There’s a few posts on here about the current a future state of the L5 and Linux phones in general.
I finally received my L5 a few days back after some years of patience and to be honest I am surprised how well it all “just works” so far.
I wanted to make this post both to contrast some of the other threads, but also to share some of my own trials, tribulations, and successes so far.
So yup, another one of those “My L5 impressions” posts. I’m long-winded and I want to include everything so this may be a long one.
The tl;dr is that my L5, while not perfect, is exceeding expectations in most areas.
A few disclaimers for fairness
- I have been playing on and off with the L5 image in QEMU for years now and am pretty familiar with Phosh and PureOS by now.
- I am a heavy GNU/Linux user so I’m coming in to this with a more advanced user background than some people on here.
- Finally, my requirements out of a phone are probably a lot less than some people. My frequently used Android apps were Firefox, a Reddit client (BaconReader fwiw), Librem Social, SMS/MMS, and occasionally FB Messenger or WhatsApp for certain family members who just won’t change. I rarely use much else.
So with my background and requirements from the phone in mind…
My L5 experience so far
My original plan was to leave my SIM in my current Android phone and set everything else up on the L5. However once I had it powered on and in my hand i figured I’d give it a go. I swapped my already working SIM (AT&T in the United States) into the L5 and booted it up.
I called my wife, who was asleep on the couch, on top of her phone :). At least calls go through, but I wanted to see call quality. I then called my mom since I figured she’d be home. The conversation went “Hey mom, how do I sound? Perfectly fine? Ok cool.” She asked if it was that weird phone I haven’t shut up about for years now and was happy I finally got it.
I tried a few other people, calling and receiving. Phone calls work totally fine. Check.
Texted a friend, received responses, no issues. Check.
(Also tried SMS and Calls while the phone was suspended. Seemed to work just fine.)
I know MMS isn’t a big deal for some (especially outside of the US) but for me it’s used a lot, and I need it for work, so this was critical for me.
The first day, I spent a little while fiddling with settings but had no luck.
I tried searching online for APN settings to use and nothing seemed to make a difference. I decided to sleep on this problem.
The next day, I found a combination of APN values (set in Chatty settings) and choosing a mobile network in the Settings app under Mobile > Access Point Names.
I re-sent a picture of my dog to my wife (for like the 20th try) and immediately she received a flood of MMSs from my tests, and I also received a flood of tests from her and MMSs from other people as well.
Since then I’ve been “testing” it by bombarding her and my family with pictures taken from my L5 of our pets and especially our newborn baby, and MMSs are working consistently.
No issues connecting to my 2.5Ghz or 5Ghz Wifi. The range is fine too, I can walk to the edge of my property which is all I care about.
No issues pairing my Bluetooth headphones. That’s all I’ve tried with BT.
Initially audio didn’t work. I messed around in the settings and I’m not sure what fixed it, but it works now. I noticed Wifi/BT dropped on me once but since then both have been fine.
BT range is not great. The same headphones on my old phone, I could go anywhere in my house and it would work. Now I can barely go in to the next room. Oh well.
Geary is working well enough. I get a notification when I receive an email. There’s some polish needed in the UI for smaller screens. It’s not bad though and if I really needed to I can work around these things (tilt phone to landscape, scale display, whatever).
To be honest I’m more likely to do emails on my desktop so this is not a big concern for me. It’s more than good enough now.
I didn’t mention above but I used my old phone as my music player too. This one is a big deal to me.
My L5 has a 1TB SD card inserted with half partitioned for music. I have about 350Gb of it on there now.
I’ve tried two apps: G4Music and Lollypop.
G4Music looks and works wonderfully, however I have a lot music, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to browse by Artist > Album > Tracks. It just lists all of the tracks in the library at once. This is kind of a dealbreaker since it takes way too long to scroll around to find something to play.
Lollypop, I had an issue where after selecting the root folder for my Music Library, nothing would happen. I finally noticed a blue progress bar at the bottom. After leaving the app open for about 40 minutes, it completed building my music library and finally worked.
This is better than G4 but still clunky to use. The Artists get listed in a 2 column grid and while I can get to what I need and play music fine, I’m not a huge fan of the interface.
I really liked VLC on Android and am hoping to find something similar to this UI. Lollypop works well enough for now but I will keep looking.
I had seen people complain a few times over the years that typing on the L5 is difficult. I’m happy to report that I make as many mistakes typing on this screen as I did on any Android I’ve ever used, which is to say plenty :).
Honestly though it’s perfectly fine to me, no complaints.
It’s interesting - I noticed I would always make the same mistakes when typing on Android, such as hitting space when I mean to hit ‘.’. Now I have a whole new set of mistakes I can commit to muscle memory.
I wish the default keyboard layout had numbers on the top row, I don’t like switching to another page to get to numbers.
Luckily, Squeekboard is customizable! I will be making my own layout(s) in the coming days.
It’s a bit slow, but overall what I expected. Some sites just plain don’t work well, but that is the fault of the site in my opinion. Anything designed for mobile web seems to work fine enough.
I’m excited to see more improvements to Firefox’s UI (either from Mozilla (unlikely) or from userChrome.css tweaks) and I’m encouraged by progress people on this forum have made.
I’m not a heavy tab user so at most 1-2 tabs is all I have open, especially on a phone. That is good as I do notice the battery draining faster with FF open.
Right now, it’s not super great. It works well enough and is usable, and the interface is really good. It’s just slow to render a page.
This is an old version of GNOME Web though (40.2 vs 44.3 on my desktop PC), so I’m optimistic that with PureOS Crimson we’ll get big improvements to GNOME Web.
As I am typing I noticed this comment and looks like I have something to try.
I really love the “Install Site as Web Application” feature. It’s insane that FF doesn’t really support this directly any more. I’m using only one right now for my Home Assistant. It works well.
I do have one question:
Is it possible at all to hide the bottom and top bar of the browser chrome inside my GNOME Web web app? I don’t really need Back/Forward buttons in Home Assistant, and I don’t need to see the URL up top either.
Reddit and Youtube both get their share of hate from this community and I get it, but I will admit that I am a bit addicted to both
I tried Giara first and gave a it a few tries, but it just crashed all the time for me. I was able to click on maybe one or two posts. Everything else I did would just crash the app.
I then tried Headlines from Flathub. Headlines works(ed) very well. I was able to do pretty much everything I could that my Android did, albeit it a little slower to load.
As of writing this (June 12) the apps have stopped working (as has my Android Reddit client), due to something having to do with Reddit’s leadership being dumb as hell.
I’m just doing it through Firefox now, and it’s ok. The video quality isn’t superb or anything but I can put something on and set the phone down and watch it and I don’t care much if there’s a few skips.
Since this is a computer, I’m able to turn of the screen or switch to another app and let the video play. On Android, I could not do this, the video would pause unless you had it open and the screen on.
I definitely notice this draining the battery but you know what? It’s not that much worse than my Android was.
I played random videos while doing chores yesterday for a couple hours and noticed about 30-40% battery drain. My Android would have been 20-30% loss in that same amount of time.
It helps that I could turn the screen off for chunks of time.
Overall this is a pretty ok experience. It’s usable.
I will be looking at Peertube clients soon.
I’m not big on mobile gaming, so I’m happy that I can do GNOME Sudoku, Animatch, Chess, 2048, and that’s about all I need. They all work as well as anything. I may experiment more in the future but I just don’t think of a phone as a gaming device.
Maybe Dosbox for some point-and-click adventures to play on the Nexdock, who knows.
For the first few years I didn’t care about this feature at all. Eventually I came around though and started wanting a Lapdock or similar. When the Lapdock Kit was announced, I bit. My Android phone didn’t work at all with this so it sat in a drawer until I got my L5.
I was really exited to replace my old laptop (Acer Chromebook running Arch) with this.
After playing around for a few hours I’m happy to say I think my L5 can actually be my new laptop! My old one wasn’t that powerful, so the fact that the L5 isn’t super powerful doesn’t matter much to me.
I can browse the web, do emails, type in a terminal, and do light coding. That’s all I care about. I do real work on my desktop anyways.
If I ever go on a trip, the L5 + Lapdock is everything I would need.
I know this has been beat to death in Purism’s marketing and maybe Kyle’s old posts, but there is really something to having your phone and the device with your “stuff” on it being the same device. Not synced, not streamed, or whatever. Just one device.
This is a fine Mastodon client. No complaints.
I need a specific 2FA app to log in to my work from home. I have yet to try it but I suspect it will work.
I mentioned above that we have a baby. My wife picked an app called Baby Daybook and we are tracking things like feeding, diapers, weight in the app. I don’t like that it’s proprietary (not even any API I could interact with) but I’ll admit that it’s a good app.
But, it requires login via (Google/Facebook/something else I forget) and this isn’t working.
I’m hopeful I can get it working but I’m having problems setting up OpenGapps and MindTheGapps. I need to spend more time on this.
Worst case, I just keep my old phone around the house for the next few months while we still need this app, and use it only for that purpose. But I’m optimistic that if I can get a Google sign-in working, the app will work totally fine on the L5 in Waydroid.
I may try a few other apps in Waydroid (I’m shocked by how smooth and fluid everything works here) but to be honest there’s not much in Android land I care about that I can’t do with native Linux applications now.
Set up the Nextcloud integration for my Calendar and Contacts, and Nextcloud desktop app for syncing files. No issues.
I famously take garbage blurry photos so I wasn’t expecting much here.
The big camera works well enough but takes a little time to render the image.
The selfie-cam (ugh I hate that word) works suprisingly well. Pictures are rendered almost instantly and they come out looking good, at least by my standards. I don’t really need much out of a camera but I’ll be honest, this was better than I thought it would be.
Videos work but also crash the app sometimes. I haven’t tried this much yet.
My own customizations
GNOME Tweaks + following some
gtk.cssexamples on this forum have gotten me to a dark theme with custom backgrounds that make Phosh look really sexy. Editing the Lock screen, Background, and App Drawer background really needs to make it’s way into the Settings app or some other UI.
I don’t like that the phone comes as
purism@pureosby default and wish this was included in the initial setup so you can choose your own.
Changing the hostname is easy.
I also changed my username. I’m aware this is unsupported and I accept the risks if something breaks. One thing I did to hopefully mitigate is create a symlink from
/home/purismto my new home folder.
I temporarily broke Phosh while doing this but was able to get things working (I instructed Phosh to login with a different user before creating the user account. Like a dummy Oops.)
Everything works now though.
As mentioned, I have a 1TB SD card inserted.
It’s split into two partitions.
The first I am using for extra storage. Using bind mounts in
/etc/fstab, I am putting all my Flatpak and Waydroid/Android stuff on the SD. I know both of those can take up a lot of space.
The second partition is music.
GNOME Software/PureOS Store is buggy. It crashes, it gives errors when uninstalling. Nothing that hans’t been reported in the forums. This really needs an update, and I know it’s behind the mainline GNOME Software by quite a bit.
I don’t care as I’m installing things from the terminal, from SSH, from my desktop. But this really needs to be improved, and it’s another thing that I hope will be fixed with PureOS Crimson. This is less important for me since I’m installing through SSH anyways, but more important for people who “don’t want to learn the terminal in order to use PureOS” or whatever.
Like this one should be prioritized.
There were a few freezes and even a couple hard crash/reboots in the first few hours of setting up. Since running updates, I’ve noticed almost no issues save for a little jank here and there.
Bluetooth with my headphones works but it did drop on me once. I noticed that Wifi also went out when this happened.
The Play/Pause works to pause various apps, but it does not work to resume play.
Volume up/down do not seem to work at all.
(On the plus side, handling audio when plugging/unplugging the AUX works infinitely better than it did on my last 3 Android phones, which all had weird quirks whenever something was plugged in or unplugged.)
Opening folders vs selecting them in Nautilus/Files is tough. Right click/context menu is tough. Edit: Apparently opening folders works well in Grid view but not in List view.
As mentioned in a few places, there is a small amount of crashiness in some apps.
A little patience is needed but really, it isn’t that bad. It all depends on the app, and the ones I’m using currently all work well.
Yeah it’s a bit warm sometimes and yeah battery isn’t great. The warmth isn’t really a problem so much as an idiosyncrasy.
Battery - if you use this heavily I think it will need a mid-day charge. (Or I can swap in a battery, in 2023, whoulda thunk). If you use this lightly and with Suspend enabled, it seems like it should make it most of a day.
Minor gripe - when you send a message in Chatty, it doesn’t scroll down. So you need to scroll down in the top pane to see the message you just sent. This is hopefully an easy thing to fix and I may submit an Issue if there isn’t one already.
I really wish there were good ways to create folders/groupings of apps in the app drawer, or to be able to organize into pages. Also a way to re-order favorites without removing and re-adding them.
Like I said, long-winded, and yet I’m sure I’m missing things.
My experience so far though has been pretty positive and I’m really optimistic about improvements to come. There are rough edges, there are paper cuts, there are oddities, and there are quirks. But it’s pretty awesome that I was able to set this up and have it daily driver ready within 24-48 hours.