Hi all, I’m a little late to the L5 party, but I feel like I arrived at just the right time.
I got my L5 last week, with the BM818-A1 modem. I have been an Android user, but an open source developer and advocate for years, so I kind of already knew what to expect. What I didn’t expect, was that my transition would be relatively painless. I know, right? I’ve read so many negative threads here… I honestly wasn’t sure I would be able to use my L5 out of the box as my primary device.
I’m happy to say that I moved my SIM last night, turned off my Android phone, and life goes on
For me, I needed the following to work - no room for fudging:
- phone calls on T-Mobile
- SMS on T-Mobile
- Access to my calendars
- Ability to read/write/sync notes with my nextcloud
- A web browser
- A podcast player I can use while driving
- Access to email - Proton Mail
- Some kind of maps
After that, everything is gravy, and I’m happy to say I’ve got all the basics covered. Phone calls & SMS work great - MMS is working with the MMSC set up in chatty. Contacts & Calendars are working with the Gnome apps, connected to Nextcloud via Online Accounts. I was able to add Nextcloud Desktop, use it to sync my Notes dir, and I’m using Paper to read/write the notes. Firefox works great for browsing, I’m using Firefox Sync for history & bookmarks with my desktop - that was a bonus. Proton Mail is installed as a PWA via Gnome Web for now (Proton sent me instructions on compiling their bridge for ARM - I’ll try that later). Gnome maps is fine - I don’t need turn-by-turn right now. Lastly, Gnome Podcasts has a very convenient “Now Playing” view that looks alot like the Pocket Casts interface I’m used to… Nice big play/pause button, somewhat smaller rewind/ff on the side. I miss the fine-grained auto-download control, but I will live
The lock screen plugins are awesome! My Android home screen was always just a clock & agenda list - having the “Upcoming Events” plugin mostly replaces that - and the newest versions of Gnome Calendar have a similar sidebar view - looking forward to that to round out my calendar experience.
I also did not expect the Nextcloud Desktop client to work - I figured I’d have to do some working around with webdav syncing, etc., but it works fine. Although I don’t have a status icon, it continually runs in the background and does it’s job, and the UI only needs a bit of scaling to work.
I will admit I played around out of the box - I flashed PostmarketOS on the L5, just to see if having bleeding edge versions of the apps would feel a lot better; sadly it lacks a lot of the polish that PureOS has on the phone, so I flashed back. It was nice, though, to be able to easily do so, know that I can, and have the choice.
Installing openssh-server, and having that switchable from Settings makes a lot of tinkering easier. While I may not be using my L5 as a convergence device, it’s pretty cool that I can run chatty over ssh to SMS from my desktop
I’m using the Terminal keyboard almost everywhere… I have a lot of difficulty with the long-press clipboard UI, so just using Ctrl-C/V instead is easier for me (Pro-Tip - keyboard shortcuts are great in Gnome Files).
Some Things Still Need Work
So, obviously, battery life is still a problem. My L5 will go almost 10 hours on a charge with 1 radio on. This is usable, but not ideal. I know it’s not apples to apples, but my Android phone - a Unihertz Atom L - went about 3 days on a charge. For me, I’m usually at my desk or in the car, so the battery life won’t be a problem… but I know I’m always going to be watching it, and I know that if I forget to plug in at night it will be dead in the morning. that sleep states will improve.
I’m going to want turn-by-turn directions at some point, I’d rather not get navigation for my car.
Gnome Podcasts, as I mentioned, is sorely lacking in features. I’m looking forward to Vocal 4.0 - which will be on libadwaita and “fully responsive” according to the dev. I also tried KDE Kasts, but could not get the responsive views to work. Otherwise, it looked like a great choice, visually and feature-wise.
I added an SD card, but I don’t see any easy way to extend my storage onto it. It would be lovely to have some kind of setup tool to use LVM or something format and extend the storage onto SD, or move the home directory, or something.
I have no clue what to do with the smart card. I think I just need to look into this more, though.
Things I Can’t Make Work
So far, there’s only one thing I haven’t found a solution to - that’s communication via Slack. I’m in a fair number of Slacks, and I just can’t seem to get this working. Maybe it’s just a good thing I won’t get so many notifications on my phone
Seriously, though, a lot of people use Slack for work, and I cannot get the PWA working on the L5. Slack doesn’t support Gnome Web, Firefox doesn’t do PWAs, and even Chromium gave me trouble with it. I’m not anxious to try Anbox, as it’s deprecated as well (and I think the Slack app needs Google services). FWIW I will be trying to move some of the smaller communities to Matrix, but there’s no hope for getting my work to switch, and I don’t want to set up & maintain a bridge server just for that.
What About All the Other Things?
I still use my Garmin smartwatch - I’ve only ever used it for fitness tracking, though; I don’t use it for apps/notifications. So I just moved the Android syncing app to my tablet. The watch now syncs when I’m home. This is fine.
Same thing for online banking. You’re kidding yourself if you think I’m going to go back to depositing checks in person. I just moved that app to my Android tablet too.
So if you’re an Android or Apple person, you’ll probably find having some of those things on an Android tablet or iPad is also a great way to slide away from needing them on the phone. After all, while the Android/iOS apps are honestly indispensable for some things, I don’t need them on my phone.
… thank you Purism for making this device. Thank you for getting it to me, eventually The Librem5 has made so much progress since I funded it, I’m honestly not sad it took so long to arrive. If anything it seems I’m getting to skip a lot of the earlier adopter headaches. I’m looking forward to doing so work developing an app for it as well… I have a great idea for a tool (but that’s another post and this one is long enough).