Why librem 5 is so thick?

i noticed it is thicker than other linux phones, but why ?

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See the Community FAQ 1.2 (and maybe 1.9). Mostly because due to emphasis on free/open source software running on open hardware (instead of an integrated mobile SoC). See, for instance, Solving the first FSF RYF hurdle for the Librem 5 – Purism

Have also a peek at the several earlier threads related to this topic:


Hi lwhrty, welcome to the forum.
I have no answer to your question, but I like the thickness. It gives me a good grip while holding it in my hand.


I would argue that for mobile devices in general weight and volume are two relevant factors and should be minimal for sake of portability. I would like the phone to have less volume and weight.

That said I agree :slightly_smiling_face: that for a phone it is also a factor how good it can be hold in hand and how good it can be grabbed especially without dropping it.

The question is: Can the phone be less thick and heavy while still have a good grip?

Also many of us would like to protect the phone with some kind of case, which should be possible to have good grip, but it adds even more volume to the phone.


I have more issues with the display size than the thickness or weight. Try to suspend your device manually one-handed, especially if you usually hold your device with left hand (you have to reach top right corner). But I also don’t want to protect my device with another case around. Maybe that’s the main reason why people complain about it.

To answer the question:
The real issue is the closed technology industry. There is just no space for much more improvements while not giving up the goals of openness and fully control (especially about hardware). As far as I know the Pinephone is not on the same level about these 2 points, which allows them to use more common SoCs and therefor a thinner and lighter phone.

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Not portable? What are you, 4 inches tall? Of all the nonsense to post, you decide to make a point that the the L5 is not portable? Dear lord.

Here is a case that fits: Silicone Universal Smartphone Case Bumper Corners Anti-shock Kickstand Black | eBay

I have it, works great.

People keep on making this nonsense observation about the L5 volume and I want to make a post that dismisses this sort of opinion as the nonsense that it is. A few points:

  1. Others have posted reasons for why it is the volume and weight that it is. Would Purism have made the device weigh less and occupy less volume if they could? Maybe, but then again, they did choose to go with a metal frame when they could have use a plastic frame … so who knows.

  2. However, the larger point that comments like yours miss is that the L5 is OVER-ENGINEERED.

I believe that the correct perspective on the L5 is that it is OVER-ENGINEERED. Take your phone out, put it under a good light and just look at the quality of manufacturing, the quality of fitment, quality of design, quality of materials choice and so on. Not a single burr in sight, not a single milling mark in sight (I haven’t opened up mine yet though so who knows I guess), not a single plastics moulding seam in sight and so on. It is of an astoundingly great quality.

Then consider the engineering choices they made. They CHOSE to put hardware switches on the outside of the case (unlike the Pinephone!) so that you can daily those switches as necessary. They CHOSE to use METAL for the frame of the phone which is amazing. While they probably did not have much of a choice about the depth of the device, having the device this deep is actually GREAT not only for holding the device but for fitment / placement of the hardware switches because the metal case will protect the switches and allow for finger pressure to be distributed between the switches and the case reducing wear and tear on them.

If anything, the L5 is an over engineered and the volume of the device is not only portable but demonstrates WHY mobile phones should not be shallow.

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I did not say that it is not portable. I just said that weight and volume are two relevant factors. And I said that I would like it to have less volume and weight. There is no complaint in there.

But now I am saying that the current size and weight of the phone actually does limits portability. Even if it sounds silly:

  1. A heavy device can pull pants down.
  2. A big device doesn’t fit into small pockets.
  3. A heavy device can totter around e.g. in a jackets pocket when you move and collide with the environment.

Just some facts. Of course the Librem 5 is still quite portable.

And in case of a drop the collision energy is less for lighter devices than for heavy ones.

There is really no complaint in there. It is just that it could be a bit more comfortable for my individual case. And I totally accept if it is of perfect size and weight for others. Also I see why it’s got the size and and weight it has and that it was a huge accomplishment of Purism to build that thang with so many challenges solved. That can’t be underestimated. And even if there will be a Librem 5 successor it may be hard to optimize weight and volume. Although maybe more customers would show interest in the device.

And thank you for the link to the case. I’ll try to get the same product on the domestic market. :slight_smile:


Editied: removed to much personal info

People differ in so many ways: e.g. size, weight, number of teeth, bones and muscles even and all of this has consequences. Sometimes only tiny things that seem silly to even mention but can actually get really annoying when you are experiencing them every day. So where exactly is the nonsense in what I said? I think I spotted the nonsense in this thread already.

Of course this all is not the fault of anyone here or Purism in special.


The answer is in the: Nokia N900. :wink:


I’m giving you a bit of a hard time. This is a great reply. Just blame the nonsense on me.



Yes, but the N900 had a slide out keyboard.

To get back to why the L5 is so thick, I think part of it is having replaceable components.

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I think maybe “Linux phones” would include any android phone, because android is based on Linux. In comparison to android phones in general, the Purism lacks the engineering resources of Google or Samsung, so I think some of the thickness can be blamed on that. Also, components had to be separated out to enable the hardware kill switch functionality and keeping the cellular modem chip to itself. Removable/replaceable/repairable parts also account for some of the size difference.

On the other hand, if you mean something else by “Linux phones”, e.g. “Mainline Linux phones” or “GNU/Linux phones”, I wonder, what alternatives are you comparing the Librem 5 to? I only know of the pinephone in terms of current offerings. Yes, the pinephone is thinner than the Librem 5, but as an owner of both devices, I can tell you the Librem 5 is a much better device.

I’m curious, what are the other Linux phones you’re thinking of?

  1. A heavy wallet can also pull down your pants and they can weight much more. How do you handle this?
  2. That does not depend on thickness/volume, but on screen size in general and about “too little pockets” of trousers makers (especially woman clothes). As I said above, I also think it’s too big (but maybe also needed for battery and other components).
    And even if it was not the nice way to tell, but intergalacticllama is true in the point of Android devices that are even bigger this way. You can double the volume and it would still fit in most pockets where L5 also fits before, just in reduce screen size a bit, but make it even thicker. On the other hand adding another 1cm to one of the 2 screen directions makes it much more harder to fit into pocket.
    The real issue here is the lack of alternatives at this point. So we have to live with what we get at this point. That may changes in future with more phone makers allowing GNU/Linux software to run native on their devices.
  3. And a lighter one may would use a plastic frame which breaks on first drop (even on softer grounds) or would use 1700mAh battery which means 3 times less energy to survive the day.

I really understand your points. But at the end of the day there is not much space for improvements. At least not yet. The time will come, but pioneers (that we’re in some way) have to live with troubles.

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Yes, but I think that most of the time the L5 is actually heavier than my wallet most of the time, although I did not measure that. In case that there are many coins in the wallet it may be the other way around, but that’s only temporarily and rarely the case.

That argument with the pocket size was more general. There is a correlation between screen size and volume. There is a correlation between pocket size and the size of the person. I think for some pockets my personal limit is reached, but it is okay. And yes, Android devices can have the same problem because of the size of the screen.

Yes. There are good reasons for why it is like it is. And I did not even think about trade-offs to reduce weight or volume by sacrificing any other feature. It was more like a wish for a genie, so that the L5 would get a bit more comfortable for me.

Again I did not complain. And the weight and volume are perfect for others, that’s totally okay for me. I would even be happy for them. :slight_smile:


I read it above, no worries. But I wanted to share another view about these points which are maybe also interesting for people who just read this without participating on discussion. Btw I usually have a lot of coins in my wallet (privacy reason) and so L5 is usually lighter to me. :wink:


Since nobody has answered the original poster’s question on this thread, let me do it, but if you need more detail, see the links in the second post.

All of the integrated systems on a chip (SoC’s) for mobile devices like Snapdragon, Exynos, Dimensity, Tiger, Apple A-series, etc. require proprietary software to control components like the the WiFi and cellular modem. All of these SoC’s use Android kernels and drivers, so Linux is run on top of them through libhybris on the Volla Phone 22 and X23, F(x)tec Pro1 X, Planet Computers Gemini PDA, Cosmo Communicator, Sony Xperia X/XA2/10/10+/10 II (with Sailfish OS). The only Linux phones that are comparable to the Librem 5 in design are the PinePhone and PinePhone Pro (and rvPhone if it ever gets produced)

Purism decided to use 6 chips instead of one SoC, because it allows the Librem 5 to use only free/open source drivers. It also allows the Librem 5 to have hardware kill switches (HKS) which turn off individual chips. The total surface area of those 6 chips is about 10 times as large as a 400-series Snapdragon. The Librem 5 with a bunch of separate chips, HKS and a smartcard reader requires about twice as much circuit board area and three times more components than a standard smartphone. It also makes the Librem 5 less energy efficient, because the 6 separate chips use larger planar node sizes (28-40 nm), whereas a modern mobile SoC has a FinFET node size between 3 and 14 nm and its integrated design allows for better energy efficiency.

Purism could have saved quite a bit of space on the main circuit board if it had used DIP switches like the PinePhone instead of three HKS on the side of the case, which requires a thick case. The main reason why the Librem 5 is so thick, however, is the decision to use replaceable WiFi/Bluetooth and cellular modem cards, because those two M.2 slots add 4-5 extra mm to the thickness. Also the decision to cover all the components with internal plastic panels adds another 0.5 mm to the thickness. Those internal plastic panels add a bit of extra splash protection and give a place for screws, which can be painted with glitter polish to detect tampering with the components.

If Purism hadn’t decided to use two M.2 cards for the replaceable Wifi/BT and cellular modem, and the internal plastic cover over components, it probably could have made the Librem 5 about 10 mm thick, which is only 2-3 mm thicker than the standard smartphone. Of course, Purism would not have been able to fit a 4500 mAh battery into a 10 mm thick case, so the battery life would have been worse with a thinner case.


Okay … I’m a nobody. Good to know. :smile:


Maybe it was a reference to

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