When Purism first announced plans to build a smartphone that would run mainline Linux, the company set a launch price of $599 for the Librem 5 phone. But it took another two years for the phone to begin shipping in small batches. By then, it had received a $100 price hike.

In the years since then, Purism has raised the price several more times… by a lot. An entry-level Librem 5 now sells for $1,299 and customers who want a made-in-the-USA model can pay $1,999 for a phone that’s basically the same, but promises a “secure supply chain” for folks worried about buying phones made in China. And now… there’s an even more expensive model called the Liberty Phone. It has a little more memory and storage and a $2,199 price tag.

The Liberty Phone has the same display, processor, cellular modem, and software support as other models. And like the Libre 5 USA, it’s assembled in the US.

What’s new is that instead of 3GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, the Liberty Phone has 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.

Overall this is a $2,199 phone with the kind of specs you’d expect from a budget phone from a few years ago. It has a NXP i.MX 8M processor which was released in 2017 and features four ARM Cortex-A53 CPU cores with top speeds of 1.5 GHz. And the phone has a 5.7 inch, 1440 x 720 pixel display and support for WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.3.

Other features include a USB 3.0 Type-C port, a 4,500 mAh user-replaceable battery, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a microSD card reader with support for cards up to 2TB.

And, perhaps most importantly, it’s designed to run mobile Linux distributions rather than Android or iOS. The phone ships with Purism’s own pureOS software but you should also be able to load other operating systems on the phone.

Or… you could buy a PinePhone 4 for $399 and get a faster processor and similar features including a 720p+ display, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.

Purism has done a lot for the mobile Linux ecosystem: without the company’s work, we wouldn’t have the phosh user interface or much of the other software that allows you to run mainline Linux on modern phones. And the company continues to support its phones with regular long-term software updates that make it more useable over time.

But Purism has a history of charging high prices for its hardware to help subsidize the development of its hardware + software ecosystem. And it’s honestly kind of hard to imagine why anyone would spend $2,199 on a Linux phone with such mediocre hardware when the PinePhone Pro exists.

via Purism

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  1. I only saw this now, and would like to comment on only one aspect of this:
    “And it’s honestly kind of hard to imagine why anyone would spend $2,199 on a Linux phone with such mediocre hardware when the PinePhone Pro exists.”

    I think the device to compare it too, is the Librem 5 USA, with 3GB/32GB – and over that the pricing is definitely worth it if you are going to touch flatpaks (which you should, because while there’s plenty software in Debian, err, PureOS, the mobile friendly software quite often is not (see https://linuxphoneapps.org/packaged-in/ for reference). Honestly, if it was not quite as expensive (even if it were 1000 USD), I would consider getting one. I have both a Librem 5 and a PinePhone Pro, and while both can be somehow used as daily driver, the word needs to be written in uppercase for the PinePhone Pro, while the Librem 5 is pretty much fine these days.

    Four times the storage and 33% more RAM can only improve the overall experience. But yeah, even as an enthusiast, at that price: Count me out.

  2. Other features that look rather dated by 2023 standards include support for WiFi 4 and Bluetooth 4.

    It does WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5 though.

    1. Whoops, it looks like the updated the wireless module at some point. I’ve updated the article to reflect the new wireless capabilities. Thanks for bringing that to my attention!

  3. I use a flip-phone: makes and receives phone calls; has a camera, FM radio, replaceable battery, headphone jack, text messaging. It also has no–as in ZERO–privacy or security security issues. Costs far less than a ‘smartphone’, but prices are going up, because…

    …flip-phones (“feature phones”) have been re-discovered, and by Gen-Y and Gen-Z, no less.

    Time to get in on the new craze, folks?
    Way past time. A long time ago.

  4. “…Or… you could buy a PinePhone 4 for $399 and get…”

    Is Pine still in business?
    They haven’t generated a new blog in months; supposed to be every month, and are not answering anything.
    Not surprising. Unsustainable “business model” (if it can be called that), coupled with near-zero “customer service” (if it can even charitably be called that). Just read all the complaints.
    Other than that, no problem, EXCEPT,
    why are they even MENTIONED on Liliputing?

    1. Why?
      Wishful thinking of course, nerds and the linux phone is like old people and buying vitamins

    2. Pine64 is the only business I ever came across that limit warranty to one month. I regret having bought a phone from them. Yes, cheaper than a Librem5, but what does that help if it is useless because of its awful hardware? I did like their approach of making the phone as open as possible, so that it is easy to connect to the console and that you can boot from SD card etc. But it doesn’t help when you use the cheapest crap for that that you can get hold of. I guess the Pro is better, but I’m definitely not going to spend money on their products anymore.

    3. I was an intern with them at one point and I still am a moderator. Lukasz, who used to be employed by PINE64 to be the front man to handle some of the customer service, blog posts, product announcements, etc, has stepped down from his position and nobody equivalent to what he did has been chosen to replace him. He now runs the PINE64 Europe store. Further, the system administrators that used to manage the servers for the chatrooms have been busy with life (they are volunteers), and as a result are unable to maintain things like the anti-spam systems and moderation tools we once used. The proposed bounty system project for raising funds to pay developers to work on patches and improvements also has fallen silent, and many of the developers in the community have left as a result of the choice of Manjaro as a default OS. Further poor management from PINE64 regarding hardware design choices such as not wanting to include flash memory for a reliable bootloader to be flashed permanently onto the device regardless of if the SD card or eMMC memory is corrupted, has further disenchanted and chased away developers who were vocal against these changes… To name a notable developer, Martijn Braam stopped being involved as a result of issues like that (He created Megapixels, made the devzone system (which has died), and also made the factory test software for the PinePhone and PinePhone Pro).

      That said, PINE64 co (not the community side (.org)) is still pumping out products, and I personally think the products they are making are better than previous ones. The PineTab 2 just shipped (I bought one), and it’s a fairly decent if a bit slow (For web browsing heavy pages at least) tablet. They’ve now dumped Manjaro and are using a community-made version of Arch Linux Arm which is working out great. They’re also going to be shipping the Pinetab V next week from what I’ve heard, which uses the StarFive JH7110 SoC (And has drivers and kernel patches being developed by VisionFive, Imagination, and StarFive themselves). But they’re still very much toys, as a result of not having a serious warranty or support, and the software being in it’s infancy. They market their products as no more than “Developer devices”, and I don’t think that will ever change as a result of the issues I previously mentioned.

      But that’s how they used to be, and always have been. They don’t make the software, and they don’t really give good support. They’re just there to make products the owner of the company thinks are cool, not to make money. I think it’s really just his side project more than anything, and it’s honestly a shame, because it could be a lot more with just a little more work and care.

      I sometimes dream about starting my own PINE64 competitor to market a Linux Smartphone which uses the proven Phosh and Plasma Mobile software stacks and learns from the failures of PINE64 in making a consumer-focused product, not just a (sorta) developer one. But despite knowing some people experienced with mechanical and electrical engineering, I don’t have the cash or connections for that sort of venture. And I don’t envision anyone else ever will either, but I still hold out hope that eventually someone will. We seriously need more options than just degoogled smartphones… Google really wants to destroy the FOSS Android world, and it’s only a matter of time before they do.

      1. Thanks for your insightful comment! It seems they have a serious lack of focus and are just chasing butterflies. Who is buying those new products they throw out when there is no support and development is mostly dead? If pine64 has stopped caring about the community, it would appear to me that in the mid to long term, that’s their death knell because without an active developer community, their products are pretty much useless

  5. Even the pinephone pro isn’t particularly great either. Pine64 has a history of making stuff as cheap as possible. I made the mistake of buying a non pro pinephone, and I was never able to use it as a daily driver, the hardware is just horrible. That’s why it quickly became a dust collector. The pro is a bit better but at the current pace of development, it will also become obsolete before any of the distributions is ready for prime time.

    1. Yeah, for the most part all of these phones are really aimed at developers, beta testers, and early adopters rather than folks who just want something that works. I think Pine64 has done a better job of making that clear than Purism though.

      1. Actually, when I bought mine, they were not particularly clear about that. First they offered the braveheart edition that was explicitly marketed as a device for developers. But then came the community editions which supposedly offered a finished product. Only with the pro they returned to targeting developers only. Maybe they learned from their mistakes by then. But the pro is also a few years old by now and development activity has very much died down, so this looks like a dead end to me

  6. Wait ’til Joe’s forever shootin’ war starts with China – then this phone will look dirt CHEEEEP!

  7. For me, ths story just highlights how contorted and grotesque this sector of the electronics market is – It’s an environmental catastrophe for the sake of free-market capitalism.

    Smartphones of this device’s performance are more than performant enough for what most people do with their phone.

    And people ought to be prepared to pay a fair price for the production of the device, and have the expectation that it will last them a decent amount of time. Still, I have to agree with everyone else: this price is staggering, when compared to a Shift6 running PostmarketOS, or a Fairphone.

  8. I think, this device was designed for people who supported the goals of running free software on a phone. Nothing less nothing more. If they want more people to use their phones to offset costs(economies of scale), they must abandon this phone and go for something else with same features but comparably low cost. If their goal is to compete with Apple or Samsung in the price segment, but not with specs, then there must something wrong with their marketing team. I hope Purism must wake up from this low-spec phone with a premium high price tag.

    1. And it isn’t a great deal either. Pine64 of course can charge a lower price because it doesn’t invest anything into software development. The price for that is unfortunately, that the software isn’t that great and the pace of development is very very slow. So so that the pro will also be obsolete, when the software is sufficiently usable.

  9. 2200 dollar phone with 3 hours screen-on time. They couldn’t get the design with standby and battery saving right from the start. Agree with the article, this is just a very expensive joke.

    1. Battery life has significantly improved to at least 8hrs moderate use and nearly 24hrs standby, IIUC. Don’t forget that it is an automotive SOC – with which MNT is also working on their Pocket Reform.

  10. Are they in financial trouble and this is their (badly made) decision to try to stay in business?

    Not that I know a better way to fund a company that serves such a niche.

  11. “promises a “secure supply chain” for folks worried about buying phones made in China”

    Does it come with a tinfoil hat for folks worried about Chinese balloons intercepting their brain waves? Or do you have to pay separately for that? Asking for a burger friend intoxicated with FREEDOM.

    1. That’s a misguided view to take in an attempt to generalize everyone that would prefer non-Chinese phones. I’m not saying this price is necessarily justified, but preferring to support one’s own country over an antagonistic one is hardly anything new. Of course I would prefer a phone from the U.S., or even an ally country, over one from China.

  12. sarcasm:
    I bought a librem 5 when it was $600. If I say I’ll beat up, or at least scream in the face of, and aggressively condemn, anyone I see in public actually using a librem 5 or anything like it, will I be able to sit at the cool kids’ table again?
    Or am I going to have to buy an iPhone too to truly redeem myself?

    God do I wish they’d just called it the librem 5 usa+. I tried to tell them to change the name before anyone noticed, but well, too late.

    1. If you actually have a $600 Librem 5, at least Some Guy didn’t get ripped off.
      It is a shame, because Pure Os’s Gnome is not that terrible on an old laptop. Nobody who has used Linux as a Pc wants to see t Linux products fail, except when the companies behind them behave poorly.

  13. Yep that is the true cost of labor in the USA. Not like good ol’ “American” products like Apple that are made in China, Thailand, Taiwan, Philippines on the backs of child labor. Ha ha ha

    1. No child labor here in the Philippines for commercial companies like Apple. Maybe, the US should hire people from the streets of Kingsington Philadelphia to make the Made in the USA device more affordable? Surely, the folks there will accept a few dollars per hour just to save themselves. Seriously though, the Americans should fix their own problems before watching other countries problems.

      1. That’s not how capitalism works.. Child labor is cheap. Sending all the labor out to other countries that allow for child labor (among many other human rights abuses) is more profitable than doing it domestically.

      2. The minimum wage is currently approximately $18/hr across the US now (it has been voted to be increased to over $20 over the next few years).

        People in these other countries work for what, a few rice bowls a day that converts to about $0.50 US currency. That is two whole quarters – to survive. There is no Medical, Dental, overtime pay, vacation time, sick days. No minimum hours -only that the quota is completed. No safety regulations, no human resources, no public records, no one officially keeping track of people’s daily work hours or health. In some places they even build prisons, ooops meant housing, around the factories and lock the workers in to save on transportation costs all in the name of efficiency. A person just rolls out of bed directly onto the assembly line.

        So think about that. That is a difference of $17.50, PER person, PER hour, 365 days. And people wonder why the discrepancies in pricings. Profits to line the pockets of all American companies and governments that allow this to happen.

  14. I suppose this is a good exercise to understand what prices would be like if phones were made not-in-China, as well as specs, but I did not think this would exit the realm of theoretical stipulation…. 😛

    It’s quite impressive how low spec’d this phone is.
    Several of it’s specs compare poorly to my first Android phone, a Sony Xperia Z3… which was launched almost 10 years ago. The Xperia Z3 had a fullHD panel and it’s SoC was quadcore at 2.5 GHz, Snapdragon 801.
    You know what else uses “four ARM Cortex-A53 CPU cores”? A Raspberry Pi 3B.

    Proof of concept to show it can be done, sure… but as a commercial product? I’m curious if anyone can think of a use case for this.

    1. This is not a good exercise to understand what prices would be like if phones were made not-in-China because this phone is a very low volume production. If a phone model had hundreds of thousands or even millions units made in US, it would not be so expensive. Of course, it would be more expensive than those made in China, but no so much like Librem phones. The problem here is low volume product: it raises prices by a lot. And it isn’t only hard cost: soft cost also is more expensive because there is few customers to distribute cost.

      1. ….’ because this phone is a very low volume production’…..

        well at this new price you can replace ‘very low’ with ‘ultra low’ I reckon

  15. And if you pay for fast track shipment it will only take 10 years to ship to your doorstep

  16. Not a lawyer, but I believe there are certain laws and standards that must be met before a manufacturer can claim the “Made in USA” label.

    I’m curious what electronics are made in the US? Are the Arm chips also made in the US or sourced from Asia?

    I’m genuinely curious. But aside from that, I agree wholeheartedly this is way over priced, and if they’re just riding on the back of “Made in USA” to justify that cost, well, I hope someone in the FTC is looking closely at that claim.

    Either way, I couldn’t ever justify purchasing one of these for the specs you get.

    Just my 2 cents.

    1. yup

      Also, I imagine three letter agencies might switch to such phones…at the taxpayers’ expense, naturally