As the title says, I will be cancelling my pre-order. I have read that customers have to jump though hoops just to get refund, so I hope, that I will get it. Bellow I will list all the reasons, why I do this. Before reading this, I would ask you to remove your pink glasses and only look at this as factual, practical and functional aspects of this. Please leave your biases and “It is the best, because phone runs full GNU/Linux” behind.
In short I believe that:
- Purism doesn’t and will not have resources to make L5 a practical device (aka matching Android in features etc), IF they doesn’t go AOSP route.
- Purism is heading in wrong direction in GUI design (no apps or widgets on homescreen etc). This is what happens when you have strong GNOME3 biases and have no resources to hire many regular user testers and listen to their unbiased feedback.
- L5 hardware is absurdly overpriced and inadequate for a “convergent desktop computer”. 3gb ram and 32gb flash in 2021 for $900+ is spit in the face. I understand that Purism have to cover development costs and have to cut corners, but there is a line and it is crossed. Unlike with the SoC, Purism could have used better specs.
- You don’t need GNU/Linux (which is missing critical and hard to implement features for a modern smartphone) to make a freedom respecting, privacy respecting, secure smartphone. AOSP (with other free and open source community made software) have everything needed to do that.
Here are my explanations in long:
I also want to point out that I have a Pinephone (the 32gb flash, 3gb ram version, with Mobian) to follow L5 development. I have actually used Phosh and I can’t express how bad it is, even when compared to very old Android versions. It is incredibly clunky, you have to try it to understand. Development is extremely slow. It is missing critical features, even after being in development since 2018, but that’s not all. Phosh have wrong DNA to start with, let me explain. Purism copied very backwards GNOME’s GUI choice, that there is no stuff on desktop (aka no apps on homescreen or widgets) (Aesthetics over functionality is bad). This doesn’t sound as an issue, but it makes phone painful to use, because it takes some seconds to find and open the app, do that many times per day and you will notice problem yourself. No wonder why company behind Pinephone choosed KDE (to be used as default GUI on phone) over Phosh despite Phosh being better funded.
Another Purism’s selling point of L5 is convergence. Ask yourself, would you REALLY would want to use a computer with 3gb ram, 32gb storage and a weak-ass cpu (performance is between Raspberry pi 3 and 4). I have RPi4 and it is slow as hell, laptop from 2010 is faster and lags less. Would you really want to place your phone on the dock when your are home when you could just use your main computer? I don’t know about you, but I am moving my phone around the home or room.
AOSP = Android open source project (the regular official Android, but without Google stuff and other bs) (yes, that’s right, the Android itself is free and open source software)
If I would have tasked to create a privacy and freedom respecting phone, I would either take AOSP, adding cool privacy stuff and put it on the phone or take AOSP GUI and port to GNU/Linux. In that way I would not have to reinvent the wheel. Just imagine the work to get Phosh (and GTK, compositor etc) to Android GUI level.
I think, that it is stupid, that Purism didn’t take AOSP as a base. They would fast and easily archived their goal of usable, freedom respecting phone, which is their end goal (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUiYmtGL1EE).
There is this Bittium phone (https://webshop.bittium.com/product/70/bittium-tough-mobile-2). It is almost 2x as expensive as regular L5. This shows that there is a strong demand for secure and privacy respecting Android based phone. And that phone is all closed source and locked down, they even claim that non-rootable is a feature. L5 would sell like hotcakes with it’s hardware kill switches, replaceable modems (useful to easily change IMEI) and open source drivers. Everything could be auditable and everything would work. L5 is the world’s first and only phone with such features. I also long time ago asked Purism, if they will support AOSP and they said that they have no interest and there would be issues getting RYF certificate (https://ryf.fsf.org/) for some reason.
Side notes (only slightly related to topic of this post):
Right now if you want privacy respecting phone, you should buy, ironically, Google Pixel phone and install AOSP based rom. CalyxOS would be a good choice. GrapheneOS is very hardened, but it is noticeably slower because of that. And Google Pixel because these phones receive updates for very long time and are have the best rom support. Of course, you can also use other phones. LineageOS is for you then, just unfortunately it doesn’t include default phone camera app, so image and video quality sucks. Another critical feature what these roms have over regular OEM roms is that you can natively turn off internet access per each app. iOS users have enjoyed this luxury for many years, but I doubt that Google will implement this feature, because of conflict of interest. Of course, drivers are not open source, but I think, that it is good compromise right now.
While following Phosh development and GNU/Linux phones in general, I noticed that some users just use these OSes only because it is cool that you can run GNU/Linux on a phone. Here are few examples.
I saw users talking and using some old ass ancient Nokia device with qwert keyboard and saying that it is good and usable, because it runs full GNU/Linux.
I also saw one big distro developer saying or doing something with always-on proximity sensor (I can’t find that post anymore) like there was no problem with that and it was a feature. If you put phone in landscape, your fingers will be on proximity sensor and screen will turn black, this CAN’T be turned off in settings. It should only happen when call is happening, but it happens all the time. When I pointed out this issue on Reddit, I was told just to blacklist the proximity sensor in kernel. When I told that it is a bug, not a feature, my comment got down voted a lot. If I remember correctly, Purism recently fixed this bs.
I have seen many such examples, which are similar to these. It reminds me the hipsters, who use unpractical things just to be cool or different. Like driving old ass bicycle with big wheel (and crashing), typing notes at university with loud mechanical typewriter etc. These are real examples btw, there are videos of that.
I also want to point out that I am not some outsider, which still uses Windows, or god forbid Windows 10 (on Purism subreddit I have seen users with L5 which still uses Windows 10). I started using GNU/Linux (Ubuntu) in 2016 and switched to it for full time in 2018, when Lord Gaben released Steamplay (proton). No longer need Windows to play Windows exclusive games on GNU/Linux (I know that Wine exists, but it is not convenient).