The Purism Librem 5 is an unusual smartphone, because it’s made from a company that sells Linux hardware with an emphasis on privacy and security. It ships with a GNU/Linux distribution called PureOS, has hardware kill switches to disable the mic, cameras, and wireless hardware when you’re not using it. And it’s expensive: when the phone went up for pre-order in 2017, Purism was charging customers $599. But the company raised the price repeatedly and as of last week it was selling for $1,299.

Now Purism has announced the first ever price cut for the Librem 5. It’s now available for $999. And that’s… still a lot of money to pay for a phone that has hardware that was mostly sourced in 2017 and software that still feels like a work in progress.

Look, the mains reasons to buy a Linux phone like the Librem 5 or PinePhone are that you want to support companies working in this space and/or help develop or beta test Linux smartphone software.

And Purism has really been one of the leading forces in making mobile Linux a thing, having developed the Phosh shell for mobile Linux distributions, among other things.

But the phone itself has a 1.5 GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 processor, just 3GB of RAM and 32GB of eMMC storage, and a 5.7 inch, 1440 x 720 pixel display. The cameras are nothing to write home about, and there’s no support for 5G networking.

On the bright side, the phone does have a user-replaceable 4,500 mAh battery, a microSD card reader for additional storage, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a USB 3.0 Type-C cable with support for 18W fast charging, data transfer, and video output.

And since the phone ships with basically the same operating system as Purism’s laptop and desktop computers, you can run a cable from the phone to an external display to run desktop software on a big screen… assuming the software you want to use runs well on a relatively pokey processor.

But there are a limited number of Linux apps that are truly optimized for small, touchscreen devices. The list is growing every day, but don’t expect to find the millions of apps that are available for Android or iOS.

And you can get much of the same experience by picking up a PinePhone Pro for $399 or by purchasing an older Android phone that’s been well supported by the mobile Linux community, like the OnePlus 6, which can run postmarketOS, Ubuntu Touch, and a number of other mobile Linux distributions.

Anyway, if you are still interested in buying a Librem 5, I guess it’s good news that the phone is a little cheaper than it was last week, even if it’s still expensive. And the better news may be that you probably won’t have to wait years to received your order like some people did. Purism recently announced it’s reached “shipping parity,” which means that all existing orders have been shipped and the company will ship new orders within two weeks of the purchase date.

Update: There is a cheap(er) option for folks looking to pick up a Librem 5 smartphone: the company is selling refurbished models for $799. It’s still not exactly cheap for a phone with an ARM Cortex-A53 processor, but that price might make the phone a little more attractive to some folks.

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  1. I guess I’m ambivalent about this.

    I am surely the target market : someone interested in a Linux phone, with some security features and the ability to replace the battery.

    And the specs are more than adequate for what the average person uses their phone for. The smartphone concept is mature… (Mark Shuttleworth’s excellent idea of a converging device is another thing entirely.)

    What Purism ought to have done, is what Apple did in the 3 or 4 years before launching the (fairly basic by today’s equivalent) iPhone. : develop the technology adequately before trying to bring it to market. Obviously Purism doesn’t have anywhere near the RnD budget of Apple though.

    However, I’m not interested in this device : I’ll wait for something with a RISC-V processor in now.

    And Purism have blotted their reputation with this mess, imo.

  2. “Look, the mains reasons to buy a Linux phone like the Librem 5 or PinePhone are that you want to support companies working in this space and/or help develop or beta test Linux smartphone software.”

    No, the main reason is literally the reason they decided to make a smartphone. Privacy.

    “And you can get much of the same experience by picking up a PinePhone Pro for $399 or by purchasing an older Android phone…”

    No you can’t. PinePhone is not a functional smartphone, you can’t make phone calls on it and the battery barely holds a charge. It’s an experimental phone kit.

    Why don’t you spend 5 min of your time and do a quick search online before you decide to write a blog post? I’m sure you’re a busy guy and understanding the subject you walk to write about is so hard and boring, but come on. Just a quick search?

    1. looks around awkwardly I’ve been using my pro as a daily driver… I do have the keyboard. But it’s manageable. I can make calls. Now, are they great sounding calls… depends. But calls do work.

  3. That”s the problem about capitalism, companies have the right to charge whatever they feel they can without any organization controlling the price range of things based on raw materials and technology.

    The more the society advances, the stupider the people with money is.

    This is not the way to help Linux community. I so prefer donating the money they are “charging” me to a Linux foundation.

    1. Creative new product development such as this one is in part an art form whose price is unwise to dictate by a price control committee/organisation/whatever.

      Besides obvious examples such as Venezuela where price controls contributed to current hyperinflation, how can you have an organization objectively dictate the price range of something where production inputs also include non-material creative work such as Phosh and PureOS in this case? I.e., the majority of the cost of something like Librem 5 seems for now to originate outside of components and materials it is made of.

      There are other Linux phone brands listed on this site who do not develop their own OS which are up to several hundred dollars cheaper so you can go for those if price optimization is the sole concern.

      Finally, I agree that donations for various open-source projects and foundations is cool when buying open-source hardware (similar to Pine64 donated to the external OS developers with every unit sold), they could consider something like that but more widely encompassing perhaps..

    2. …You do know that the Linux Foundation does not actually use money received as small donations to develop Linux in any way, right? They say so when you go to the donation page.

      And I could explain why I probably don’t agree with that remark about what you’re calling capitalism, to some variable degree depending on what you mean exactly and what you might have had in mind instead, but I REALLY don’t want to get into a pointless back and forth argument about it, it’s not like it’s going to change things.

    3. The people are the organization controlling the price. If nobody buys the product that means either the price is too high, or not enough people “need” the product, in turn the product will go down in price like we see here. Or the company will completely dissolve and disappear into the sunset.
      Part of me is interested in exactly who you think should control all of the pricing from top to bottom, how these people get elected and how do they get paid.

  4. I don’t understand exactly what demographic Purism thinks they are marketing to here, or where the value really is.

    I mean, given the specs, this phone is still overpiced about $700.

    I just don’t get it, and this is one of the very few instances where a company just has me up in arms.

    Surely, as I suspect, it must be mismanagement of funds, are the reason why this phone is so ridiculously over priced. Maybe they found themselves in a financial windfall, and are desperate to pay their mortgage? I don’t know, but I see no reason why this phone’s price is justified.

    It can’t be sustainable. It wont last. They wont last. That’s all I have to say.

    From extremely long delays to shipping their products, to refusal to refund purchases for products not recieved, even being extremely aggressive and doing recharges after customers have done repeated chargebacks, is ridiculous.

    This company wont last, and I suggest everyone just ignore them. I never bought a product from them and never would. This is like I saw on the NYTimes recently about a high end ritzy clothing company selling basic rubber boots for $1,000. It’s just ridiculous. BE SMART WITH YOUR MONEY, and don’t get ripped off by these companies!

    1. There is still room for future price cuts. If you think about it, price cuts need to be progressive and well thought, and not too drastic and all at once.

      Spec/price performance is just one of many dimensions and you seem to be ignoring all of them except that specific (and most obvious) one.

      The analogy with ritzy clothing is appropriate only if you ignore the entire history of (modular, hard-switches enabled, video-output enabled, mainline, etc.) Linux mobile phone development.

      It seems there are very few “Linux” mobile phone brands such as Purism and all of them are a kind of a niche and comparison with mainstream mass-produced smartphones seems quite inappropriate.

      The reason it is a niche is probably mostly due to the fact that majority of users became locked up into various anti-user control walled gardens and services and less so due to bad performance. I’m speculating that might be the case since majority of people in the world probably don’t mostly use phones for gaming, XR and/or constant high-end image/video capture but that might be a wrong assumption.

    2. They offerd me a refund last year, so that is a myth busted.

      the value of this phone is that you are not the product, that to me sounds sustainable.

      come to think of it, I might be part of there demographic after all!

    3. The demographic is me, someone who wants privacy, isn’t the most tech savvy person, and has a little bit of extra money to spend (although that is quickly dwindling due to the purposeful destruction of the economy *cough, I mean inflation). I purchased the infamous Fxtec Pro 1 X two to three years ago for around $700 after taxes and whatnot, didn’t care about the physical key board, just wanted a phone that had an alternate OS pre installed because at the time the only other option was the Pine Phone that didn’t work or the Librem that wasn’t shipping (and was around $1200). Of course the Pro 1 X ended up taking years to get to me, and only came with android installed… I was trying to look at it as supporting the alternative community, the price you have to pay in order to not shop at WalMart, if you will. I don’t need flagship specs, don’t play games on my phone, try to use the phone as little as possible in fact, I just want something ready to go out of the box that isn’t giving money to Google or Apple. More options exist now-a-days but I have a Pro1 X laying in my room telling me “don’t spend anymore money, stop being lazy, just flash Ubuntu onto me.”

    4. …You really want to know who buys this stuff?
      Well, it’s too small to be considered a demographic. And indeed, I don’t like being lumped into demographics, especially not in a world where you’re responsible for the stereotypical sins of the labels you get slapped with.
      But you can put those who bought it into a few major categories, although being realistic, everyone is a mix of all of them:
      Those who just love the concept of Free Software that much.
      Those who no longer care that they don’t fit in.
      Those who are horrified that people will discover how they don’t fit in.
      Those who looked into the hearts of their fellow man, or looked too closely at the way things worked, and despaired at what they found there.
      And those who, despite this, still think there’s hope that things will ever get better and not end in a violent purge of everyone who doesn’t seem to fit in.
      None of this is a pretty picture. But what did you expect with people like me buying this thing? I can’t paint a pretty picture of myself to save my life, and the way things are going, I’m sure one day I’ll come up against that very ultimatum. If you look at what people value and how people are valued based on their arguments today, I’m about the last person on earth you want as the poster boy for this phone, behind career criminals, murderers, and just about every terrorist organization you know of (although in a sane world, I ought to be worth far more than they!). Well, maybe I’m slightly ahead of that one country you’re not allowed to not hate.
      And I won’t be able to say, that some of it isn’t my fault.

  5. How is this 2017-level hardware??

    We got the likes of the Apple A11-Bionic in the iPhone 8 Plus, and almost a year earlier the likes of the QSD 835 in the Samsung S8+.

    If anything this chipset with 1.5GHz Quad-A53 and 3GB RAM is on the level of the old QSD 600 in late 2012, with the likes of the LG Nexus 4 and Samsung S4, or even the poorly aged iPhone 5 with the Stock Chipset of Apple A6.

    And all of those devices came with operating systems that, for a lack of a better word, were ready for use. The PureOS in the Librem might be one of the best Mobile Linux Distro implementations, but it certainly is still a work in progress. There is very little reasoning this device should have sold for above USD $500 back in 2017, and even less reasons why that price should not have gone down since that time. The fact that it’s gone up that much shows the disconnect between the product, the consumers, the project, and the management behind the scenes.

    As others have said, there are Other Solutions to this, having a Privacy-focused phone.

    1. Perhaps it is explainable by years that it takes for an ARM chip/SOC to get enough of mainline support in Linux in order for it to become a candidate for phone such as this one.

      1. I remember looking into this phone and realizing my very old (2013 era) Nexus 5 roughly the same hardware capabilities, so that’s where I would place this.
        Ten years out of date.
        Incidentally, the Nexus 5 hardware also has a ton of support by the open source community, so there is just no reason to buy something like this.

      2. A lot of people complaining about the price and specs of this phone that have more than likely never tried to create a niche linux phone from the ground up.
        “Why does this local restaurant take so long to bring me my hamburger made with locally sourced organic ingredients, charging me $20, when McDonalds can easily make me MORE food QUICKER for LESS money??”
        Probably not a perfect analogy but you catch my drift.

  6. I waited 4 years for my Librem-5 to arrive and then almost immediately switched to a OnePlus 6 and ran PostmarketOS on that instead. As a phone that runs Linux, and on almost every level, the OnePlus beats the Librem-5 hands down.

    Four years ago, the Librem 5 was too expensive at half the price that it costs today. Paying $1K for a Librem 5 at this point in time is nonsense.