After more than 2.5 years of waiting, I have finally received my Librem 5! Here are my initial thoughts:
High quality build, COMPLETELY UNMATCHED hardware privacy features, blazing speed.
I have been using the Pinephone as my daily driver for over a year at this point, I think, and I have put a lot of effort into trying different configurations and making it usable for me. I got to the point where it was basically usable, but the experience was still not great. What I would say regarding the Pinephone, is that I am very thankful for it, as it remains the only reasonably accessible GNU/Linux-first mobile device on the market. Pine64 has done a great job of getting devices into the hands of people who want them. Still, I could not fairly recommend the Pinephone to my friends or family. The quality of the device is below what I could call “good.”
While using the Pinephone, I have gotten used to sxmo as a mobile interface. I love sxmo and would recommend it to anyone willing to learn a new way to use a phone that is a bit more tech-y. So, after unboxing the Librem 5, I first removed the battery and inserted a microSD card flashed with postmarketOS+sxmo. I plugged in the L5 and held the down-volume button to boot from the microSD card. I had a new OS running on my Librem 5 in a few minutes.
The build quality of the Librem 5 feels great. People have commented on the heft of the L5, but I don’t find it super heavy. I have handled the Fairphone 4, and I think it is a similar weight. The metal frame feels solid, and the buttons and kill switches all do their jobs as they’re supposed to.
From there, for me, it was basically super-speed bliss. While using the pinephone (which is… slow), I have gotten used to mostly using more efficient tools (w3m web browser, in-terminal mpv for playing media, st terminal, etc), so, many of the tasks for which I am using the L5 happen nearly instantaneously. Even dino, which is on the bulkier/slower side of applications that I use, works beautifully. I knew that the Librem 5 would be a step up for me in terms of performance, but it has truly exceeded my expectations. My initial assessment is that everything I need just works flawlessly:
SSH Client: Perfect.
Web Browsing (w3m): Perfect.
Hardware buttons and touch screen: Perfect.
Hardware kill switches: Perfect.
Camera: Does not work with pmOS+sxmo
Calls (dino/XMPP/jmp.chat): Perfect.
Texts (dino/XMPP/jmp.chat): Perfect.
Bluetooth: does not work with pmOS+sxmo
Bluetooth and camera would be nice to have (and I could have them by switching to PureOS), but they are not very important to me right now. I was already using the Pinephone as my daily driver without using either of those features.
Finally, Purism has made it possible to have a convenient mobile device that does not compromise freedom or security. In my mind, no other device meets this criteria right now. Of course, I appreciate the efforts that have come before. For example, CalyxOS allows people to use a freer, safer OS on android devices, but CalyxOS is still built almost entirely with Google code (AOSP). CalyxOS and all other Android forks still have MANY features designed by Google to limit people’s freedom and security and to facilitate Google’s stalk-and-control-humans-for-profit business model. A different (good!) solution is postmarketOS installed on an Android device. However, this also has some drawbacks including that none of the best supported Android models have a removable battery or any kill switches.
Among mobile devices, only the Librem 5 has a convenient set of kill switches for turning off all radios, cameras, microphones, and other sensors turned off in lockdown mode. In terms of both quality and performance, the Librem 5 easily outclasses its only competition (Pinephone) in the GNU/Linux-first phone market.
To me, the Librem 5 is a great success. Some loud voices on a Google-owned video platform (YouTube) have recently been very critical of Purism, calling them a SCAM, while also shilling hard for GrapheneOS, an OS that only officially supports phones literally made by Google. I cannot endorse Purism’s approach to refunds or shipping time estimates. But Purism is not the scam. The scam is that if you use an iPhone, Apple and other companies use that iPhone to stalk you and record information about how you live without your knowledge or consent. The scam is that if you use Android or an Android fork, Google has designed out functionality of that device (e.g. root access) that you could use to protect yourself from Google relentlessly stalking you. Too many people have bought into the scam of locked-down mobile devices for too long.
Thank you, everyone working hard at Purism, for creating a real alternative that enables freedom and security. It has been a long wait, but I have finally received my Librem 5, and it has exceeded my expectations.