Purism & Pine64 Have A Roadblock To The Success of Linux Phones

Hello. I have used a Pinephone Pro for about a year now and I have learned a lot. Here are my thoughts. When I talk about Linux phones I mainly mean the Librem 5, the Pinephone, and the Pinephone Pro.


In 2018 Librem 5 developer kits were shipped. The Pinephone Braveheart edition was released in 2020. Both Pine64 and Purism both mean their phones to be for freedom. Meaning that you can have just about full control over the device. These devices are also meant for privacy, because the operating systems are open source therefore there is nothing to hide (although certain components remain with proprietary firmware). Purism creates software for the Librem 5, while Pine64 only produces the hardware, and does not make software. Because Purism has their head in the game much more than Pine64 does, Purism has had to raise the price of the Librem 5 many times, while the price of the Pinephone has not changed. It’s also been a much harder load for Purism to develop their own software and everything that goes along with that.

The Situation Today & The Issue:

It’s 2023 and privacy, security and freedom are still issues. Unfortunately, Linux phones simply aren’t an option for many people. They aren’t an option mainly because of the lack of development. Features like good battery life, good camera quality, and general reliability are not in Linux phones. These features are a must have for most people and I can understand why. The work being done on these devices have been done by Purism and the Pine64 community. The Pine64 community has done many things to make Linux phones better, but there are still so many things to do before Linux phones are usable for most people. The community generally does not get paid. It’s mainly donations that support them. The community works on the development of Linux phones in their free time. Purism has their own developers working on the Librem 5, but only a few. Because of both of these situations that we have (a community that largely doesn’t get paid, and Purism that doesn’t have that many developers) we haven’t seen the amount of development we would like to have seen, over the fast few years. The main issue is that we don’t have enough software development.

The Solution:

In the past Purism has partnered with companies that have shared the same philosophy, it’s time for Purism to partner with other companies to help create more software, and to improve it, at a much faster pace than before. One thing that is innovative about the Librem 5 is that many companies can have their own OS for it, so companies can contribute to the software stack, and specialize it for their own needs. Purism also needs to hire more developers. An easy way to help get development is to do a “challenge” where the community comes in and (for example) fixes a list of issues, and receives prizes from Purism (maybe a discount on the L5?). I think that this would be a great way to help with development. Pine64 has done something like this in the past. Again though, Purism really needs more developers. I think that Pine64 needs to help pay the community for their hard work. Pine64 hasn’t done much to help with software, and I really think that if they want to go “compete with Apple” they need to get their head in the game and at least help pay for development.

Purism has done a lot of work in making Linux phones (that work) a reality. Thank you Purism! Pine64 has released Linux phones as well, Thank you to Pine64! Purism’s reputation isn’t getting any better and I think that they need to make a move to gain back reputation. Thank you.


I think an improved cash-flow is very important for Purism (and free software development in general).

I’m really looking forward for the option of payments in the PureOS Store (GNOME Software), as a replacement or alternative of the fund your app campaign.


Since the beginning Purism massively under-estimated the effort to ship something usable as a daily driver. I was at Mozilla working on Firefox OS and even with a much larger team this was a massive effort.

Financing these projects is unfortunately extremely difficult. Ideally they should be funded by the commons but convincing governments that it would benefit society at large is a challenge.


Like this?
Pinephone is already an official build target.
Librem is getting there.


The amount from these grants are very small though. A serious effort would require tens of millions USD/Euros per year.


in my opinion it’s about the user base. Raspberry e.g. made it because of the low device price.
The software developers are not paid there either. But there are enough people who can develop suitable software/drivers.

Pinephone has affordable hardware. Unfortunately the software development is not gaining the needed momentum.
Purism with it’s different hardware and 2 Librem5 developers won’t fix it!

currently it’s a zoo and combined/coordinated efforts, purism/pine/gnome on mobile/etc. are not visible or dead.
one example is https://puri.sm/posts/ubports-ubuntu-touch-on-librem5-collaboration/

Purism has more than 2 Librem5 developers. Why do you frame it like this?

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a few?
i guess the frame will stay the same.

And why you should frame like this? Sounds like they don’t want to hire more people, but I guess it’s about money (developers are expensive). We should be happy to have what we have. In my opinion the whole project is on a good road and will enable further projects that comes even closer to what people expect. It’s totally clear that it will take years, but every little step is a step closer to the higher goal.


A team

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Purism & Pine64 obviously want to compete with Google and Apple. At this pace of development they simple won’t be able too. As time goes one more apps have to made by Purism (partially because of fund my app), more feature like GPS have to get better, more security features have to be added (which can get very complicated), battery life needs improvement, and many other things. And all of this has to get done by the community and Purism. Plus these features have to be tested, maintained, etc. It really is a lot of work. Pinephones are cheap and they have been around for a while and they still have lots of issues, so just because they are cheap it doesn’t solve the problem. Many people are receiving their Librem 5’s, and many people are selling their Librem 5’s unopened on Ebay. I really can’t blame them that they don’t want to go down that rabbit hole. I really like Linux phones because of their freedom and privacy, but I have had to spend a lot of time trying to get it to work and still it has a list of issues. Yes, things are getting better, but at a slow pace. I have had a lot of patience with Linux Phones, but seriously I’m disappointed with the amount development. For one thing, relying on an unpaid community just isn’t a good idea. They need some kind of official salary. I’m not disappointed in the actual developers, but that nobody really cares how slowly things are going. We need more developers. I understand that Purism doesn’t have lots of money to spend, but there are still ways to hasten up development, as I said in my previous post. Pine64 also really needs to help out a little more, there is a lot to be done. Will people have the patience for Linux Phones as time goes on? I hope people can at least understand my position. Thanks to all the developers that work on Linux Phones, your work is greatly appreciated and I hope that Linux Phones succeed.

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Hmm. The premise of this thread seems to be that success can only be measured in terms of beating competition and market share. i.e., compete with Apple. I don’t think these were ever metrics adopted by Purism. Purism hasn’t even expressed a competitive stance with regard to Pine.

Maybe we aren’t existing in a world defined solely by capitalism, but rather by community (of course a cooperative would be a stronger message than a social purpose company).


I get your point, really. Linux phones might be moving slow, but at least in the right directions. Android and iOS have been moving very fast and far for years, but in many cases in the wrong directions, which is really disturbing. For now I am happy with the functionality of the L5, and feel the progress has been very fast.


They would be competing with the other guys if they also made a phone that spied on you, that was my initial reaction to this thread.

As I’ve said many times, this is truly a David vs. Goliath situation and from what I can tell Purism has done a bang up job for a phone developed from the ground up on their first try. Future versions will build on the lessons learned on this one and one can only hope that people will wake up to the fact that there is a price to pay for the convenience the Android and Apple phones offer. But I’ve always been a rebel so that’s why this phone appeals to me.


Wouldn’t it be cheaper to open production to a country where USD is still higher and buys more including cheaper wages? Canada for example. The USD buys more here than in the US.

The Librem 5 is made in China, not speaking about Librem 5 USA, the ‘normal’ one is only end-assembled in the US. I cannot imagine how that could influence the price that much. The software development is much more pricey (you can have a look at the Purism team to see how many of them are developers) and they are even right now all over the globe.

Apologies if you were responding to someone else. If the L5 is assembled in China, and the L5 USA assembled in USA, those putting it together earn way more than their Chinese counterparts.

I got my device buy buying a position in the queue. I had to convert CAD into USD to convert that into AUD. Cost me about $850 (I think). No where near $2k. So why the big jump from (what original buyer paid) to $2000.00. IMO - it’s wages.

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I am not quite sure wether I understood you correctly. The Librem 5 is manufactured in China and end-assembled in the US. The Librem 5 USA is manufactured in the US. I am not aware of how many USA versions were sold; my guess is that is is something relatively rare and the people are buying the USA edition simply because it is not manufactured in China. It is technical-wise the same device.

See https://puri.sm/posts/librem-5-and-librem-5-usa-what-are-the-differences/

Also New Post: Librem 5 and Librem 5 USA: What are the Differences?

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Well, we can hope for exponential growth.
Purism is hoping for increased cash flow when the L5 hits shipping parity.
Also, rumor has it they’re about to release a tablet. Most likely reusing a lot of engineering efforts of the L5, and even more of the software.
This could allow them to hire more people.
Improvements would hopefully draw more customers, again allowing Purism to grow.