Why I wont buy a Librem 5 or a PinePhone

The Librem 5 is long awaited : https://shop.puri.sm/shop/librem-5/

The PinePhone is just announced (FOSDEM 2019) but might arrive before the later : https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=PinePhone-Running-Weston

Both phones are very promising in term for open hardware, and libre software. But both are expected to be based on a > 5" screen.

I exchanged a few emails with the Librem 5 team about that, and they confessed that their choice was dictated by their lack in skill about stuffing everything in less space inside… (so nothing to hope this way).

After 3 years of using my FP2, I now use a FP1, and it’s a pleasure, every time I take it in my hands, because it fits in. I can’t upgrade my hands for the FP2 to feel safe in it.

I recently updated this wiki-topic to add in 1st position the FP1, with its perfect size : Advocating a FP2 mini

And I cross my non-upgradable fingers to get a 4" FP3 by the end of the year :christmas_tree:


Size of the handset is and will remain an endless discussion as you can read here.

For this and many other reasons (customer expectations) the big phone manufacturers keep on pumping out model by model each month in hopes to suit enough customers to gain win.
After all it’s just a compromise as there are yet no fully customer tailored phones.
In terms of size there is not much that can be done. Blowing up or shrinking palms is just as impossible as doing so with devices. I e.g. simply use my fingers to assure a tight grip. It works just fine for me.

On the other hand I do wonder how come I once in a while meet people having spent money on a new device but not even being satisfies with the size.

So for them obviously other attributes, maybe the OS or else seems to be of higher importance than a perfect fit in their palm.

Also I could read of other individuals who did not purchase the FP2 because it would not meet their size expectations.

Because of such imho secondary requirements the big players always have a reason for pushing the next only slightly different model through their pipeline.

Anyway no matter what’s next, anything coming out after I have enjoyed my FP2 since 3 years would at least have to meet the same technical level, nothing less.
Advancements usually move forward not backward. The only alternative I would consider actually would be a Shiftphone. Technically they are ahead. Still though my FP2 operates just too satisfactory atm.
Btw. size is relative. :wink:

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I also prefer the smaller size of my FP1, however I haven’t got a “modern” usage pattern when it comes to a smartphone. My primary (actually: almost exclusive) internet devices are a 10 y.o. 25 kg computer and 3 y.o. tablet computer. So unlike younger people, I don’t really appreciate a bigger screen (in a smartphone! My computer screen measures 29"). I think once your smartphone has become your primary internet device, you come to value screen size much more.

Anyway, I think a lot of convenience on an FP2 or a future FP would be won if they came with the FP1’s (literally) handy feature “Side Swipe”.


He was talking about the librem 5 team and honestly, looking at the huge amount of work they have to do (hardware + software), I totally believe him when he says they answered that they picked 5" because it was easier. Don’t expect a fully functional librem 5 before 2021.

Here is a video and pictures of a PinePhone prototype https://tweakers.net/geek/158184/tweaker-toont-een-prototype-van-de-pinephone.html

Considering it has a detachable, replaceable modem, I don’t think it was exactly “lack in skill.” But yeah, 5 inches simplifies things. It also simplifies repairability, if done well (like FP2’s).

I also prefer 4 or 4.5 inches for a phone, since I don’t consume much multimedia on there. But I wanted to support Fairphone and Purism’s ethos. I consider it much more important than comfortability. Hope more ergonomic phones will come in the future!

Hmm? What do you mean? Mine arrives at December. Not a prototype, the production-ready thing. Software is ready enough for a phone (not that first version of Android or iOS were more than a phone with a browser, to be fair).


Well, when I read the announcement, it’s pretty clear to me that the first batches are “beta” quality.

“Loose fit” in this case leaves us room to have ribbon cables, antenna cables, camera spacer and LED alignment have a looser tolerance than later batches.

the hardware kill switches will be the bare switch pole, without the ergonomic covers on top that will make them easier and more comfortable to use.

From the faq

And that’s only about the hardware. I have tested many mobile OSes right from launch date, Firefox OS, Ubuntu Touch, Sailfish OS… I would say it takes at least two years from the release date to have something pretty stable which can be used by Joe Average.

Of course, you backed a Librem from the beginning, that means you’re not Joe Average and can definitely use it knowing it’s beta, report bugs and even maybe fix them or at least apply workaround. But don’t expect a fully functional smartphone. Last time I talked with a Gnome dev (last April), he said he was pretty sure the camera app will not work in the first release, for example. This is software side, so it will improve of course, but it’ll take time. That’s why 2021 looks like a good estimate to me.


really looking forward to when these phones become available for purchase 2nd hand.

I don’t think I can justify buying one new anytime soon but a used one would be awesome to try out.

It looks like they may be quite modifiable in time too, assuming the linux kernel can handle new screens, cameras, etc. In my head it’s gonna be like computers are now. Easily modifiable and can customise to the nth degree.

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I was already invested in Fairphone community and waiting for FP3, and Phoronix spread FUD about Librem 5 release date, so I did not end up buying one. However, I love the project. PinePhone contains an AllWinner but it is also lower budget I guess. I also went with a Cosmo Communicator which has a mechanical hardware keyboard, and MTK. In this sense, Librem 5 is a win-win (though i.MX 8 has lower performance on the long term it has kernel support). I have a spare SIM but I’m not yet entirely sure how my setup is going to be. I will be selling my FP2 for a myriad of reasons though, one being the out-of-date kernel.

I like being pragmatic with all of these devices. Not “it has to be fair” or “it has to be FOSS” but a rather a list of plus and minus. No device is perfect, every device has plus and minus. For @siltaar > 5" is a dealbreaker, but I don’t want to think in terms of dealbreakers but rather plus and minus. What if a > 5" device is otherwise perfect? Could you work around the fact it being > 5"? Btw, there is a rumor that iPhone SE successor is going to be based on iPhone 8 design (so it being larger than 5S/SE format).


From the same FAQ you linked:

A: Every Librem 5 that rolls off the assembly line will be a high-quality smartphone.

I’m unable to see the “beta” thing anywhere, sorry. I honestly think it’s a misconception that emerges from the unusual thing that Purism is doing here, which is being scrupulously transparent with the industrial production process.

Do you think big manufacturers don’t ever release minor hardware revisions in the first produced batches of any device? I’ve never saw anyone saying their first ever produced Samsung Galaxy Whatever smartphone or Nintendo Random videoconsole was “beta” quality. Probably because they never knew it was one of the first batches, in fact. Which means it’s not really relevant,* which therefore means it’s not “beta” quality.

*= Unless it has a design failure… which final products have, anyway, because fails are not planned. My Nintendo DS Lite wasn’t one of the firsts, and it had a design flaw in the case that made it reboot randomly. They fixed it in later batches. I’ve heard Nintendo Switch Joycons are suffering some similar design flaw right now.

Me too. That’s why I pointed to first releases of Android and iOS in commercial products. Perspective.

Of course it’s not yet a phone for Joe Average, who only knows how to tap icons and accept 20-feet Terms of Service in a touch screen. I’d say any disruptive product is for Joe Average, if Joe Average honestly believes device concepts are a commodity that shouldn’t change.

Upon initial shipment of the Librem 5 in 2019, it will offer the essentials: phone functionality, email, messaging, voice, camera, browsing. (source)


P.S.: “a fully functional smartphone” is an oxymoron. A “smartphone” is a general-purpose computer. It doesn’t have a finite set of functions. You have a point, though: Librem 5 won’t be the “smartphone” we all have in mind. Thankfully.

I don’t think so. Its hardware wasn’t designed to be modular. Even Fairphone 2 wasn’t modular in that sense, remember (upgradeability wasn’t a selling point, but repairability). But yes, the software stack is more flexible than Android. I’m sure some clever, hardware-savvy people could make prostheses for them.

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Maybe that notion of “beta” comes from this video where a chair person of purism says (around 02:08) that the Librem 5 will start with a limited set of features and may be used by people as their second phone (implying it may not be ready as daily driver)?

Maybe “beta” is the wrong word, but in fact looking at their batch shipping schedule it does sound as if there’ll be quite some differences between getting a Librem 5 now and in Q2 2020.


In fact, I think that Samsung, Huawei. Apple and the like have tested their phones thoroughly before they deliver them to the public. Their first batches are millions of phones. They might experience problems like Samsungs burning batteries, but they surely do not expect to do design changes to their products, as they are warking on the next models already.

And I agree with @Ingo, that the delivery schedule really is crying out loud “beta”.
They are shipping in differently named batches:

Mechanical Design: Individually milled case, loose fit, varying alignment, unfinished switch caps (hand crafted).


Mechanical Design: Aspen + tighter fit, improved alignment.


Mechanical Design: Birch + capped switches.


Mechanical Design: Chestnut + refinements.


Mechanical Design: Molded case.


Mechanical Design: Version 2

And with batch Birch there will be new board.
Software is said to improve all the time.
Where shall all those improvements come from, if not from the experiences of the first batch users; though I find the loose fitting phone cases a bit strong to sell them at the full price.

That’s why I always say, us FP2 users were kind of beta testers for the FP3, but, other than Librem, they never planned to produce and ship an imperfect phone.


Don’t get me wrong, Purism is doing an good job, the idea of having a FOSS phone with hardware switches for blob parts is awesome, as is convergence, and they are committed 200% to it. My point is, and I say that as a retired Firefox OS contributor, they underestimated the work needed to polish a product, and there will be a lot of bugs, crashes and problems during the first two years. I mean, look at Fairphone who is only creating the phone, using Android, and see how often warranty is used to repair the phone. And look at mozilla who only did the OS, and with hundreds of engineers only reach an OKay quality after 3 years. The (far fewer) purism people are dealing with both in the same time! I can’t even imagine how many troubles are ahead of them, and all the problems coming to end users.

But as far as you’re aware of it and you are fine with that, then there is no problem. I would gladly buy a Librem if it wasn’t that expensive and I already own a FP2 so I won’t buy a new phone just to try it. But I support Purism for what they are doing, we need that!


I didn’t understood you were acknowledging their challenges and efforts, not pointing at their issues in advance. Sorry.

I don’t think all Mozilla engineers were working on FxOS, in fact (I know one of them, the guy who ported it to the FP2, ¡hola, Juan! :raised_hand_with_fingers_splayed:).

But I wanted to take into consideration that Purism adquired a lot of experience doing a similar thing with their Librem computers, hardware-wise, and developing their own GNU/Linux distro based on Debian. They were and they are challenges, of course, but honestly I don’t think any other player have such a rock-solid ground like them (although Pine64 has a few rock thingies, too, :stuck_out_tongue:).

I agree with you in the point, in any case: it’s a product that will need to mature a bit. That’s something any new disruptive product has to deal with.


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