Question regarding ease of future hardware upgrades for Librem5 USA

How easy is it for example to upgrade the modem in my phone from 4G to 5G if a new module comes out? Will specific cases like this adhere to the same form factor? And is there a way to receive notifications when these new hardware upgrades are released?

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Yes and no. The module is an M.2 module. The M.2 standard defines a set of standard sizes. So the size can’t be just any old size but may or may not be the same size, and hence may or may not be a compatible size.

Also to be considered is the keying. The M.2 standard defines a set of keyings. I haven’t opened my Librem 5 up to see whether the socket in the Librem 5 is keyed. I assume it is. For modules of a similar nature, the keying is likely to be the same. For example, for M.2 NVMe drives the keying is likely always to be M (and this may well prevent you from inserting an NVMe drive in the socket in your Librem 5 that is intended for the cellular modem). Keying should also prevent you from inserting the module the wrong way round. But there are no guarantees.

So let’s say that the module size and keying are the same, yes, this is doable. You disconnect the antenna(e), slide the old module out of the socket, …

I have read that the antenna connectors are fragile and hence that you should not do this more often than necessary and that you should therefore be delicate and careful in doing it. However for an upgrade after X years that should be OK.

Other people have bought second-hand Librem 5 phones that therefore have the wrong modem (for their country / region of the world) in it and replaced the modem for that reason. So it definitely can be done.

There is this 5G card on the market that might fit into Librem 5. 5G is still quite pricey. All 5G routers and smart phones still cost quite a buck.

Additional concerns:

  1. The heat from the 5G might be too much for Librem 5. No idea. Maybe the plastic covers of the modem and WiFi card could be upgraded with metal heat sink covers if this does not influence the antennas too much.
    If you are not surfing 5G all the time and you leave enough time for cooling in-between, this might not be a problem.

  2. The 5G card might prefer or require more antennas than the Librem 5 has.
    Btw. for me personally it would have been totally fine if there was an option for external antenna on a screw like for WiFi dongles. It looks very 90s, but it gives you the freedom to put any antenna you like and to make the casing even more heat-sink-like. (I think the case of Libtem 5 is already much better heat sink compared to for example PinePhone so we talk about improvement of something that is already better than alternatives).

  3. Drivers.

Disclaimer: I am writing just my imagination. I am not competent enough to judge if my imagination is technically correct or feasible.

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So in no way shape or form this phone is remotely close to the Fairphone 2 or 3. I don’t care for 5G speeds. I care about adding value to my phone so that in 10-15 years when telcos go to turn off 4G, I’ll have an upgrade path available.

The telcos dictate the hardware upgrades and they tend not to leave any reverse compatibility. So in 5-10 years when they force all 4G users off, I’ll have to buy a new Librem5 to remain compatible. I’m hoping for a simple module upgrade akin to the Fairphone models.


There are too many assumptions in these words.
Honestly I believe it will be possible to upgrade the module of Librem 5.
It is just that we don’t know of a current possible other modem. But if you talk about years in the future, this is most likely going to be possible.

The connectors are designed for a few matings only - around 10 or so.

As for compatibility, the Librem 5 phones mainboards and chassis changed about 4 times, each with a new hardware revision. The oldest are even a little longer. The WiFi and modem cards can be placed into any revision. Moreover, there are 2 versions of the modem, and 2 WiFi cards (internally we’re evaluating another module).

The specifications are all clear and adhered to. The only open question is what cards will be available in the future.

Note that I don’t know how compatible antennas we use are with 5G, and I don’t know how replaceable they are.

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@Dark_Star a personal computer can easily last say 20years (laptop or desktop) when you reasonably take care of it (meaning its in your home office never moved anywhere else). I use a 2011 MBP for example, my gf uses a 2005 MBP as her primary computer.

Based on exposure to vibration, shocks, humidity, thermal cycling, and generally more risk of contamination from fluids, loss because you left it in the airplane seat pocket, i give you 5yrs max and you wont be using the same L5, ill bet $100 on it.
By then a new phone will be out with the appropriate modem and drivers.