Librem 5

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Librem 5 is a smartphone from San Francisco-based Purism which runs their self-developed PureOS operating system. It uses free software where possible. Development was crowd-funded, crowd-funding started in 2017. The final hardware specifications are those of a low-end $100 smartphone from that year. The price-tag at it's launch in 2019 is $700.

Hardware Specifications

Purism Librem 5 Xiaomi Redmi Note 8
Mobile Network Option 1: Gemalto PLS8;
Option 2: Broadmobi BM818; nanoSIM tray
Launch December 2019[1] September 2019
CPU NXP® i.MX 8M Quad core Cortex A53,
64bit ARM @max 1.5GHz (auxiliary Cortex M4)
Octa-core (4x2.0 GHz Kryo 260 Gold & 4x1.8 GHz Kryo 260 Silver)
GPU Vivante GC7000Lite Adreno 610
RAM and Storage 32 GB eMMC / 3GB RAM Variants ranging from 32GB storage and 3GB RAM
to 128GB storage 6GB RAM
External Storage microSD (2TB max) microSD, up to 256 GB (dedicated slot)
Screen 5.7″ IPS TFT, 720×1440 6.3" IPS LCD, 1080 x 2340
Bluetooth 4 4.2, A2DP, LE
WLAN 802.11 a/b/g/n 2.4GHz/5GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 2.4GHz/5GHz
DAC Wolfson Media WM8962 Yes
3.5mm jack Yes Yes
Loudspeaker Yes Yes
FM Radio No Yes
Battery User-replaceable 3500 mAh Non-removable Li-Po 4000 mAh
USB 3.0, Type C, PowerDelivery (Dual-Role Port), video out (DisplayPort) 2.0, Type C, OTG
Kill Switches 3: WiFi, Cellular, Microphone/Cameras No
Sensors LSM9DS1 (gyro, accel, magnetometer) Fingerprint (rear-mounted), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
Back Camera 1x 13 MP with flash LED Quad Camera System:

48 MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/2", 0.8µm, PDAF
8 MP, f/2.2, 13mm (ultrawide), 1/4", 1.12µm
2 MP, f/2.4, 1/5", 1.75µm (dedicated macro camera)
2 MP, f/2.4, 1/5", 1.75µm, depth sensor

Front Camera 8 MP 13 MP, f/2.0, 1.12µm
HDR, panorama
Smartcard reader 2FF format smart cards No
Price $699
$170 for 3 GB / 32 GB model

$180 for 4GB / 64GB model
$200 for 4GB / 128 GB model

Pre-Launch Hype

Purism launched a crowd-funding campaign for the Librem 5 in 2017. Their promise then was that it would be a purely free software phone with "focus on security by design and privacy protection by default". They managed to raise a lot of money with their promises.

Purism announced a launch date of April 2019 on September 4th, 2018. The final specifications and a price of a hefty $649 was announced in July 2019. This price was later adjusted up to $699.

The phone is sold as "pre-order" with batches going out every few months. The state of the "pre-order" queue as of December 2019 is that a "pre-ordered" phone will be shipped "within 6 months".

Operating System

Purism's PureOS is a derivative of the Debian GNU/Linux distribution. The mobile versions of both GNOME and KDE Plasma are available. Purism story is that it is possible to connect the phone regular computer devices like a monitor, mouse and keyboard and use it as a regular desktop. A brief glance at the hardware specifications indicate that this would be a absolutely dismal experience.

The Modem

The Librem 5 uses a proprietary modem which runs black-box binary blob firmware. It is isolated from the phone's SoC for security.

Verdict, Conclusion and Review

The hardware specifications of this phone is that of a low-end $100 phone from when it was announced in 2017.

It is interesting that they have made a Debian based smartphone operating system. It is also interesting that Purism has made a phone where security and privacy are among the primacy concerns. This being said: The interesting software and the moral championship aspects aside: The hardware you get is absolutely not up to modern standards or yesterdays standards for that matter.

There is absolutely no way we can justify paying $699 for a model which may or may not arrive within 6 months so we can test it. We will not buy this phone and neither should you. We are not going to do any in-depth review of this phone and we don't have to do so to give you a good idea what this phone is like: Just look at the hardware specifications and the price-tag and draw your own conclusions.

The reason we are comparing it against the Redmi Note 8 when we list the Hardware Specifications above is not because the Redmi Note 8 is a great privacy-respecting phone; it's not a privacy-focused device. We are comparing the Librem 5 to it because the Redmi Note 8 is objectively a much better phone which provides a much better user-experience at $200 (for the 4GB/128GB variant). That's a whole $500 less than Purism is demanding for the Librem 5.


Anonymous user #1

6 months ago
Score 0++
this phone is not about hardware specs but all about FREE software, which has to be specifically made here. It does not grow on a (git-) tree to just easily pick. It is hard work to adapt the KDE software so that it runs on the Librem–5.

Anonymous user #1

6 months ago
Score 0++
It would be very sad to see Purism succumb to financial issues after they went the right direction as one of very few computer manufacturers. Most others just drown their "valued customers" in anti-features, bloatware and spy–ware.

Anonymous user #2

6 months ago
Score 0++
This review is stupid.

Anonymous user #3

6 months ago
Score 0++
Agreed. Refuse to review a truly unique phone, well because we don't need to...

Anonymous user #4

5 months ago
Score 0++
Hardware... Forgive me but I was always under the impression that Linux distros where at THE OS to use for older hardware, gives them new life and what not. I came here to see a review of this phone before I buy it, have never been here before and never will come where again cause this reviewer doesn't seem to give a shit...

Anonymous user #3

5 months ago
Score 0++
There are many people who want a privacy and security respecting phone and are willing to pay big bucks for such a luxury.

Anonymous user #2

4 months ago
Score 0++

Reviewer is totally missing the point. The librem 5 is not about the hardware it is about the owner actually owning the device and being able to use it as they please, not at the whim of some company.

Comparing it to any non libre respecting phone is like comparing living in your own home to living in a prison cell.

Anonymous user #2

2 months ago
Score 0++
I agree with Anonymous user #2. I bought the device because I don't want to be at the beck and call of ANY company. It's MY phone and it will always remain so!!
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