The Purism Librem 5 is a smartphone designed to run mainline GNU/Linux software with an emphasis on privacy and security. When the phone was first announced it was one of the most powerful devices of its type. But it was also one of the most expensive… and it’s only gotten more expensive since then.
When Purism launched a crowdfunding campaign for the Librem 5 in 2017, backers could pre-order the phone for $599. The price has gone up several times since then, and now the Librem 5 costs more than twice as much.
As announced a few months ago, Purism raised the price of the Librem 5 to $1199 in November, 2021 and raised it another $100 in March, 2022. That means new customers will have to fork over $1299 to get their hands on a Librem 5.
They’ll also have to wait a long time for the phone to actually arrive: there’s currently a 52-week lead time, which means that if you order one of the company’s phones today you’ll have to wait at least a year for it to arrive.
That’s actually a pretty big improvement from the original state though – some folks who pre-ordered Librem 5 phones in 2017 still haven’t received them.
While those delays were originally due to the fact that Purism began taking pre-orders when the phone was little more than an idea, things have changed in recent years. The company finalized the phone’s hardware, made progress in porting its PureOS GNU/Linux distribution to run on phones, and developed the phosh (phone shell) user interface widely used for mobile Linux distributions today. And the company began shipping limited quantities of Librem 5 phones to customers a few years ago.
But the Librem 5 is a niche device from a small company that, like most tech companies around the world, is currently facing global supply chain issues. So production never really ramped up mass production in a big way, and thus we now have a 52-week lead time.
In the time since Purism first announced the Librem 5, the Linux Smartphone landscape has changed quite a bit. These days you can pick up a PinePhone for as little as $150, and a more powerful PinePhone Pro Explorer Edition is now available for $399. It has a more powerful processor than the one used in the Librem 5, but sells for just one third the price.
Meanwhile, mobile Linux developers have made progress porting mainline Linux to run on some phones that originally shipped with Android, including models with Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processors like the OnePlus 6 and OnePlus 6T.
All of which is to say, the value proposition of an $1299 Linux-friendly smartphone that won’t ship for a year is questionable these days to say the least.
That said, given Purism’s contributions to the development of mobile Linux software, you’re not just buying a piece of hardware if you do decide to spend money on this phone. You’re paying to support the idea of a free and open source alternative to Android and iOS.
But it’s worth keeping in mind that in early 2022 it’s still pretty difficult for most users to replace an iPhone or Android device with a Linux phone. Mobile Linux distributions like PureOS, postmarketOS, Ubuntu Touch, and ManjaroARM are still very much works in progress and best suited for Linux enthusiasts and early adopters.
Anyway, I guess my point is that spending $1299 on a Librem 5 isn’t quite the same as spending that kind of money on an iPhone or Android device. You’re not just paying for hardware, but also to help fund the development of a free and open source alternative to those platforms. It’s just that you now have to pay a lot more to support that effort than you would have if you’d purchased a Librem 5 a few months or years ago.
1440 x 720 pixel
|Processor||NXP i.MX8M Quad|
4 x ARM Cortex-A53 CPU cores @ 1.5 GHz
Vivante GC7000Lite GPU
|Wireless||WiFi 4 (dual-band)|
GPS (Teseo LIV3F GNSS)
4G LTE (Broadmobi BM818 or Gemalto PLS8)
|Battery||4,500 mAh (removable)|
|Hardware kill switches||WiFi/Bluetooth|
(Turn off all three to also disable IMU+compass, GNSS, ambient light, and proximity sensors)
|Dimensions||153 x 75 x 15.5mm|
This article was originally published November 19, 2021 and last update March 4, 2022.
As pureOS is opensource, pinephone and derivative can exist thanks to hard work from purism. In the same way Ubuntu is essential to ubuntu-derivative. Moreover debian is essential to ubuntu.
The value proposition isn’t good from hardware perspective, but it has a lot to offer in the long run : privacy, opensource phone alternative, liberty, and end of 2-3 years lifecycle.
So, please don’t discourage people to buying it.
Pure &Simple: Purism = Price Gougers
Minor nitpick: “Snapdragon 845 processors like the OnePlus 5 and OnePlus 5T.”
Snapdragon 845 would be OnePlus 6 and 6T, which both are better supported than the Snapdragon 835 powered OnePlus 5 and 5T.
There is really no good reason to buy this, especially as it just keeps going up in price.
There are reasonably affordable android phones, with far better specs that can run something like UBports (or maybe PostmarketOS, although I’ve had zero luck with that) if you want a Linux phone.
I was one of the first to pre-order the Librem 5 at $599 in 2017, with a contract that stipulated a no-questions-asked refund if asked for. At that price they promised a fully-working phone in 1-2 years; which didn’t happen. Their customer service and communication was horrible at best, fraudulent at worst. This is all very well documented on Reddit and their own forums. So I asked and got a refund in the nick of time. Then they illegally changed their refund policy, locking in all preorders without recourse. Now you’re buying a phone with 10 year old specs for $1300 just for the kill switches? I’m happy to support good causes, which is why I got an incredibly beautiful Framework laptop for a lot of $$$. But I’m not forking over a top of the line smartphone price for a terrible product to a sketchy company.
The price is unbelievably disproportionate to the Librem 5’s specifications. Linux runs on ARM — how come Linux phones are so uncompetitive?
The manufacturers will tell you it’s related to demand and production scale. But then there’s the PinePhone, which costs $150 and does everything the Librem 5 does, but better. PinePhone also seems to be more versatile than the Librem 5.
Honestly, Purism’s devices are overpriced for what they are, but the Librem 5 takes the cake.
They really need to knock a $1000 off the price of this phone and until then…how can anyone take this company seriously? For me…it’s nothing more than comedy relief.
I rather just buy a degoogled phone, or as I’ve personally done…I have a PinePhonePro incoming and I’m using a degoogled phone until it arrives.
The Librem 5 sounded good 4 years ago, but the world moves on gentlemen(and ladies), I suggest everyone move along with it and leave this company to its own delusions.
Of which…there are many.
Have you seen their laptop prices?
Steven B.(Liquid Cool
The pinephone does not have libre hardware. So in theory, the pinephone can be compromised at hardware level. And might need closed source software to function. These two phones has only the name in common.
The librem 5 is out-dated in hardware but futuristic in libre software xD
The Librem 5 has been an unexceptional mess since it was first released to backers in its first iteration. The PinePhone runs better than it, is more versatile, and costs about 25% the starting price of the Librem 5 and now less than 10%. What a complete joke.
Well that was a very kindly written article compared to how I would have said it.
This just makes me want Valve to eventually make an x86 based Steam Phone, that uses the same/similar/better SoC in Deck, but uses sim cards and supports Android apps, via emulation. It wouldn’t have to emulate Android games per se, just the basic phone apps, like WhatsApp etc. The Android app store could either be via Steam’s own dedicated app store, or they could partner with Amazon or other.
The only issue would be the size and bulk of the device; if you shave a Steam Deck down to a 6″ phone form factor, it would still be pretty chunky with all the powerful internals inside, but that’s something they would have to figure out with AMD’s engineering. As for the controllers, they would have to be detachable, like side mounted Joy cons; the device would need to have a traditional phone form factor, first and foremost.
If Valve made something like this, I would never need to carry around any other phone or device in my pocket; this would be my all in one device for AAA gaming and phone apps.
The issue is that for a reasonable performance, you’ll need a powerful processor which translates into a short battery life or a heavy device. For the Deck, that’s fine but for a phone it’s not OK.
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