Will the Librem 5 be a white elephant or the first in a wave?

For another project, I compiled a list of the mobile phone models that contained innovations or reached milestones in the mobile industry.

Looking through the list, I was struck by how the innovations in mobile phones fall into a few basic categories:

  • White elephants that do something innovative, but few other models copy them. Ex: Solar panels on phone, double-twisting cases, UV sensors, ethical supply chain, optical joysticks,
  • Way ahead of their time. It takes the rest of the industry years to start copying them. Ex: IBM Simon, 9:18 and 9:21 aspect ratios in screens, ToF cameras, fingerprint readers, GPS, non-replaceable batteries,
  • Minor waves. These inspire some copies, but then they die off. Ex: Sliding QWERTY keyboards, IR blasters, unibody and milled metal cases, 3D displays,
  • Sustained subcategory: These inspire copies, but their innovation never becomes dominant. Ex: ANT+, heart rate sensors, SpO2 sensors, pico-projectors, NFC, virtual reality goggles, laser auto-focus, styluses, rugged models, gaming phones, advanced cooling,
  • Major waves that have died or are dying. Ex: partial flip phones, clamshells, sliders, physical keys pads, infrared communication,
  • Major waves that dominate the industry. Ex: thinner cases, glass cases, phablets, taller screens, bezelless design, screen notches and bullet punches, multiple lenses,

Here is the full list:

Model Date Released Importance
Motorola DynaTAC 8000X 1983-10 First commercial portable cell phone
Technophone EXCELL PC105T 1986 First pocket cell phone
Motorola MicroTAC 9800X 1989-04-25 Smallest and lightest phone of its time, advertised as fitting in a jacket pocket; first flip phone (flip cover over key pad)
Orbitel 901 1992 First GSM (900 MHz) phone (bag-portable) to receive official approval (May 1992); first to receive a SMS text message
Motorola International 3200 1992-09-03 First hand-portable digital cell phone
Nokia 1011 1992-11-09 First widely-produced, hand-portable GSM phone; made Nokia the largest mobile phone seller
Hagenuk MT-900 1992 First soft keys (programable keys that change function); first to include an answering machine
Nokia 2110 1993-02 announced First musical ringtone (“Nokia tune”); popularized soft keys; lightest GSM phone and largest display when launched; 20M sold
Motorola m300 1993 First to support GSM 1800 MHz (Mercury One2One network)
Hagenuk MT-2000 1994 First internal antenna
Ericsson EH237 / NH 237 1994 Lightest ETACS phone; over 1M sold by 2015-03
Sony CM-111 1994 Most compact and lightest phone in 1994, with unique flip down microphone
Siemens S1 1994 Siemen’s first GSM phone; first phone (along with IBM Simon) with game (Tetris variant called “Klotz”), but hidden due to patent fears
IBM Simon Personal Communicator 1994-08-16 First “smartphone” combining phone y PDA; first touch screen; first stylus; first expandable storage (PMCMIA Flash RAM); first 3rd party apps; first RS-232; first game (Scramble); 50k sold
Motorola StarTAC 8500 1996-01-03 First vibrator (ERM, “Vibracall”); first clam shell design; the StarTAC series sold 60 million units; smallest and lightest in 1996; inspired by Star Trek communicator
NEC / DoCoMo Digital Mova N103 Hyper 1996-05 First selectable ring tones
Denso / IDO Digital Minimo D319 1996-09 First custom ring tone (input by user)
Motorola MicroTAC International 8700 1996 First (outside of Japan) with an optional lithium-ion battery (SNN4383)
Ericsson GA628 1996 First customizable phone with a replaceable color panel around the key pad
Hagenuk (Toshiba) TCP-6000 1996 First to allow user to customize interface by defining their own menu structure; built-in help to avoid using manual
Ericsson GA628 1996 First customizable phone with a replaceable color panel around the key pad
Nokia 8110 1996-09-09 announced First “slider” form factor; curved shape known as the “banana phone”; first LCD to display graphics; first dynamic font size; popularized the internal antenna
Nokia 9000 Communicator 1996-09-19 First clamshell smartphone; first physical QWERTY keyboard; first web browser (text only)
Ericson GS88 “Penelope” 1997-01 Prototype coined the term “smartphone;” only 200 produced
Siemens S10 1997 First color screen
Siemens S10 active 1997 First outdoor phone
Nokia 6110 1998-01 First Nokia phone with infrared port; first with Snake–most popular game of its time, installed on 350M phones; first phone using ARM processor; first with Series 20 interface; first with different ringtones to identify callers
Nokia 8810 1998-03-18 announced Popularized the use of internal antennas; first phone with style as the primary consideration (the designer, Frank Nuovo, later created the Vertu line)
Alcatel OT COM 1998 First touch screen without stylus and no physical buttons
Nokia 5110 (aka 5146) 1998-04-12 announced First replaceable faceplates to change color (“Xpress-on” covers), starting trend for changeable cases
Bosch World 718 1998-06 First dual band phone (GSM 900/1900 MHz for use in Europe & US)
Nokia 3210 1999-03-18 announced 160M sold (4th highest)
Ericsson T28 1999 Best-selling model in N. America for a while; one of the first with lithium polymer battery
Palm VII 1999-05 Second PDA (after IBM Simon) with wireless (Mobitex network); first phone with handwriting recognition
Kyocera VP-210 Visual Phone 1999-05 First camera (front selfie) and first video phone; sent 2 fps over cell network or photos in email
Benefon Esc! 1999 First GPS; first route tracking with loadable maps; early water and shock resistant phone
Siemens SL10 1999 First sliding key pad
Motorola L7089 Timeport 1999 First tri-band GSM (900, 1800 & 1900 MHz) for world-wide usage
Samsung SPH-M2100 1999-08-12 First MP3 player; download from an online MP3 store; first Digital Rights Management (SM3 file decryption to prevent copying)
Nokia 7110 1999-10 First web browser for the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP 1.1); first phone with Series 40; first predictive text input (T9)
Nokia 8877 2000-03 announced First polyphonic (MIDI chords) ring tones
Ericsson T36 2000 First Bluetooth (prototype which later became the T39)
Benefon Twin 2000 First dual SIM (and also supported two GSM bands)
Samsung SCH-V200 2000-06 First back camera (photos couldn’t be sent over cellular network)
Sharp / J-Phone J-SH04 2000-11-01 First phone with back camera that could send photos over cellular network (Sha-Mail); regarded as first “camera phone”
Ericsson R380 2000-11 First phone marketed as a “smartphone” because ran PDA apps; first to run Psion’s EPOC 5.1, which became Symbian OS;
Nokia 3310 2000-Q4 First threaded and group SMS (“Chat”); allowed SMS 3x longer with 459 chars; 126M sold; first with changeable front and back panels; first phone marketed toward youth; dubbed “indestructable,” its fans made videos trying to destroy it
Siemens SL45 2000-Q4 First MultiMedia Card (MMC) for removable Flash storage; popularized MP3 player
Nokia 9210 Communicator early 2001 First smartphone with color screen; first infrared; first Symbian OS device
NEC N2001 2001-10-01 First OLED display
Ericsson T68 2001-Q4 First joystick navigation; first bitmap image editor; first optional camera attachment; first Ericsson phone without brominated flame retardants; popularized mobile web browsing
Samsung SCH-N300 2001-09 First Assisted GPS (Verizon provided network support for A-GPS in 2001-12)
Matsushita P2101V 2001-10-01 First 3G (2100MHz WCDMA) phone (along with NEC N2001 and Matsushita P2401)
Palm Treo 180 2002-02 First IR blaster
RIM BlackBerry 5810 2002-03-04 First phone with track wheel for vertical scrolling (first appeared in the RIM 950 pager)
Motorola A820 2002-03 First 3G (UMTS 2100 MHz) phone outside of Japan
Samsung SGH-T100 2002-04 First thin film transistor active matrix LCD; 10M sold by 2003
Sony Ericsson P800 2002-09 First flip panel with number pad and QWERTY keyboard on opposite sides; helped popularize the touch screen
Nokia 6610 2002-10 First color-screen phones (along with the Nokia 6100) to sell over 1M units
Sharp mova SH251iS 2002-11-16 First 3D display; first editor to convert photos to 3D; 4.33M sold
Sanyo SCP-5300 2002-11 First LED flash for camera; first camera phone sold in the US; white balance control, self-timer, digital zoom, and filter effects
Motorola A760 2003-02-16 First Linux phone (MontaVista Linux + Qtopia Phone Ed. + Java apps)
LG G7100 2003-Q2 First pivoting clamshell, with screen turning 270°
BlackBerry 7210 2003-05-30 First BlackBerry with color screen
Nokia 3300 2003-06 First ring tones using musical recording (“True Tones,” downloadable AMR-WB files)
Nokia 1100 2003-Q3 Tied with the 1110 as best selling phone with over 250M sold; cheapest Nokia phone in 2003; produced for 6 years–longest in history
Siemens SX1 2003-Q3 First FM radio
Nokia N-gage 2003-Q3 First gaming phone; had buttons on both sides of screen; only sold 2M
LG G5300 Qiblah 2003-09 First magnetometer compass?, marketed for Muslims to locate Mecca
Sony Ericsson Z1010 2003-Q4 First with both back and selfie camera
Motorola A925 2003-Q4 First secondary low-power CPU core (used as a digital signal processor)
Motorola E398 (aka ROKR E1) 2004-03-08 announced First microSD slot (called TransFlash); first vibration with music; first iTunes phone; first stereo speakers (along with Motorola E680)
Nokia 6630 2004-Q2 First mobile phone with global roaming
Pantech GI100 2004-Q2 First fingerprint reader
Sharp V602SH 2004-06 First optical zoom (2x) in a phone
HTC Blue Angel / Qtek 9090 2004-Q3 First sliding QWERTY keyboard; first released with Wi-Fi (802.11b)
Motorola RAZR V3 2004-Q3 Thinnest (13.9mm) and most compact (65cc) phone when released; 130M sold; anodized aluminum case and nickel plated keypad
Nokia 7710 2004-Q4 First 18:9 aspect ratio display; first Nokia device with a touch screen
Samsung SCH-S250 2004-10 First 5 MP camera; first QVGA display
Nokia 9500 Communicator 2004-11 (2004-02-24 announced) First announced with Wi-Fi (but Blue Angel was released earlier)
Siemens SXG75 2005-Q1 First Reduced-Size MultiMedia Card (RS-MMC)
Samsung i750 2005-Q1 First Bluetooth 2.0
Samsung SCH-S310 2005-03 First accelerometer
Nokia N90 2005-Q2 First Karl Zeiss optics in phone
Nokia N91 2005-Q2 First 3.5mm audio jack
Nokia 1110 2005-06 announced Tied with the 1100 as best-selling phone with 250M sold
HTC Universal 2005-Q3 First Windows Mobile 5.0 “Pocket PC” phone; first VGA screen
UTStarcom F1000G 2005-09 First Wi-Fi 802.11g
Nokia 770 Internet Tablet 2005-11-03 First Linux mobile device (not a cell phone) which attracts an active community
Nokia 6131 NFC 2006-02 First Near Field Communications (NFC)
Nokia N92 2006-Q2 First mobile TV (DVB-H tuner); first double twist body
Samsung SCH-a930 2006-06-05 First haptic feedback (“VibeTonz” for video games and identifying callers)
Danger/Sharp Hiptop3 (aka T-Mobile Sidekick 3) 2006-07-10 First trackball (multicolor LED-lit six-direction) on phone (a feature popularized by the BlackBerry Pearl)
Nokia N73 2006-07-24 Most popular model in 2006 smartphone revolution
Vertu Constellation 2006 2006-10 First non-replaceable battery; first sapphire glass
Samsung SCH-V960 2006-12 First optical joystick
HTC Advantage 2007-02 First 5 inch screen
LG KE850 (aka LG Prada) 2007-05 First capacitive touchscreen
Motorola RAZR2 V8 2007-05 First microUSB port
Samsung B710 2007 First dual lens camera; first 3D camera (but never released for sale)
Apple iPhone 2007-06-29 First multi-touch screen; first finger-touch QWERTY keyboard; first hardened aluminosilicate glass (Gorilla Glass 1); first offering 16 GB of storage
OpenMoko Neo 1973 2007-07-09 First open hardware phone (Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 license)
WND Duo Atom 2007-08 First dual SIM with both SIMs operating simultaneously
LG Viewty (KU990) 2007-10 First image stabilization in camera (using software)
Nokia N82 2007-11-14 First Zenon flash; considered the best camera of its time
Nokia 8800 Carbon Arte 2008-09 First carbon fiber case
Nokia N85 2008-10 First AMOLED display
HTC Dream / T-Mobile G1 2008-10-20 First Android device
HTC MAX 4G 2008-12 First 4G phone (on Russian Yota WiMAX network)
LG New Chocolate BL40 2009-09-18 First 21:9 aspect ratio screen
Samsung Omnia HD (i8910) 2009-05 First 720p video recording
Palm Pre + Touchstone charger 2009-06-06 First wireless charging
Nokia 97 2009-06-09 First offering 32 GB of storage
Apple iPhone 3GS 2009-06-19 First oleophobic coating
Samsung E1107 Crest Solar (aka Solar Guru) 2009-07-10 First with optional solar panel
Sony Ericsson Satio 2009-10-07 First camera with more than 10 MP
BlackBerry Bold 9700 2009-11 Popularized the optical trackpad (that was first introduced by the Samsung SCH-V960)
Samsung Wave (S8500) 2010-06-01 First Wi-Fi 802.11n; First Bluetooth 3.0; first Bada phone
Dell Streak 2010-06-04 First “phablet” (screen 5” or larger)
Apple iPhone 4 2010-06-24 First glass back cover; first Micro-SIM; first MEMS gyroscope; popularized selfies; first HDR photos (with software update); thinnest phone (9.3mm) when released
Samsung Galaxy Beam (I8520) 2010-07-01 First built-in projector (TI WVGA DLP pico projector)
Motorola DROID X 2010-07-15 First Micro-HDMI port (HDMI 1.4 Type D), first dual LED flash
altek Leo 2010-09 First 3x optical zoom
Samsung SCH-R900 Craft 2010-09-21 First LTE phone
LG Optimus 2X 2011-01 First dual core CPU; first 1080p video recording
Motorola ATRIX 4G 2011-02-22 Popularized the fingerprint reader; first with 1 GB of RAM
Casio G’zOne Commando 2011-04-28 First IP67 dust and water resistant phone
Samsung Galaxy S II 2011-05-02 First MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link) to output HDMI over micro-USB
HTC EVO 3D 2011-06-24 First 3D video
LG Optimus 3D 2011-07-07 First dual lens camera (that was released for sale); touted as “world’s first full 3D phone”
Cherry Mobile Q70 Quad 2011-08-15 First quad SIM
Nokia N9 2011-09-15 First gesture-based user interface (Swipe UI); first offering 64 GB of storage
HTC Rhyme 2011-09-22 First ANT+ (Adaptive Network Topology) used by fitness and health monitoring equipment
Samsung Galaxy Note (N7000) 2011-10-29 Popularized larger screened “phablets”; first phone with active digitizer layer in display to detect stylus
LG Optimus LTE 2011-10-04 First 720p HD screen
Apple iPhone 4s 2011-10-14 Popularizes >300 ppi screen (“Retina Display”); popularized panoramic photos (included in iOS 6 update)
Motorola DROID RAZR 2011-11-11 First use of kevlar in back panel; thinnest phone (7.1mm) when released
Galaxy Nexus 2011-11-17 First to support face scanning by front camera to unlock (Android 4.0 feature); first voice-based intelligent assistant (“Google Now” in Android 4.1); first Bluetooth 4.0
HTC One X 2012-04-02 First quad core CPU
LG Optimus LTE2 2012-05 First with 2GB RAM
Samsung Galaxy S III 2012-05-29 First eye tracking (“Smart Stay” to prevent going to sleep while looking at phone); first Gorilla Glass 2
Kyocera Urbano Progresso 2012-05-30 First tissue conduction receiver (“Smart Sonic Receiver”) for the hearing-impaired
Nokia 808 PureView 2012-06 Highest resolution (41 MP) and largest sensor size (1/1.2") of any camera phone; best image processing and digital zoom (4x) of its time
OPPO Find (aka Finder) 2012-07 First USB audio in place of 3.5mm audio jack; thinnest phone when released
Apple iPhone 5 2012-09-21 First CNC milled case (aluminum “unibody”); first Nano-SIM
Nokia Lumia 920 2012-11-02 First Qi wireless charging; first optical image stabilization (OIS) in camera
Samsung Galaxy Camera (GC100) 2012-11-08 Largest optical zoom (21x) in phone; first slow motion camera (at 120 fps)
HTC J Butterfly (aka Butterfly and Droid DNA) 2012-12-09 First 1080p screen (beating the Oppo Find 5 by 3 days)
OPPO Find 5 2012-12-12 First Dirac HD Sound; second 1080p screen; first hardware HDR video
Oppo U705T Ulike 2 2012-12 First self-portrait beautification (face slimming, skin whitening and smoothing, etc.)
Huawei Ascend Mate 2013-02 First screen 6 inches or larger
HTC One (M7) 2013-03-22 First to use bigger and better pixels in camera sensor (2.0um Ultrapixel); highest pixels-per-inch display of its time
BlackBerry Z10 2013-01-31 First phone running on QNX (BlackBerry OS 10)
Samsung Galaxy S4 2013-04-27 First 8 core CPU (heterogeneous big.LITTLE); first automatic scrolling with eye tracking; first multi-window UI; first DDR3 RAM; first Gorilla Glass 3
BlackBerry Q10 2013-04 First case made of glass fiber (patterned weave)
NEC Medias X 06 E 2013-05 First heat pipes (0.6mm) with evaporative cooling; first IPx8-certified phone for water resistance
LG C299 2013 First quad SIM for global sale
Samsung Galaxy Mega (6.3 I9200) 2013-06 First Wi-Fi 802.11ac
Meizu MX3 2013-09-02 First offering 128 GB of storage
Sony Xperia Z Ultra 2013-07-24 First quantum dot display (“Triluminos” with 50% larger color gamut); first image enhancing processing for display (X-Reality Engine sharpens image, reduces noise, improves contrast, & fine tunes saturation)
LG G2 2013-09-12 First fast charging (Snapdragon Quick Charge 1.0, 5V/2A)
Sony Xperia Z1 2013-09-15 First IP68-certified for dust and water resistant
Apple iPhone 5s 2013-09-20 First 64-bit CPU; first dual tone flash with white and amber LEDs to color correct the ambient light (“True Tone”)
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 2013-09-25 First USB 3.0 (5 Gbit/s); first with 3 GB of RAM
Samsung Galaxy Round G910S 2013-10-09 First curved screen
Oppo N1 2013-10 First with optional Cyanogen OS (Android derivative); first manually rotating camera for both front and back; first touch sensitive back case for scrolling and camera control (“O-Touch”)
LG Optimus L4 II Tri E470 2013-10 First triple SIM
LG G Flex 2013-11-12 First “self-healing” back cover that hides scratches; LG’s first curved screen; ad for G Flex caused gag reflex and called “the worst commercial ever”
Acer Liquid S2 2013-12 First 4K video recording
Fairphone 1 2013-12 First “ethical” and transparent supply chain
vivo Xplay 3S 2013-12-18 First qHD screen
HTC One M8 2014-03-25 First depth camera; first bokeh effect in camera; popularizes dual lens camera
Oppo N3 2015-01 First motorized rotating camera for use in front and back; first motorized panorama, which could be controlled by scrolling on the fingerprint reader
Samsung Galaxy S5 2014-04-11 First phase detection autofocus (PDAF) (in ISOCELL sensor); first heart rate sensor; first multi-window interface
Oppo Find 7 2014-04 First fast charging that increases current, rather than voltage (VOOC Flash Charge 1.0, 5V 4A) for lower heat;
OnePlus One 2014-04-25 First eMMC 5.0 Flash memory; first phone running Cynagen OS, an Android fork
LG G3 2014-05-28 First laser auto-focus in camera; first 3-axis OIS (Optical Image Stabilization Plus)
Sharp Aquos Crystal 2014-08-29 First edge-to-edge display (at sides and top)
Samsung Galaxy W 2014-09 First display 7 inches or larger (that was marketed as a phone)
Samsung Galaxy Alpha 2014-09-12 First Gorilla Glass 4
Apple iPhone 6 2014-09-19 World’s best-selling smartphone, with 220M sales of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus; 4 years of production was the longest of any smartphone
HTC Desire 510 (EU version with Snapdragon 410) 2014-09-27 announced First 64-bit, quad-core CPU
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 2014-10-17 First UV sensor; first SpO2 (blood oxygen saturation) sensor
HTC Desire 820 2014-11 First 64-bit, 8-core CPU
Samsung Galaxy A5 2014-12 First hybrid slot accepting both Nano-SIM and MicroSD cards
Samsung Gear SM-R320 + Galaxy Note 4 2014-12 First virtual reality googles using smartphone
Oppo R5 2014-12 Thinnest phone ever made (4.85 mm); special cooling with liquid-metal and phase-change materials
LG G Flex 2 2015-01-06 First with DDR4 RAM
Samsung Z1 2015-01 First Tizen phone
Asus Zenfone 2 (4GB model) 2015-03-09 First with 4 GB of RAM; first offering 256 GB of storage
Samsung Galaxy S6 2015-04-10 First UFS (Universal Flash Storage 2.0, max 720 MB/s) memory
Lenovo A7000 2015-04 First Dolby ATMOS for 3D spatial audio
LG Optimus LTE2 2012-05 First with 2GB RAM
Oppo R7 2015-06-15 First screen flash for selfie photos
OnePlus 2 2015-07-28 First USB Type-C port
Apple iPhone 6s 2015-09-25 First haptic feedback to simulate on-screen button click (with linear resonant actuator “Taptic Engine”); first touch pressure sensors (“3D Touch”); first screen flash for selfies that auto-adjusts its white balance (“Retina Flash”)
Motorola Droid Turbo 2 2015-10-27 First shatter-proof display (“ShatterShield” with flexible AMOLED, dual digitizers, plastic substrate and hardcoat)
Sharp Zeta SH-01H 2015-11-29 First IGZO (indium gallium zinc oxide) display; first 120Hz refresh rate
Microsoft Lumia 950 2015-11-17 First “convergence” phone for use as a PC (Windows 10 Continuum)
Kyocera Digno Rafre KYV36 2015-12-11 First soap-proof phone
Shiftphone SHIFT5.1 2015-12 First forward-compatible phone so upgradable with parts from later SHIFT5.X versions; first phone sold with refundable recycling tax (€22 in 2016)
Fairphone 2 2015-12-21 First modular phone (better repairability and longer lifespan); 5 pogo pin connector for mods; first Blue Angel certification for phone; first iFixit score of 10 out of 10
Xiaomi Mi 5 2016-02-27 First 4-axis OIS
Vivo Xplay 5 2016-03-01 First with 6 GB RAM
Samsung Galaxy S7 2016-03-11 First Dual Pixel PDAF
LeEco Le 2 (MediaTek version) 2016-04 First 10 core CPU
Huawei P9 2016-04-16 First monochrome camera (more light and detail in low-light)
LG G5 2016-04-23 First wide-angle secondary lens (instead of telephoto)
HTC 10 2016-05 First OIS in both front and back cameras
CAT S60 2016-06 First thermal camera
Samsung Galaxy Note 7 2016-08-19 First front infrared LED & camera for facial recognition (“Iris Scanner”); the exploding battery caused the most expensive recall, costing $17 billion; first Gorilla Glass 5; first HDR display
Xiaomi Mi MIX 2016-11-04 First ceramic frame and back cover
Lenovo Phab 2 Pro 2016-11 First 3D scanning for AR (infrared dot “Project Tango”)
Kyocera Torque X01 (KYF33) 2017-02 First to meet 18 categories MIL-STD-810G standard
LG G6 2017-02-26 First Dolby Vision HDR display; popularized the 18:9 or taller aspect ratio; first display with rounded corners
Samsung Galaxy S8 2017-04-21 First physical button for an intelligent assistant (Bixby button); first Bluetooth 5.0
Alcatel Flash (2017) 2017-04 First dual lens cameras in both front and back
Asus Zenfone AR 2017-06-14 First with 8 GB of RAM
HTC U11 2017-06 First pressure sensitive sides to detect squeezes to do action (“Edge Sense”)
Essential Phone PH1 2017-08-17 First screen with notch and non-standard aspect ratio (19.5:10), allowing “bezelless” design and the highest screen-to-body ratio when released; first titanium frame
Apple iPhone 8 (and iPhone 8 Plus) 2017-08-22 First AI/neural processor (“Neural Engine”); screen color adjustment for ambient light (“True Tone”)
Xiaomi Mi A1 (aka Mi 5X) 2017-09 First Android One phone (unmodified Android, OS/security updates for 2/3 years)
Asus Zenfone 4 Pro 2017-10 First Wi-Fi 802.11ad; first WiGig (60GHz)
Google Pixel 2 (and Pixel 2 XL) 2017-10-19 First eSIM; first separate neural chip (“Visual Core”)
Apple iPhone X 2017-11-03 Reliable facial recognition (“Face ID”) with infrared flood illuminator and dot projector; started trend of $1000+ prices for flagships
LG V30S ThinQ 2018-03 First pixel binning to combine 4 pixels into 1 for better low-light images
Huawei P20 Pro 2018-03-27 First triple lens camera; first “Night Mode” photo processing; first AI-based image stabilization (Artifical Image Stabilization)
Huawei Mate RS Porsche Design 2018-04 First to offer 512 GB of storage
ZTE nubia Red Magic 2018-04 First RGB lighting (programable on back cover); first button (“GameBoost”) to increase power and disable notifications
SHIFT Shiftphone SHIFT6m 2018-05 First phone assembled in an “ethical” factory owned by the brand
vivo NEX S 2018-06 First motorized pop-up front camera, allowing “bezelless” design
Xiaomi Mi 8 2018-05 First dual frequency GPS
Smartisan Nut R1 2018-05 announced First offering 1 TB of storage
OPPO R17 2018-08-23 First Gorilla Glass 6
Samsung Galaxy A9 2018-10-11 First 4 lens back camera
Razer Phone 2 2018-10-22 Popularized high refresh rates (120 Hz) for gaming phones; first THX-certified audio amplifier
OPPO RX17 Pro 2018-11 First 3D time-of-flight (ToF) camera using infrared LIDAR
Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 2018-11-11 First camera slider, for bezelless design
Huawei Honor View 20 2018-12 First punch hole in display for front camera and bezelless design; highest resolution (48MP) in camera
Asus ROG 2018-12-14 First 90 Hz OLED screen; first with 2 USB ports
vivo X20 Plus UD 2019-01-25 First in-display fingerprint reader
Lenovo Z5 Pro GT 2019-01-29 First offering 12 GB of RAM; highest screen-to-body ratio of 95.06% (but gsmarena calculates 88.5%)
Samsung Galaxy A50 2019-03-02 First plastic case that looks like glass with reflective effects (“3D Glasstic”)
Motorola Moto Z3 + 5G Moto Mod 2019-03-14 First 5G phone (with added mod)
Samsung Galaxy S10 2019-03-08 First Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) (along with the Galaxy S10+)
Royale FlexPai 2019-03 First to release a folding screen for dual phone & tablet
Samsung Galaxy S10 5G 2019-04 First phone with built-in 5G cellular baseband
OnePlus 7 Pro 2019-05-14 First UFS 3.0
Samsung Galaxy A80 2019-05-29 First with mobile SoC designed for gaming (Snapdragon 730G)
ZTE nubia Red Magic 3 2019-05-27 First active cooling, with both fan and liquid cooling; first 8K video recording; highest slow-motion frame rate video (1920 fps)
Asus ROG Phone II 2019-09 (expected) First USB 3.1 (10 Gbit/s)
Samsung Galaxy Fold 2019-09 (expected) First widely-sold folding screen; unclear if it will have Samsung’s self healing oleophobic coating
Realme XT 2019-Q3 (expected) First 64 MP camera (Samsung GM1 sensor)
OPPO Reno 2 2019-Q3 (rumored) First 20x zoom in conventional form factor
Purism Librem 5 2019-Q3 First hardware kill switches; first replaceable cellular modem and Wi-Fi/ Bluetooth (on M.2 cards); first smart card reader (for 2FF OpenPGP card); first running 100% free software; only current phone to offer convergence as PC without special hardware
Oppo 2019-Q4 (rumored) First under-screen camera
Motorola Razr 2019 2019-12 (expected) First folding screen flip phone
Xiaomi Mi 2020 First 108 MP camera (Samsung ISOCELL Bright HMX sensor)

Looking at the list of innovations that the Librem 5 will have, which haven’t appeared before in any other phone, the Librem 5 will be one of the most innovative models in the history of mobile phones. However, I wonder how those innovations will be regarded.

Will the Librem 5 be a white elephant that nobody else copies, will it become a sustaining subcategory, or will it be a model far ahead of its time, but eventually its features will become a wave that dominates the industry? What do you all think?


I think that privacy focused phones will not die off completely since there is a hard dedicated core but I do not think that it will become mainstream anytime soon. This is just like GNU/Linux phones in general, they have not died off but but after a long time they still are not mainstream.


This is exactly the point why I hope that other projects like pinephone (Comparing specs of upcoming Linux phones) also are a success. It is not an exact copy but it’s sharing crucial parts like being able to install plasma and gnome mobile.

As Dr.Lambda I also think that GNU/Linux phones will not become mainstream. Let’s hope they can survive. More companies creating different linux phones (see above) diversifies the offer to clients which means some can buy a pinephone as it’s cheaper others a librem 5 as it has more freedom and better specs and maybe soon (?) other phones (as purism wants to open source a lot of things it gets even easier for others).

So more devices lead to more clients. With more clients companies in total can invest together more money in the operation system / apps. With more clients there will also be more apps ported with libhandy or kirigami by linux devs.

Only future will tell us if we are with a white elefant, but there are at least already other white elefants :wink: Also if you project this view to linux in general you would see that Linux as operation system is also surviving for the desktop while the usage in percentage is very low, but:

  • Linux is used a lot in universities where informatics is shown - which is a perfect pool for new enthusiastic developers
  • Linux is used a lot for servers, things done there are shared with the desktop
  • There are companies with a business also using desktop linux (look who pays your fav distro / desktop-enviornment developers) - they don’t have the highest market share, but they survive

What does survive mean? Do you want to get a higher market share so that everone goes to this platform or is it fine for you to stay niche? I would say survive means that we still get a new kernel, software updates, security updates until the hardware breaks. It does not mean that WhatsApp, Skype, Ubisoft and your local bank create apps for the librem 5

So I conclude:

  • Purism did the right choice by upstream / mainline everything (share so that everything is maintained easier and can shared and shared back with servers, desktop, …)
  • There are already other projects -> If they are also a sucess there will be more total clients
  • The total clients have to be enough so that the companies or the community let the device “survive”

Again, @amosbatto great informative post. Suggestion: make it a poll and come back to it in five years or so…? We’ll see how wro… right we were :slight_smile:

Regarding @maximilian’s reply, I think it’s absolutely crucial that there is an ecosystem of manufacturers that have Linux systems available. It’s not just about app ecosystem. Choices are needed but also, different approaches bring new ideas - development. Some will work, others will not. Not all ideas will or should or need be adopted, but they may be a stepping stone at some later point.

I noticed that in the original post it was actually left blank, which are/is the L5 features. (edit: sorry, they were hidden within the list) Got me thinking. We have the lists of course (as vague as the features were in the beginning), but most of those are not especially new. Most are “just” made in a special way - open, verifiable. Not to take anything away from L5 or anyone else, but as there have already been Linux phones and projects (Maemo included, and Ubuntu worked etc.), I’d see Purism - and don’t kill me here - closer to early Apple than an actual innovator, as they took known stuff and developed and polished the whole experience a couple of notches above what had been previously seen (and remember, the first tries weren’t what they became - and even still, as most have same or better tech features, the experience is not the same).

Thus, I see a possibility that L5 could give some early indication of what a future standard in “owning your phone” could look like. Much like Apple set a path to usability/experience. And in this, I come back to L5 maybe not having a specific feature that may or may not last or get copied. Even the three off-switches themselves may not be that important - those may evolve (there are already examples of variations of those by others) to one, two or four and their functionality change. “Secure” or “FOSS” or “sustainable” have different variations - and overlap - available too. Which is why I chose “owning” as the main “feature” of L5, and agree it is intentionally a bit vague and abstract, concept.

As a side note, it would have been interesting if HTC would have chosen to go fully open (and secure) to counter perception and sanctions. Too bad that they still try to hang on to an old troubling (privacy-wise) market and not cater to a possibly burgeoning new segment. Well, many other things in that whole mess, so not mostly relevant.

Also, I don’t see L5 as only a Linux or FOSS phone, but the aforementioned overlap is also with other manufacturers that cater to secure communications boffins. These are often the early adopters that lay the groundwork for future de facto reguirements. In these scaled situations though, I remind of John Sowa’s “law”: “Whenever a major organization develops a new system as an official standard for X, the primary result is the widespread adoption of some simpler system as a de facto standard for X.” The likely outcome that I see is that, yes, “owning”, “privacy” and “security” will increase but not to the intended level in the larger population. Something will be absorbed to the industry.

Lastly, I think trust is a major factor. If L5’s “features” or concept is to propagate, with the larger masses (or even with many in this group of early adopters), there needs to be authorities, instances and organizations that have endorsed them. Most will not dig deep - they trust. With the Apple example, the “authority” was hipsters that were thought to have “taste and understanding of fresh” (as opposed to previous, more engineer based approach - a simplification for sure). Their example was followed. So, if active and influential groups endorse these features and says they are worth the trouble of learning something new (ROI principle: expected return on invested time/work/resource to make the change), L5’s example has a chance. There is, of course, competition on the field.

All in all, I think L5 is not going to be the most shining spot in history that everybody remembers. It’s not going to be the one that changed industry, even though it seems to have all the right parts. With Apple I’d say it was the next models that really took off. And Purism might not be Apple - it could be Nokia, which had tested touchscreens and other features years earlier but hadn’t gotten it to the needed point. Yes, L5 might be too early for mainstream. But I also think it will push that boundary and move this from “very early adopters” and closer to “early adopters” territory.

(edit to add: Only later we’ll be able to say what was the “main thing” that we identify as the L5 defining feature. One option could be that it will become known for it’s convergence desktop experience - “finally a phone that works as a computer and has support” [edit: “a phone that has enough juice and good enough camera etc. - is not lacking in anything” ]. And all the rest - security and privacy and long lifetime - are more of “bonus features” than the main attraction.)


With this overheating problem the L5 has and not much communication on the issue from purism it looks like a crapshoot on whether it will even be released anytime soon .

I didnt know the thing was throttling to 1% under heavy load. that doesnt sound like a ready to ship product to me.

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My prediction is that the Librem 5 won’t die, and it won’t be remembered as a white elephant (like OpenMoko, Ubuntu Edge and Firefox OS), because it will keep producing despite the odds, and keep demonstrating the validity of its ideas. Because Purism isn’t following the typical startup model of trying to get a bunch of venture capital and blowing up as the next big thing, it is unlike to spectacularly implode like Essential, Dakele, LeEco and so many other “innovative” phone makers have done.

Purism can keep surviving just like Fairphone and SHIFT have done, despite being tiny companies that have only produced 175k and 30k phones, respectively, because Purism is largely self-funding and the people who buy its products are passionate about its goals, so they will keep supporting it even when the company runs into difficulties. I doubt that many people will cancel their Librem 5 pre-orders just because the company’s CTO shows the phone overheating during a presentation, whereas Samsung would lose millions of dollars in orders if it did the same thing.

What I predict is that the Librem5 v1 will make a moderate splash in the tech world when it is first released, simply because it so unique, but it will also get a lot of negative reviews and the conventional wisdom will dismiss it as irrelevant and the next thing to fail. But people who care about privacy, security, planned obsolescence, digital rights and software freedom will keep loyally buying the phone and the software will improve and the number of apps will grow over time.

In a year or two, I can see both Fairphone and SHIFT announcing that they will offer Linux as an alternative OS. At some point, both of those companies are likely to shift completely to Linux, because it makes so much sense from a sustainability point of view. If you want your phone to last 10 years, Linux is the best option, and the easiest and cheapest way to do it, whereas trying to meet Google’s requirements for upgrading Android is a Herculean task and very expensive.

Then, I foresee companies like Sony and OpenPlus, which have a history of being more friendly to Open Source, deciding to unofficially support Linux, and at some point one of them is going to start selling models with Linux as an experiment. One of the major phone makers is going to realize the business potential of hardware kill switches. They are going to look at the Librem 5 specs and say, “wow, look at the prices we can charge for low-end hardware.”

I predict that Linux phones based on respecting people’s privacy will become a niche in the market, just like rugged phones and gaming phones, but I really hope that the niche that Librem 5 is trying to create will be much larger than the one that Fairphone and SHIFT have been able to create for ethical and sustainable phones.

One thing that I like is the fact that Purism has a global strategy, unlike Fairphone and SHIFT, and is willing to ship world-wide. I know that Purism has been criticized on this forum for this world-wide strategy, because it won’t try to certify the Librem 5 for different networks, but the benefit is that Purism will reach early adopters all over the world.

The final thought that I have is that different innovations in the Librem 5 will have different degrees of success:

  • Linux might become the next mobile OS to challenge the duopoly of Android and iOS, but it will grow slowly at the beginning and won’t seem viable to most people until it suddenly is seen as the hottest thing in the industry. I see a very compelling business case for phone makers to prefer mobile Linux over Android, but it won’t make sense until the software support and the number of available apps gets to a certain point.
  • Hardware kill switches, OpenPGP smart cards and 100% free software are expensive to implement, so I think that they will never be more than niches, but they could be sustained niches that people are willing to pay for.
  • Convergence is another area that will probably blow up in the future, but I can’t see most people choosing the Linux desktop over an iOS/MacOS and Android/ChromeOS/Fuchsia desktop.

The more important point in my opinion is that mobile Linux and Purism’s actions will scare Google and Apple and force them to start respecting user rights in ways that they currently don’t. It will also give government regulators an example to point to when they start putting restrictions on surveillance Capitalism. Maybe this is wishful thinking on my part, but I see a possible future where the Librem 5 could change the mobile industry as a whole, and not just be an oddball experiment that gets ignored and dismissed.


I like your optimism :slight_smile: But yes, showing that “it can be done” just might be what is needed in that front. I have an affection to “curveballs” (as in, how stuff gets pushed from unexpected directions) and come back to the lifecycle discussion we had: sustainability argument might become a viable and compelling reason (official and global one anyway) to curtail unwanted data transmissions and thus lower power consumption in networks and serverfarms.

Yep. This far in the process , not to have this resolved is troubling in the least. I don’t know what to think.

And their most recent application development chart on the website “news and events” a also found disappointing.
Apparently ,image viewer, PDF editor, podcast and calculator are polished yet. IDK , but if you have a very fee basic apps, try to make them completely ready at launch.

Unfortunately, this phone is not riding on any wave the would make a splash.
If you saw the conference with Nicole, the hurdle to get through is mountains on top of mountains and once you get over it, you end up with less than mediocre and borderline outdated hardware. People are still into latest and greatest.
Majority of the people don’t really care about privacy neither. It’s not attractive for big business and not attractive enough for consumers -“Give me convenience or death.”
As much as I want to be optimistic, these phones will remain a niche with way smaller market than Linux laptops have. Why? Way more hoops to jump for much more costly product.

I think the app store and the ability to maintain habits with Android and iOS can convince some people outside the Linux world: by this I mean that a smartphone is not usually used as a computer where you spend a lot of time from switching to Windows/Linux or Mac OS.
In smartphone world, people don’t fear to change from HTC to Huawei, even if the launcher is different. The most important is the app world. Somebody to convince needs a Signal, a Silence, an app for the Bank, a good Browser with Webextensions, an app to play videos, a good public transport app, a good Navi app, etc.

If you can provide this kind of apps + privacy, you can convince people to change to PureOS, because, they don’t have to make many efforts.

A few years ago, I was curious to discover the world of Windows Phone, and I really liked the software UI. But, I had to come back to Android because I could not have the main public transport of my country available in the MS store, same for the lack of Google Maps-like (Here Maps was not so accurate in terms of ETA/traffic timing), same for the Bank app (not available), same for the Browser, etc. I had to accept “with this smartphone, there is no X, there is no Y, and there is no Z”, and then it become “there is no Windows Phone”.


So then ZTE has fan-cooled phone. That is news to me.

Who knows? Many people are merely sheep, following the herd. Phone users frequently put up with problems such as Google tracking, software problems with delayed updates as well as the recent malware for iPhones which could, at least until rebooting, control most any function remotely for purposes of data acquisition/manipulation. Many still accept Apple, Google or Amazon listening into smart speakers.
Those who appreciate more potential for control will want something like the Librem 5. There are implementations such as Blackphone already, though this also requires subscription to the service for the encoding of the supposed invulnerable encryption. Some other both small-player secure and business-oriented phones are in operation or under development, these mostly for large firms or high-security enterprises and will not likely make it to general consumer use.
There may be some market for those burned by Android or IOS, but we will have to see.

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Exactly. Windows phone was great and way smoother than Android at the time, but poor App Ecosystem killed it.
Based on what we know now, about the apps for L5 and their functionality, heavy users won’t be able to have it as a daily driver for a long time. I would still need to carry my old phone.


Public corporations have a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders. If a company can make more money by abandoning a niche market, then they are required to under threat of lawsuits from shareholders. This is why you get the wave or abandon phenomenon. If it does not catch on, then there has to be a market that can support the quantity that the company can scale for. Sometimes, smaller companies can build niche products that larger companies cannot. The management structures of large companies can be too inefficient at handling small volumes (no ROI because their I is too expensive for them). Companies often abandon parts of the market that they used to serve as they become larger because companies demand higher efficiency as they get larger. This higher efficiency translates to more regimented processes. For example, increased automation makes personal requests more difficult. Private companies have more flexibility. A special purpose corporation, like Purism, can maintain focus.


The fundamental difference is that there was no compelling reason to use Windows Pocket PC -> Mobile -> Phone -> 10 Mobile, rather than Android or iOS. The killer feature was supposed to be convergence, but Microsoft never made it work very well. For people trying to decide between these morally-dubious corporations, there was no reason to select a Windows phone over an Android or iOS one, so the lack of millions of apps was the deciding factor.

In contrast, there are very compelling reasons for people to prefer mobile Linux, especially if it comes from a company which is committed to providing security, privacy, respect for user rights, software freedom, open hardware, avoiding planned obsolescence and convergence as a PC.

Obviously the Librem 5 will be a niche product at first for people who care passionately about one of those issues. I care a lot about the environmental impact of manufacturing electronics, so I’m willing to pay any price and endure any inconvenience to get a phone which promises “lifetime support.” There are a lot of niche users like me for whom the Librem 5 provides a unique feature like end-to-end encryption based an OpenPGP identity, Linux security, being able to shut off all the spying hardware, commitment to software freedom, being able to change the M.2 card to play with other radio frequencies, being able install UBports, etc.

However, in a couple years mobile Linux will have enough of the software that most people need, that it will start becoming compelling for the average user. There are millions of people who would like to have a phone that doesn’t force them to be pawns of surveillance Capitalism, hate being locked out their own hardware, and don’t want to throw away their phones every couple years. I doubt that my parents have installed more than 5 apps from the Google Play Store on their phones, and there are millions of people like them.

In addition, Linux offers a lot of compelling advantages for the phone makers, since it means they can avoid the onerous burdens of Google which prevents them from customizing their devices and distinguishing themselves from their competitors so their devices get commoditized. Most phone makers (LG, Sony, Lenovo/Motorola, HTC, ZTE and TCL) lose money on every phone that they sell. In 2016, the companies that weren’t one of the top 5 (Samsung, Apple, Huawei, Oppo & Vivo) lost an average of $4.8 per phone. For these companies, mobile Linux would allow them to avoid the commodity trap of Android. These companies don’t like Google any more than we do.


Please don’t throw me under the bus for this hypothesis, just trying to bring this up because I’d really want the Pure OS and Purism concept to become mainstream.

If not considered yet, how about Purism teaming up with HMD Global https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMD_Global? Having access to patents and Nokia backbone, global production and distribution networks, well known branding, well skilled employees, open source and Linux based OS experience, strategic partners et cetera the HMD company could benefit from bringing ‘mainstream’ Pure OS based devices to the market. Their current Android shell mediocre Nokia branded line up to me does not seem to be holding up too well and hardly differentiating. To become a big player that really matters again, embracing Pure OS as their OS might be just the stepping stone to achieve that. In fact such a partnership could be a ticket to ensure worldwide pr, easy customer acceptance of reliable products and acknowledgement of Pure OS and be amongst the three app stores.


Maybe HMD Global will consider mobile Linux for their feature phones where people don’t expect to download and install many apps. Right now HMD Global is using KaiOS (a proprietary fork of FirefoxOS) for its Nokia 8110 4G.

However, HMD Global seems to be following the business model of pumping out as many models as fast as possible, and providing poor software support for them. It’s only relation to the company Nokia is that it licensed the right to use the Nokia brand name on phones, but HMD Global doesn’t have access to Nokia’s patents or employees. At any rate, Nokia has been hollowed out and it only focuses on networking equipment, so most of that rich knowledge and experience has been lost.

Sony is a good candidate because it publishes AOSP versions of its phones and currently offers Sailfish OS for the Xperia X and XA, so it is open to trying another OS. OnePlus offered Cyanogen OS (an Android derivative) on the OnePlus One and it sends its phones in development to the modder communities, so that LineageOS and other mods work on its phones.


Sony is definitely the biggest loser among Android AOSP, after HTC I think. There is definitely hope there. With that being said, none of these huge corporations is interested in making a product with less than medicre hardware that can’t compete with the rest. What I’m saying is that if they were to opt for Linux at one point, it won’t be teaming up Purisn, because FOSS & all security stuff is not a priority. for their business model. If interested in privacy and security, all focus would be on software, not hardware.


2019 - AI learns to play Snake :smiley:


i swear the screen is looking at ME :wink: