help from other organizations and any corporate support, and it simply isn’t sustainable, as is clear when looking at the number of commits to Lomiri since Canonical abandoned the code in May 2017:

What this means is that the code is basically on life support and people like ThatGeoGuy are deluding themselves when they expect Lomiri to keep improving when there is so little dev work being done on the code. These are exactly the issues that I raised in my essay about the strategic advantages of Phosh for mobile Linux which ThatGeoGuy totally fails to address in his review of the two Linux phones.

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Ha ha, yes, I noticed that you received personalized acknowledgement.

I looked at UBports a few years ago, shortly before I backed the L5, and I do have a phone with UBports installed. One comment I would add about UBports - related to what you’ve said - is that they are supporting quite a few completely different hardware platforms (originally taking over the two that ran the real UT from Canonical). That has to spread them fairly thinly. Purism is at least only attempting to make one model well, although I guess we’ll have to see how that evolves over time as and when they add new models.

Despite the “crazy uncle” jibe, I thought most of his comments at least reasonable opinions. There was an excessive emphasis on the USA Edition, and its price. Don’t like it? Don’t buy it. There’s a more affordable alternative that is otherwise functionally identical.

There was an overemphasis on his personal preference regarding user interface. I’m sure a new interface will take some getting used to - and as a reviewer he doesn’t have to put in the effort to do that, it’s always a bit more “first impressions”. It’s possible that swiping isn’t going to sit well with applications that are intended to be adaptive and work in a converged environment.

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…but swiping is coming. The designs always had swipes there, it’s just an incomplete implementation at the moment, since our architecture with separate (and interchangeable) shell and compositor makes it slightly more complicated than on desktops with integrated shells.

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Discussion on Hacker News: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25338633

@amosbatto, you can directly reply to the author there.

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@amosbatto or somebody with an account could point out to him that “few screws inserted in USA” is true for ALL Librem devices (AFAIK), and that the L5 USA even has a US-made PCB.

Thanks, @Caliga, done :slight_smile:

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I think ThatGeoGuy’s opinions are probably typical of many people buying Linux phones, but I don’t think his opinions are very informed.

For example, he returns again and again to the high price of the Librem 5 and Librem 5 USA, but doesn’t evaluate whether that price is reasonable when having to pay roughly a dozen developers to work 3.3 years on the phone’s software. It is fine to make an evaluation that it isn’t worth paying for kernel development for the i.MX 8M and the development of Phosh and PureOS, plus full warranty support and customer service, whereas the PinePhone at $149.99 doesn’t include any of that.
However, if going out of one’s way to criticize the price of the Librem 5 and Librem 5 USA, at least acknowledge why there is such a price difference between the PinePhone and Librem 5 and what customers are paying for.

He acts like PINE64’s $10 donation to the communities supplying the preinstalled OS is laudable, but that donation does very little to move the ball in terms of the software on the phone. I’m sure that UBports is grateful for the roughly $40,000 that it got from PINE64, but that $40,000 didn’t lead to a sizeable increase in the number of commits for Lomiri or updating the code more quickly to a supported version of Qt. If PINE64 wanted to help UBports, it would hire a developer to work on UBport’s codebase. PINE64 could do a lot more to help the development of the PinePhone’s software by using that money to pay someone to work on the Crust firmware and the Quectel modem driver, so they can wake up the phone faster when receiving a phone call or by paying Martijn Braam to work full time to his Megapixels camera app.

ThatGeoGuy criticizes Purism for not immediately paying refunds, but he seems to be oblivious of the financial difficulties that Purism was having in February 2020, which were caused by trying to pay for the phone’s development in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic and the fact that Purism had to go way over budget to develop the phone. Did he want Purism to lay off more developers or cut back the hours of more developers for the Librem 5? Did he want Purism to not develop the Librem 14? He seems to act like publicly criticizing the company would have solved the problem, but as far as I can see, that only would have made it more likely to create an even greater financial crisis for Purism, and made it less likely that customers would receive the Librem 5 and that the software development would continue. I don’t see how that helps anyone.

It seems a pretty superficial take on the problem to criticize those in the community like me who acknowledged the problem but said that there were strategic reasons to keep supporting the company, because the dev work was important for the future of mobile Linux.

Maybe one can argue that Purism shouldn’t have used a new SoC that would cause massive delays in the Librem 5, or maybe Purism shouldn’t have tried to develop a new mobile desktop environment. That kind of facile response is not acknowledging the severe limitations with the existing SoC’s, such as the i.MX 6, A64, BCM2837B0 and RK3399 that Purism could have used. It is not weighing the real costs of maintaining Lomiri or the dev work required to get Plasma Mobile to a usable state. Maybe one can argue that Purism should be more transparent in its business operations, but if Purism had said publicly in Feb. 2020 that it was having financial problems, that would have likely dried up all new orders and deepened the crisis.

ThatGeoGuy says that the three reasons why he “cares” about Linux phones are: 1. device longevity, 2. free software and 3. a third option. Then, he doesn’t bother to evaluate how well the PinePhone and Librem 5 do on these three criteria, and leaves the impression that they are both equally good on each one.

In terms of longevity, the PinePhone is better in terms of currently offering replacement parts, so the phone can be fixed when the hardware breaks (although Purism has said that it plans to offer replacement parts for the Librem 5 as well). On the other hand, the Librem 5 is better in terms of longevity by promising lifetime software updates and developing a mobile desktop environment that is based on a standard desktop stack and uses an ecoystem that has corporate support from IBM/Red Hat, SUSE, Canonical and Google. The Librem 5 uses chips that are more likely to keep getting proprietary firmware updates and FOSS mainline Linux driver updates for more years from the manufacturers. For more info, see my essay and questions 3.10 and 3.11 in the FAQ.

The ability to change/upgrade the cellular modem and WiFi/BT means that people are less likely to junk the Librem 5 when new LTE bands are introduced or moving to different cellular networks or needing to upgrade to new wireless standards. The Librem 5 is also more future proofed than the PinePhone, so it is less likely to be junked in the future when people need higher resolution photos, faster USB speeds for convergence and file transfers, higher resolution external monitors, better graphics and better hardware acceleration. The A64 in the PinePhone and Allwinner chips in general have no upgrade path for mainline Linux users, and whereas the i.MX platform has a future path in the i.MX 8M Plus, i.MX 8 QuadMax and Chassis RISC-V SoC.

In terms of free software, the Librem 5 uses an SoC whose manufacturer contributes to the mainline Linux driver, provides lots of documentation to the community and answers questions on its public forum, whereas the PinePhone’s SoC is made by a company that has violated the GPL for years and won’t answer any questions from the community. Purism paid for Redpine Signals to do firmware development so the RS9116 could run without blobs in the main file system, whereas the RTL8723CS in the PinePhone requires 3 blobs in the /lib/firmware directory. Purism collaborates with the FSF and publicly supports its goals, whereas PINE64 has never said a word in support of the FSF and calls itself “open source”.

In terms of creating a third option other than Android and iOS, Purism is financing the development of the Linux mobile desktop environment which has the most corporate backing, is incorporated in the largest number of distros, is used by 2/3rds of PinePhone users, has the best energy efficiency and thus has the best chance of actually reaching mainstream users and offering a viable alternative to Android and iOS. It is frankly wrongheaded to say that you want a viable alternative to the Android/iOS duopoly, but then ignore the fact that Lomiri doesn’t have enough ongoing dev work to sustain it or that Plasma Mobile has been in development for twice as long as Phosh and is still not considered as complete. Looking at the mobile desktop environments that are being used on the PinePhone, it is not hard to see that backing the development of Phosh is the best shot to actually getting a viable third option among mobile phones.

Which interface(s) do you use on the PinePhone?

Interface Votes % of voters
Phosh (postmarketOS, Mobian, Fedora, openSUSE, NixOS, Arch, Manjaro, Gentoo or PureOS) 25 69%
Lomiri (Ubuntu Touch or Manjaro) 10 28%
Plasma Mobile (postmarketOS, KDE Neon or Manjaro) 6 17%
Hildon (Maemo Leste) 1 3%
Silica (SailfishOS) 1 3%
Glacier (Nemo Mobile) 0 0%
Luna Next (LuneOS) 0 0%
Mate (postmarketOS or AVMultiPhone) 0 0%
Android (GloDroid) 2 6%
Other (XFCE, LXDE, JWM, OpenBox, i3wm, Kodi, Sway, Sxmo, command line, etc.) 9 25%
Total voters 36

One final point on transparency. I agree with ThatGeoGuy that Purism’s marketing hasn’t always been very transparent with the community. In contrast, PINE64’s monthly updates are very good. PINE64 CEO TL Lim is to be commended for how well he interacts with the community online. He has personally responded to questions I have posted on the PINE64 forum.

However, it is worth noting that Purism is trying to pay for years of software development and has to engage in marketing on a whole different level to make that possible, so we are really comparing apples to oranges.

It is also worth pointing out that Purism does better than PINE64 in terms of transparency of its software development, because the Purism developers go out of their way to answer questions from the community. I have asked the following questions about the PinePhone on the PINE64 forum:

  • What is the RAM clock speed on Mobian and Manjaro?
  • What is the GPU clock speed on the PinePhone?
  • How can I register a bug report about the PinePhone schematics?
  • Which of the 2 accelerometers/gyroscopes and 3 magnetometers listed in the schematics are actually used in the PinePhone?

I have never received answers to any of these questions about the PinePhone, whereas the Purism developers regularly answer my detailed questions about the Librem 5.

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A number of topics already cover that contentious issue but it is barely relevant to either

  • a review of the L5, or
  • comparison of the L5 to the PP.

On the other hand, all of the considerations around how and why that happened are not his problem. Decisions as to how to do financial juggling in the middle of a pandemic with a project running over time and budget are not his problem.

My biggest concern with longevity of the PP is just that its underpowered CPU will run out of puff. It can be the best maintained, most repairable computer in the world but if it becomes annoyingly sluggish to use then people will stop using it. I guess it will always be OK to do phone calls and texts but if that is all you want to do then you don’t need a smartphone.

Honestly the USA Edition should not even have been mentioned in the review. It is a confusing distraction, for very much a niche market within a niche market (I would assume) - and if mentioned at all then I assume that the PP doesn’t offer a USA Edition at all for comparison purposes.

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I agree that a reviewer of a mobile phone doesn’t have to understand why a product costs more or why a company has financial problems. However, ThatGeoGuy critiques Purism’s prices, its marketing, its lack of transparency, and its changing of the refund policy, without bothering to explain why Purism does these things. All of this falls way outside of normal product review territory, and if he wants to address these issues, he needs to also discuss the technical and financial issues behind bringing the Librem 5 to market, which he didn’t bother to do.

ThatGeoGuy goes out of his way to say all sorts of things that aren’t found in a normal product review:

I do find some of the community behaviour a bit toxic and / or predatory, especially when it comes to refunds or putting up with poor behaviour on Purism’s part.

The one link he provides to demonstrate the “toxic and / or predatory” behavior is my post on Reddit, which he calls a “lengthy diatribe” and says that “parts of the community has a lot of work to do to stop sounding like some crazy uncle at Thanskgiving”.

This isn’t normal product review territory to critique the community of people who buy a phone and discuss it online. Rather than bothering to address the issues that I raised in that post, ThatGeoGuy critiques the community, and frankly says some pretty insulting things about us. I have tried to logically address ThatGeoGuy’s arguments and ignore the rest, but he hasn’t bothered to treat us with the same level of respect.

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You should own the “lengthy” part :wink:, but “crazy uncle” is positively libelous!

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Nah, own that too. :slight_smile:

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uncle Amos the SENPAI !!! :joy:

SENPAI is too dignified to go with my new photo! :crazy_face:

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It’s a new year and not sure when I’ll get my Evergreen, so I thought that I should take my Pinephone Mobian/Phosh out on the road and see how close it is to being a daily driver.

I can’t drive without my podcasts, so I downloaded about 4 hours’ worth using gPodder. gPodder doesn’t scale correctly, but it’s pretty close. I was able to get to just about everything by bouncing back and forth between portrait & landscape. Note: Sure would be nice if that work using the accelerometers.

I use gPodder on my PC, so it’s familiar. I have installed Lollypop to play music from my SD card, so gPodder uses it to actually play podcasts. It worked well in the car, playing through a Bluetooth adapter plugged into the aux jack on my head unit. My only gripe with Lollypop is that there is no control to skip forward or back in the track – a feature I often need when I get distracted by actual driving.

Bluetooth itself is a bit of a pain, however. At boot, it must be manually turned on and manually connected. Then you must manually change sound output to Bluetooth from the sound settings app.

What is even worse is that Calls (v0.1.9-1) does not honor the sound output setting! It will only let you change from internal earpiece to internal speaker. I assume this problem also exists on the L5, but it would be nice to get a confirmation. @amarok?

Unrelated to driving, I’ve been looking for a ebook reader to replace Moon+ on my spyDroid. The “books” app preinstalled on Mobian is complete trash on a phone. It probably works fine on a PC – I can’t imagine RedHat releasing a total POS. I did find a amazingly good reader, in an unexpected place . I use Calibre as book server. While it comes with a book reader, I’ve never really used it, since reading books on a PC never really appealed to me. To my great pleasure, Calibre Reader only needed preference tweaks to make it 98% as good as Moon+. Dark mode, fonts, header/footer customization – it even has a dictionary function. All of the reading controls are touch-compatible. The only thing that I found that didn’t work was that I couldn’t scroll down the list of fonts. Fortunately, there was a good one at the top of the list.

I feel like things would work better on the L5, largely because of the curated PureOS repository and the tweaks, including that nice scaling script I’m always reading about.

If my spyDroid died, I could get by with Pinephone/Mobian, but maybe it’s time to add the PureOS repository or just try PureOS again. It was really unstable on Pinephone a few months ago, but I hear there have been many improvements since.

I can barely wait for my Evergreen!

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“if you are not weird, you are weird” :slight_smile:

+1 for bb-q10! I also have one.

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