Review: Librem 5 - A Phone For "Freedom"?

Another review on Youtube …


Looks like his opinions on top of Linmobs footage - was hoping it was from another owner or a press kit; I think the former will be quite nice to see, thanks for the share all the same!

This reviewer doesn’t actually own the Librem 5 and is using video from somebody else. He knows a bit more about Linux than most phone reviewers, but he still gets quite a few of the details wrong.

In terms of design, it is a pretty simple design.

Simple design??? The Librem 5 contains about 1300 electronic components in its two PCBs and two M.2 cards, which is three times as many components as a normal smartphone and twice as many as the PinePhone. See:
The Librem 5 uses six chips in place of the normal integrated mobile SoC, It is the first phone with accessible hardware kill switches and those switches can turn off every sensor on the phone. It is the first phone with a smartcard reader, and that reader requires a separate 80MHz ARM processor to control it. It is the first phone with a replaceable WiFi/Bluetooth and cellular modem (on two M.2 cards). It has a 10 layer PCB. This is literally the most complex phone that I have ever seen.

It’s basically pretty much all plastic.

The back cover is plastic, but the frame and sides of the phone are aluminum.

In scrolling through apps, you shouldn’t see much of a difference.

Currently, the Epiphany web browser has hardware acceleration enabled, but the Phosh interface, which is based on GTK 3, doesn’t have hardware acceleration enabled, so scrolling through most apps will be noticeably slower. Hardware acceleration will be coming in the future with GTK 4. See:

The Librem 5 is running PureOS, which is a Linux-based operating system, with a desktop environment called GNOME.

The Librem 5 uses a new mobile environment created by Purism which is called Phosh. It is based on GTK 3 and uses GNOME libraries and many GNOME apps, but it is not the same as the GNOME desktop environment. See:

It is incredibly light-weight compared to those other operating systems, which means that the phone should run as good as new a few years down the line, which is always a nice thing compared to Android phones, which seem to get quite slow over time.

iOS probably consumes fewer CPU cycles and less RAM than PureOS/Phosh (although it is hard to measure this since iOS and Linux don’t run on the same devices). Standard Android consumes more CPU cycles, and certainly more RAM than PureOS/Phosh, but the Android Go Edition is designed for phones with 0.5 to 1 GB of RAM and 8 to 16 GB of Flash memory storage, so low-end Android phones are probably lighter weight than PureOS/Phosh. See:

You are misunderstanding the problem with updating Android. Google issues monthly security updates for Android. The problem is that the phone OEMs and the cellular providers (like Verizon) often don’t make those updates available to users. Android phones are generally only supported for 2 to 3 years by the phone OEMs, and they have no obligation to offer upgrades to newer versions of Android. The component makers (like Qualcomm and MediaTek) often stop offering firmware and drivers upgrades after 1.5 - 2.5 years, so it often isn’t possible to upgrade the kernel to a newer version. Google’s compatibility tests for Android upgrades also often make it impossible to upgrade Android phones, even if the OEM wants to offer upgrades.

In contrast, the Librem 5 is the first phone to promise lifetime software updates and the Purism developers are working to get the hardware fully supported in mainline Linux, so the Librem 5 will always be able to upgrade to the latest Linux kernel. Phosh is designed to be easily upgradeable because it is compatible with standard desktop GTK/GNOME. See:

The biggest problem is the lack of an app ecosystem, so on iOS and Android you have an app to do anything that you want to do; whereas on the Linux operating systems, there just isn’t that selection. I’d say that the main reason for this is that at the end of the day the developers of apps just want to make money, and the most popular way to do that is by collecting user data and selling it to advertisers…

I agree that this is a problem for Linux devices, but it is worth noting that there are thousands of GTK and Qt desktop applications that can be adapted to run in Linux mobile devices by adding libhandy or Kirigami classes to the code. Linux doesn’t need the same financial incentives for app developers like iOS and Android, because there is far less software development from scratch and mobile Linux application developers are encouraged to reuse and share code. See:


Pretty sure he’s talking about the looks :slight_smile:


I like that he spoke about the biggest advantage / drawback as being linux and free/libre open source sofware and all the implications by this on the phone. This is the reason why I buyed this phone two years ago.


If he is talking about looks, then he is making a pointless comment, because 99% of all smartphones look exactly the same as the Librem 5 with the same slate-style design. The only difference is the Librem 5 is significantly thicker and heavier, and it has 3 hardware kill switches on the side. The only way that the Librem 5 is simpler in appearance that other phones is the fact that it has fewer image sensors on the back.

If he thinks that using plastic equals “simple design”, then he needs to look into the complexity of making a back cover that is easily removable without tools so people can easily change the battery and fix the device.


And I’m not being a smart ass here, but seriously, you should do a more detailed review yourself of the L5 on youtube, or preferrably BitChute. You have far more knowledge of the details and what goes into developing the L5 than pretty much any other reviewers out there that I have seen. Get the word out to the masses why the L5 is unlike anything else.

1 Like

That’s so nerdish: being over-exactly. Your comment also seems to me to be pointless, because 99% of people will understand him correctly. :stuck_out_tongue:


Or more preferably on PeerTube. Yes, if people can make a review without having a phone then @amosbatto should be able to make a much better review than them already.


Definitely! Maybe the peer pressure will get @amosbatto to comply :wink: Or anyone on here with that level of knowledge (which disqualifies me easily) to talk about the phone in detail. A video done with someone like @Kyle_Rankin would be even better, a customer, and a Purism employee together to explain everything they have been working on for years, along with answering questions the average end user has about usability, especially those new to linux, which is equally important. Although I am certain Kyle doesn’t have the time.

But it would be nice to get the details out to folks. I see a lot of misinfo out there on other forums, and most do not understand what has gone into the hardware side and can explain it effectively. So potential buyers know WHY it is what it is.

1 Like

In my opinion, Purism should have more interviews with @nicole.faerber, Guido Gunther and @dos, because they would talk about the unique aspects of the Librem 5, and make people realize the engineering effort that goes into the phone.

I often scratch my head and wonder why Purism doesn’t talk more about how different and complex is the hardware in the Librem 5, and the fact that the Librem 5 has 6 innovations never used in a mobile phone before (which makes it the most innovative phone since 2014 according to my database of phone innovations). It would do a lot to justify the high price for the phone.

However, Purism might not want to talk too much about the hardware in the Librem 5 for these reasons:

  • Purism outsourced the design of the phone to a Chinese design house (which is why early versions of the schematics had some Chinese in them) and Purism wants to emphasize the made in America aspect of the Librem 5 USA,
  • There are some Chinese suppliers of components, so it is inconvenient when people scrutinize the schematics to find those components,
  • Four Cortex-A53 cores, 3GB RAM and 32GB Flash storage does not compete well with the hardware in modern smartphones, so Purism doesn’t want to call attention to the hardware.

For all these reasons, Purism may want to de-emphasize the hardware and not focus on it when marketing the phone, but the hardware design of the Librem 5 is so unique among phones and extremely complex and I wish that Purism would talk more about it.

Another issue is that some of the innovations in the Librem 5 are not yet implemented. For example, the smart card reader is a huge innovation, but Purism can’t talk too much about it at this point, because it doesn’t yet have software support. If Purism talks a lot about it, Purism will get accused to marketing vaporware. If Purism talks about how the Librem 5 is designed to combat planned obsolescence, people will criticize the company because the only replacement parts that it currently sells are the batteries and they will say that the promised lifetime software updates are just more marketing vaporware.

If Purism talks about how the design of Phosh is better than the design of other Linux mobile environments, it has to worry about offending its partners KDE and UBports and it reopens the debate with the community about whether Purism needed to create a new mobile environment or not. I wrote a blog post about “The strategic advantages of Phosh for mobile Linux”, and why its approach is better than Ubuntu Touch/Lomiri, KDE Plasma Mobile, Sailfish OS, LuneOS, etc. Purism hasn’t done a good job of explaining to the world why creating Phosh was necessary and why it makes Linux phones so easy to upgrade with minimal work, which is why Purism is serious when it says that Librem 5 will be the first phone in the world to get lifetime software updates. The fact that the Plasma Mobile team just dropped libhybris shows me that it realized that using Android drivers makes a phone too hard to maintain and upgrade in the long term. It has taken UBports quite a bit of work to be able to run Ubuntu Touch on Linux drivers for the PinePhone, since it is so tied to libhybris, and I doubt that Sailfish OS will ever be able to use Linux drivers.

Purism can’t talk too much about how easy it is to integrate Phosh into existing distros, which is why Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE, Arch, and Manjaro have all packaged it, because none of those distros have ports for the Librem 5 right now. Once the Librem 5’s hardware has full Linux kernel support and every distro packages all the software in the Phosh mobile environment, it should be easy to run any distro on the Librem 5, but Purism can’t talk about that yet, because the only distros that are close to having working ports for the Librem 5 are postmarketOS and Mobian. If Purism talks about it, everyone will point to fact that the PinePhone is so much better with 17 different distros that run on the phone, without realizing that part of the reason why there are so many ports is because Phosh made it easy for existing distros like Fedora, openSUSE and Arch to make ports for the PinePhone with minimal work.

At the very least, Purism should be able to talk about how its dev work is helping to improve GTK and GNOME, but the last time Purism talked about how it developed the compositor in phoc as an experiment that could improve GNOME in the future, it was roundly criticized in the GNOME community. Purism wants libhandy to be incorporated into GTK 4 and other programs like Calls and Chats to be adopted as GNOME projects, so it has to be careful to not offend the GNOME community.

Purism should be able to talk about the fact that my two polls on the PINE64 forum found that 70% of PinePhone users report that they use Phosh and 68% report that Phosh is their favorite interface. However, Purism probably doesn’t want to mention its closest competitor, which offers a Linux phone for much cheaper.


I just want to know why why why Purism did not put 4Gbs of ram???, having in mind that the L5 is going to be used as a convergence, and take full advantage of the IMX-8M soc… :thinking:

Cost? I would expect that later they might offer a “convergence vesion” with max RAM, like Pinephone did.

We don’t want to de-emphasize the hardware at all and it has nothing to do with Chinese supply chain. Instead we do try to point out as frequently as we can what’s special and unique about the Librem 5 (I still find the Breaking Ground post in particular to be very good for this). I’d love for each of those folks to write more posts that do deep technical dives into our hardware, but ultimately the reason you don’t hear more from those folks is simply that they are all currently insanely busy working on the hardware and software and we can’t pull them away too much to write blog posts, as much as we’d want to.


Agree. @carlosgonz, you’ll probably not get an official reply, but some obvious reasons could be

  • 3GB DDR4 much cheaper than 4GB DDR4
  • 4GB DDR4 not easily available in low quantities / desired pin-packaging / multi-year availability
  • Possibility to have entry-level (Evergreen) and premium-config (Fir) in the future
1 Like


Good to hear that it is a time issue and not an issue of not wanting to talk about it.
I hope that they find the time to eventually talk about these issues:

  • The challenges of using 6 separate chips instead of 1 integrated mobile SoC, and the benefits (hardware kill switches, 100% free software running on the main CPU cores, separate chips with longer support from the manufacturer than a mobile SoC, etc.) and the tradeoffs (more power consumption and shorter battery life, larger PCB and thicker case, chips on older process node (40-28nm), less competitive CPU cores, etc.)
  • Why the Librem 5 required 1300 electronics components and a 10 layer PCB,
  • Why the design goals behind the Librem 5 led to a thicker phone,
  • Why Purism decided to create Phosh and the advantages it offers over other mobile environments.
  • How the Librem 5 was designed to fight planned obsolescence and why the M.2 slots can help extend the life of the phone.
  • How the design of the phone evolved. (I don’t recall the smartcard reader or M.2 cards being mentioned in 2017, so when and why was it decided to add them.)

These are all interesting topics in my opinion.