The future of Librem 5 looks bleak

I had this phone with me for over 2 years now but very little has changed.

  1. The battery does not last longer than 10 hours.

  2. When i turn on the mobile data it doesn’t actually do anything because none of my apps get internet connection.

  3. GPS module cannot interact with Gnome maps or Pure Maps. Gnome maps works only when I’m connected to wifi.

  4. Camera can take pictures now which is a big improvement but there is no auto-focus and it makes no sound when picture is taken. So I don’t even know when the picture was taken.

  5. When I plug L5 into my PC it doesn’t give me an option to access its storage. So I can’t easily move files between my devices. Regardless whether I use Windows or Linux.

  6. One thing that really pisses me off is that L5 cannot read contacts from my SIM card. I have over 100 contacts and I really don’t have the patience to re-enter all them into L5 manually. It’s shocking that it cannot do something that dumb Nokia 3310 from 23 years ago can do. The whole point of saving contacts to SIM is that when I get a new phone I just move the SIM over and I can start calling/texting people without having to manually punch in their telefone numbers.

To make things worse in USA some network providers have whitelist of devices and Librem 5 is not on that list so large portion of americans cannot make phone calls or send SMS with their existing SIM cards. I don’t live in USA but this is a large disadvantage and Purism should do everything in their power to get this resolved.

Now you can start to understand why people are reluctant to buy this phone. I see so many posts from new users who immediately want to sell their L5 because it doesn’t meet their expectations. To be fair to them I’m not surprised. I work as IT helpdesk and even I get fed up trying to make things work on L5 it just gets tiring. There is no parallel universe in which you will get the normal users to type commands into terminal on their phone. I’m sorry but it’s not going to happen.

When it comes to normies convenience triumphs everything else. It’s unfortunate but that’s the reality. If Purism wants this project to succeed, normies need to buy this phone. To them it doesn’t matter why things don’t work or who’s fault it is. They just want a reliable phone and nothing else matters. For this project to succeed it needs more money and to get more money more people need to buy this phone. However the current state of the software is making this very difficult and the $1300 price tag isn’t helping either.

Taking into account that Purism’s reputation has been virtually destroyed due to refusing refunds in timely manner I struggle to see how they are going to turn this around.

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With modem on, it lasts between 5-20 hours depending on usage patterns.

Mobile data works fine. If it does not for you, that’s probably specific to your SIM, carrier or your configuration.

It can and it does. Catching a cold fix can take a long time as it does not use assisted GPS techniques, but it’s being worked on to speed it up down to just a few seconds.

There is auto-focus and there’s an animated spinner that starts spinning when the picture is being taken.

There’s an Ethernet connection exposed over USB which can be used to transfer files. MTP is not being worked on at the moment, but may be in the future.

SIM contact support is not planned. There exist scripts to retrieve contacts from SIM via modem’s AT interface and import them into GNOME Contacts.

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Experience (and expectations) vary.

  • Battery over 10h should be possible now, but your own use patterns (like heavy wifi use) may limit that
  • I have no problem with mobile data, works perfect
  • The GPS is a bit iffy (as in, not the most sensitive or fastest) but it definitely gets position and interact with Pure Maps (at least)
  • Camera quietness is a plus to me and you can see from the screen when it starts to save the image. That being said, there is still much work with the camera
  • Accessing directly the phone as a media might be nice but you can get the file transfer part with apps (and console commands)
  • SIM contacts is a bother. It would be the easiest method of transferring basic info. That being said, it would only transfer basic info and nothing else. On the other hand, I think it was said in one thread that it’s a feature that was dropped a decade ago, I think? Can be done by hand via command line.
  • USA telecoms and fees and limits suck (wellcome to somewhere sane)

The biggest point: L5 is not the same as a “regular” phone - the problem is expecting different.
On that front, the responsibility lies on all parties and is more of a Round Table category discussion.
L5 is however getting better, so the future is not so bleak. It also will never be like the others.

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Have you kept your phone updated? I personally think there have been great strides given the relatively limited developer resources at Purism’s disposal, but I don’t want to diminish your own experience. I’m sorry you’ve felt frustrated in the product’s growth.

This is strange. What carrier do you have? I am located in the USA and can only speak from experience using Google Fi and the Librem SIMple plan, but both worked for me without fail. Did the mobile data work at any point with the modem enabled via HKS? If so, can you recall any context around when it stopped working? Do you have anything else network-related configured on your phone, such as VPNs, etc? I ask because it’s good to know how many variables/points of failure we’re dealing with.

Has it ever worked when not on wifi? It may be as simple as a wiring issue, but you may need to contact support@puri.sm if it is a firmware issue or a faulty module altogether.

Have you updated the software lately? From my experience, the app can be a bit temperamental and stop auto-focusing sometimes, but I just tested it and it did auto-focus on some objects at various distances from the sensor.

Good news! This issue is being tracked for millipixels and the feature has been merged in the upstream megapixels app for this feature.

I have the same experience. The L5 does not expose itself as a mass storage device to a “host computer.” I put that into quotes because, as it is a full computer on its own, how does the phone know if it is the host or not? There would need to be a setting similar to Android to denote if it is controlling or controlled by the connected device.

In the meantime, what are you using to move files around? What is your preferred use case? There are dozens of methods to move files around and I am sure there are at least a couple alternative data transfer methods that could suit your needs.

What I had done years ago is transcribe chunks of numbers at a time into whatever other contact app I was using, then delete the contact off the SIM. I know it’s not ideal, but it’s one of those things where I shrugged and moved on. There may be phone outlets that can easily copy the contacts off of a SIM and provide it in some other format. I assume.

The number of Librem 5 devices in the wild is such a relatively small number that it is underneath the noise floor to large companies such as Verizon, etc. This will likely persist until adoption of these phones is large enough that it affects their wallet in a non-trivial way. Other than outreach or lobbying for systemic changes in this regard, what do you feel that Purism can do about this?

True, to a degree. There are countless times where Windows terminal/powershell commands are required to fix something and Windows; if the fix exists and it is valuable enough to a “normal user”, most of them will do it. But yes, this should be the exception and not the rule and, eventually, we will collectively get to the point where CLI commands are rarely used in the 90th percentile of use cases.

I agree. Convenience, accessibility, and availability is key for mass adoption.

I would actually argue that Purism has already succeeded in providing a phone where others (PinePhone, PostmarketOS, etc) are also benefiting from their contributions to FOSS. Obviously, mass adoption would greatly accelerate growth of the L5, but keep in mind that a significant portion of the cost of the phone (AFAIK) goes to R&D.

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I didn’t know this. Nice! Where is this configured on the L5? What network interface should I expect to see on the connected device? I connected my Librem Mini to the L5 and do not see an additional interface within ip a.

It’s a CDC-NCM gadget, seen as usb0 on the phone side. There’s also a CDC-ACM gadget providing serial console over USB.

That’s dmesg from a host PC after connecting the phone to it:

[329856.796477] usb 4-1: new SuperSpeed USB device number 15 using xhci_hcd
[329856.817836] usb 4-1: New USB device found, idVendor=316d, idProduct=4c05, bcdDevice= 6.03
[329856.817849] usb 4-1: New USB device strings: Mfr=1, Product=2, SerialNumber=3
[329856.817854] usb 4-1: Product: Librem 5
[329856.817858] usb 4-1: Manufacturer: Purism, SPC
[329856.817862] usb 4-1: SerialNumber: 0123456789
[329856.821299] cdc_acm 4-1:1.0: ttyACM1: USB ACM device
[329856.851641] cdc_ncm 4-1:1.2: MAC-Address: 92:98:a1:f1:c9:10
[329856.852183] cdc_ncm 4-1:1.2 usb0: register 'cdc_ncm' at usb-0000:39:00.0-1, CDC NCM (NO ZLP), 92:98:a1:f1:c9:10
[329856.975851] cdc_ncm 4-1:1.2 enp57s0u1i2: renamed from usb0
[329857.116079] IPv6: ADDRCONF(NETDEV_CHANGE): enp57s0u1i2: link becomes ready
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A long time ago when i was still a 100% Apple and iPhone user i have synced all contacts with CardDAV using either SIM or other contacts. Once I switched to the L5 I used CardDAV again to import the contacts. Gnome is working on CalDAV, and CardDAV functionality to have that part of the accounts you can setup, now that doesn’t exist and you have to use email Evolution app and install that. So yes a big pain, but also possible to workaround it if you still have your old phone and it connects to WIFI at least?

Also if you have your old phone Android or iOS you can export your contacts from SIM, then figure out how to import them on the L5 if they are in a acceptable contact file format. The transition from Android and iOS takes some thought, and Google and Apple has done a good job of making migration a little easier with apps published in each platform, I am wondering if that could not just be an initiative (wider initiative in Linux) to support and easy the transitioning of users from the main platforms to Linux? Absolutely a gap there.

On the surface it should be straight forward (while it isn’t):

  1. Copy images from cloud and phone (zip them) and export to SD card or other cloud storage
  2. Copy contacts from phone and SIM and cloud (zip them) and export to file
  3. Copy settings and preferences from phone to file
  4. Copy apps and app settings from phone to file

Import 1, 2, 3, 4 compatible with phone information is compatible with to respective picture, video, contacts, settings and app configuration folders. However, there is no universal ISO that defines what those specifications and formats should be, mhuuuuu. (you can blame Apple, and Google for not publishing those and making data transfer interoperable by the way)

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:astonished:

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It used to be cool to be! I am still 50% Apple, just using their Hardware to run Linux, since their hardware rocks, too bad Linux can’t run natively on Apple Mobile hardware, but it can on Desktop, and Laptop hardware.

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working on it Carlos, that a long term project I started about 5 years ago (getting rid of apple addiction). When i was still using a Windows PC in ~1995 all attempts of using Linux were say terrible (because you couldn’t connect to the internet easily, plus I don’t think it supported playing Doom a non-starter)- that burned me for a long time. It took another 20 years to convince me its ok to try again, :stuck_out_tongue:

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Currently, using this phone would make your typical Android or Apple user very unhappy. It’s really an enthusiast/nerd phone at this time, with rough edges. However, its usability is vastly improved over the past 2 years, and I have moth-balled my iPhone. I carry my L5 daily now. Overall, it is working well enough for me.

The L5 needs a lot more software (and hardware?) improvements before it begins to appeal to a technically-deficient person.

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i am curious for what gnu/lnx are you using on apple pc?

Picked up an Apple Trashcan Desktop MacPro 2013, it is the one plagued by overheating and everyone hates it so it was cheap! It is ridiculously more powerful than the 2011 MacBook Pro that i used before and about 1/3 of the price (the MacBook Pro 17" also was plagued by overheating and frying the GPU, which ultimately spelled the doom of my laptop), anyways I run Ubuntu. I tried to install PureOS but no Cigar.

I should say i keep all apps on Ubuntu aligned with what i have running on the L5 except using only Flatpak apps, to ensure interoperability.

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thanks

for pure os you need gnu hardwares. like librems or raptors.

Currently I wonder if that can change with Bookworm and having a repository for all drivers regardless of license if needed would alert if it is going to install?

Ubuntu only alerts on one non-free driver on the trashcan, the wifi driver, and i am not using it and it’s not required for install. I think the issue is to allow for Legacy EFI boot processes to succeed and precede in PureOS and bootstrap the remaining boot ontop (Ubuntu does that without nuking the EFI partition). That way old hardware can get initialized.

Secure boot cannot be accomplished this way in Ubuntu, but the key is it works.

i think that apple it is a trashcan. :joy:

yeah debian it is not more gnu because cheaper-opensource-programmers plus ubuntu, so yeah you will be ok installing in apple machine.

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@Poseidon Is your phone running Amber or Byzantium

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Contacts on a SIM? Maybe you can copy them using punch cards.

My son uses Linux Mint on an old Mac Book Pro – great experience after installing the proprietary NVidia drivers.

If I ever get my hands on an M1 or M2 Mac, I will definitely install Asahi Linux.

On my MacBook Pro 8,1 (13-inch, Early 2011) I am running MX Linux KDE ( https://mxlinux.org/ ).

Current version:
MX-21.3_KDE_x64 Wildflower September 18 2022
base: Debian GNU/Linux 11 (bullseye)