Privacy-loving Luddite needs some translation help <3

First of all, I’m SO thrilled to have found this company! I could not agree more on a philosophical level and am so enthralled that there is actually a company out there standing up for privacy rights (I think I’m in love :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: )

I’m in need of a new phone. I have been using a old QWERTY keypad slider phone for 6 years on AT&T to avoid additional privacy leakage through smartphones…but my beloved trooper finally had enough on New Years Day and the screen stopped working. I’ve since tried to replace it with an identical model from ebay only to find that AT&T is bullying me by literally choosing to turn off my sim card every 3 days until I get a new phone. And theyre phasing out 3G anyway, so it was only a matter of time.

Unfortunately I am NOT tech-savvy at all. I’m just someone who believes privacy is a human right and I’m not going to trade my personal data in for convenience. (especially to a bully company whom I’d be essentially paying to steal from me!)

So I’m reaching out.

I’ve researched the Librem 5 reviews. Most of the reviews I read were from early/mid 2020 and cited a lot of missing features. But I love what Purism is doing, and I’m pretty willing to make some compromises if it means protecting my privacy and supporting a company fighting a good fight. (I already made plenty of compromises by never adopting a smart phone in the first place so this will hopefully not be too difficult for me).

However, I am completely lost as to how to go about making the Librem 5 my primary phone. What is the “modem” compatibility thing on the product page referring too?
Have any of you been able to get your Librems to connect using a mainstream carrier like AT&T? How do you do that?
AT&T started bullying me the moment I put my sim card in a new phone, even though it was the same model as my old one, they are telling me that it is not an “approved” phone so they are shutting the sim card down until I upgrade to some thing they will “accept”… so if they’re being assholes like that, how can I possibly get them to accept a specialty phone like the Librem?
What carriers have you all used successfully with Librem?

If I want to make this my primary phone, what do I need to be prepared to do? And what compromises do I need to be prepared to make?

I dont want to spend all this money on a new phone only to find out that I can’t get it to connect to my carrier and not even know which carrier I could switch to to make it work.

THANK YOU to any generous tech-savvy folks who can help out a fellow privacy-rights lover make her dream phone come true! :heart: :heart:


@amarok , did you activate the SIM in the Librem 5 or transfer it from an existing phone?

Here is who has been trying which carriers and resellers:

There are still missing features but perhaps if you are coming from a “dumbphone”, you won’t mind so much.

Apart from making calls, what are the things that are most important to you?


On the Librem 5 Shop page they say: “Place your order now, get it in a few months!”

Based on that, when do you hope to get a phone from Purism?

Why don’t you stop feeding the bully and give your money to a more respectful competitor ?
I’m not familiar with the buisness model of carriers in the USA, but if I’m not happy with a company, I’ll seek a remplacement, has AT&T some kind of monopole in your area ?

also, can’t you sue them ? is that even legal ? you pay for a service, they choose to randomly cut the service to force you buying something you don’t want

Verizon might be better for you if they have coverage there. I’ve had my same sim card in an unlocked galaxy s9, cosmo communicator, pinephone, and unlocked pixel 4a with no issues.

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It’s a prepaid SIM from Truphone, which I had already been using intermittently for years. I don’t think it would have been a problem to activate it in the L5, though, because the SIM is marketed as an international SIM for travel, with “local” rates in certain countries, including the US, UK, Australia, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, and Spain. The SIM also works in most other countries, but at more expensive rates.

As it’s an international SIM, it just picks up whichever carriers’ network(s) it has agreements with in whichever country you happen to be. In the U.S., that’s currently AT&T. Mine came with a US number, because my billing information is US. If you live in one of the “local” countries above, you get a number from there. For an additional fee, you can even add another number to the same SIM card, but only for a different country from your own, and it has to be one from that short list above, as I understand it.

International data roaming outside that short list can be very expensive, though. Check the rates on this page (input the travel destination in both fields):

P.S. Truphone doesn’t provide MMS service, only SMS, data, and voice.

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It’s a common thing in the US that one particular location (city, neighborhood, street, etc.) may have good coverage with only one carrier, or only two carriers, and so on. So some customers may not have much choice. The coverage maps may look dense and universal, but when you zoom down to street level, there may not be enough towers nearby to provide a good 4G signal in your home or workplace.

Different cellular modems work on different 2G, 3G, and 4G frequencies; different carriers may or may not provide service on this frequency or that frequency (though many carriers overlap on all the most common frequencies, even worldwide). The modem in your phone has to match the frequencies of the carrier, or carriers, in order for you to be able to use the phone on their network(s).

The L5’s available modems operate on the frequencies listed here:

The current US modem is the BM818-A1, and the LTE (i.e. 4G) frequencies are the most important. They need to correspond to the network you intend to choose.

Here you can check the frequencies used by various networks around the world (I’ve selected AT&T for you):
As you can see, AT&T’s frequencies correspond well with the L5’s BM818-A1 modem, so it would be a good choice in that respect.

One issue you need to be aware of is that the BM818-A1 does not yet have VoLTE (Voice over LTE 4G) enabled. VoLTE capability is now required for any T-Mobile SIM activation (even T-Mobile resellers), because they intend to retire their 3G network, which means no calls over 3G will be possible in the future. The same will happen with AT&T next year, allegedly. I’m not sure why they’re rejecting your 3G service now, though.

Those reviews would have been for earlier versions of the phone and its software, so you should instead focus on reviews posted after November 20th, 2020, which will be for the final “Evergreen” version.

In any case, if you order now, you won’t receive the phone for several months. If you need a phone now, you should just pick up some cheap 4G/VoLTE Android designed for your chosen network, just to tide you over.

P.S. We’re hoping that Purism will get VoLTE working on the BM818-A1 sooner, rather than later.


Hi @Rae, welcome to the community. We need people like you who are willing to make sacrifices in order to help Purism manufacture devices respecting users.

Here are many answers about how Librem 5 currently works: .

There you can find the compatibility with cell carriers, which compromises are currently necessary and much more.


Since you live in the US, the easiest way to get a privacy phone is to buy a Google Pixel 3 or 4 from Rob Braxman with LineageOS 17.1 installed. If you live in Europe, you can buy the Fairphone 3 from the /e/ Foundation, but it doesn’t support the American cellular bands.

Setting up a privacy phone on my own with LineageOS and F-Droid took me a lot of work, and probably isn’t something you should attempt on your own if you don’t have much technical experience and you aren’t willing to spend a lot of time reading the xda-developers forums.

If you need a working Linux privacy phone in the near future (within the next two months), and you don’t want to install the OS yourself, then your best bet is to buy a PinePhone, but it is currently out of stock, and when it comes back into stock, it is going to have Manjaro with KDE Plasma Mobile preinstalled, which is probably not want you want if you just want stuff to work. Your best bet is to install Mobian with Phosh. Installing another OS in the PinePhone isn’t hard.

Another option is to pre-order the Pro1-X that is due in August 2021, and supports all the AT&T bands except LTE B30.

If you order the Librem 5 now, you will have to wait for Q3 or later to get it. In my opinion, it is the best option for protecting your privacy of all the available phones. I expect that it will take a while for Purism to add good software support for the camera, GPS and smartcard, and to improve the battery life so it can last all day on a single charge, but you get lifetime software updates, so I think it will be a good option, if you are willing to wait. If you want more info on a particular feature, check the community FAQ.


Is it still the case that when ordering you have to provide your name, address, email address, and phone number, etc., directly to a factory in the PRC? That may be cause for concern to some (including me), especially if they work in sensitive government positions (I don’t).

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ok thanks for the explanation, I guess it’s more about the low-profit generated in low density populated area, attracting less carriers, makes sens

@Rae: I hope you have the choice to change you carrier ^^

More on the PinePhone being out of stock here:

“Pine64 announced it would only open pre-order for PinePhone, PinebookPro, PineTab, and other products once they could secure stocks of components, and while they hope to be able to do so within this month, there’s no guarantee.”

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WOW. Thank you ALL for so much support and guidance!! I’m so glad I found this community!!

I’m honestly a little overwhelmed with all the info provided so this might take me some time to process it. Like I said, I’m really not tech-savvy so I’m having to do research to even understand some of the “dumbed down” explanations, and as such, this is a slow process for me. I’m sure I’ll have more questions afterwards! lol

Thank you again to all who answered questions and provided additional resources! Definitely feeling this community!!


I see that the chart says AT&T works “using 3G.” Apparently AT&T is already phasing out 3G in my area (according to rude customer service agent, even though I pointed out that the letter I received from them said it would be shut down in 2022…). So it sounds like I wont be able to use the Librem 5 on AT&T at this point.
@amarok , have you had a chance to test it on 4G since then? Or is it that has to update something in order for it to work on 4G?

Exactly! In order to use this as my primary phone, all I need is to be able to make/receive calls, texts, and be able to call 911 in an emergency. I’d also like to be able to send/receive photos via text (That’s MMS I guess?) and set alarms.
Are those things possible with Librem 5 at this stage?
As far as the battery goes, can it at least charge while its powered on now? If so, I can make that work even if battery life is still 2 hours by plugging it 90% of the time. If you have to turn it off to charge it AND the battery life is like 2 hours, I don’t know how to make that feasible.
(I have no problem waiting for the camera software, apps, or anything web-browsing wise to come out :slight_smile: )

I’m trying to figure out an interim option as well. AT&T says the only non-smart phone they offer now is a flip phone ( :cold_sweat: Horrible even to me even as someone who has used a QWERTY keypad slider non-smart phone since they came out :sob:). I REALLY hope I can find something better than a flip phone until I receive the L5. I dont trust myself/know enough to protect my privacy on a smart phone, so I keep it dumb :wink: LOL

I would LOVE to leave them out of spite! I do live in a major metropolitan area so it’s not a monopoly, all the main companies service this area, however, I don’t expect any of them to be any better. I have other services and family phone lines bundled with AT&T so its more to consider than a simple swap out for a different carrier. Plus I’ve had this number forever. I’m willing to switch if I can actually find something that has a distinct advantage though!

I wonder about the legality, too. I told the customer service rep how messed up it is to cut my service when I am still paying for it, however, she and her manager did not care. They said it is policy to turn off sim cards when it’s plugged into a non-approved device, even though the device is a AT&T unlocked copy of the same model I’ve been using for 6 years. :angry:

It seems like my issue with AT&T stems from their sim card telling them what phone I am using, and them rejecting it because its not on their “approved” phone list. It sounds like accessing AT&T through this Truphone SIM circumvents that issue entirely? I have NO idea how that works. When you use this, you are not technically a customer of AT&T, and they cannot harass you to comply with their BS? That part sounds fabulous. It seems like 0.09 cents per minute, text, MB seems like it would add up to being more expensive than regular plans for an average user - does that seem accurate? I’m not used to counting those things so I’d love to hear anyone else’s estimate. …would probably be cheaper than the AweSIM though! (love the idea…can’t afford the price.)

@amarok Thank you so much for your thorough and detailed response! I’m trying my best to understand all this new terminology so your explanations are really helpful!

Since AT&T’s 3G network is supposedly already being phased out in my area, it seems like using 3G on the Librem 5 will not be an option for me. Can the Librem work on 4G? If the BM818-A1 does not yet have VoLTE enabled, what does that mean for receiving service/signal? Does that mean I will be able to text and use data but not call (if relying on AT&T’s 4G in my area)?
I’m sorry, I’m sure some of these questions seem obvious to you all. This is just WAY deeper into this territory than I ever dreamed I’d be trying to dive. I’m a mental health professional; 99% of my brain cells are devoted to emotional intelligence and neurology, so I’m a total beginner with this! :sweat_smile:

Thank you!! I’ve been trying to look at alternatives and had not found those two yet, so thank you!

I’ve bookmarked the phones from Rob Braxman. I’m a little hesitant to buy anything from Google even if this guy has gutted it and put in a new OS. Is it risky to buy something from an individual who has gone that deep into a phone? It seems like you’d have to really trust him, because couldn’t he put his own trackers in there and steal your identity/money? Not saying to offend - I’m a novice to this stuff so I’m just wondering/genuinely asking.

The Pro1-X looks awesome - I loooove the QWERTY pad and am so glad some people are still producing those :heart: :heart: Aside from loving the hardware, I’m not really seeing anything about privacy on this one. It says you can design the phone how you want, so that’s great if you have the skills to do that, but I’m a noob and wouldn’t know how to ensure my own privacy without someone doing it for me. So I’m thinking that is not appropriate for me, even though I totally love the hardware.

Maybe I will just accept AT&T’s trash flip phone until I get the Librem :sob: It will help financially ~ buying the Librem will be 10 times more expensive than any phone I’ve ever purchased so it’s already a big reach for me, which I am only considering since I love what Purism is doing so much and feel better about my money going towards this movement. But its already more than what I should be spending, so buying another phone for the next 3-6mo before I can use the Librem should be kept to minimal costs. (I just dont know if I can stand texting on a flip phone for that long without smashing it to pieces >.>)

You wanted some translation, that’s way I asked about what do you hope a few months to mean…

Here is a personal opinion from the current vice-president of Purism:

If you pre-order now, don’t expect your phone to come earlier than 6 months. Purism knows that very well.

Also make sure you understand the current refund policy as well, before pre-ordering:

If you want to draw funds from any product that you: crowdfund, back, pre-order, early purchase, pre-purchase: when your pre-order is reached in the shipping queue you can decide whether to have it shipped or opt for some other option.

Translation: they don’t specify full refund anymore for pre-orders. Until now, there was a case where “some other option” meant vouchers to spent on their store.

Also, it seems they are changing their refund policy whenever they want, without notice, and applies it retroactively.

Other things you might not know: the phone is about 270 g heavy, it has no FCC certification yet (still after more than 3 months after the “big launch” in November). The price doesn’t include any taxes.

I was enthusiastic too. I’m not that anymore about Purism. Buy a PinePhone as an interim (out of stock now, may come back later this month or in April).

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Thank you for believing in Purism, Purism also believes we deserve privacy and freedom.
I agree with you, none of the Android based devices like fxtec-pro or google pixels phones are not secure or have privacy even if use it with Lineage.


Wow, okay. Thank you, now I understand why you asked that. Yes, “a few” means something different to me (3 to 4). Thank you for providing their definition of a few. I’m still excited for the Librem 5, but it sounds like I’m going to need a better interim solution since it sounds like I’ll be waiting longer than I thought. I really appreciate you letting me know, because if I thought it was going to be a 3 month wait, I’d bare through using a stupid flip phone for the time being. If its more likely to be a 6+ month wait, I’m not going to torture myself for that long. I would have been very frustrated to end up using a flip phone that long while waiting - thank you for saving me from that frustration!!