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Librem 5 Evergreen vs. Pinephone (thatgeoguy.ca)
176 points by ThatGeoGuy 7 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 121 comments



> For the vast majority of people, the Librem 5 and Pinephone are probably not worth even considering. The GNU userspace and associated “mobile” paradigms within it are very much not ready for daily use.

> Linux phones are definitely not yet ready to be daily drivers

Despite the author making this point twice and some of the negativity regarding Purism's pricing - I still feel very good about the state of Linux phones and the incredible work these two entities are doing. We can't lose sight of this.

It wasn't too long ago that the mere mention of a Linux phone was pure fantasy. We now have two companies (and two passionate communities) that are helping move Open Source Linux forward. I'm still very excited about how things are developing and the trickle down effect it will have as we move forward.

> One of the neat things about the Pinephone is the ability to boot and use a variety of Linux distributions on the hardware itself. It’s as easy as loading the distro onto an SD card, and then booting the phone. You don’t even have to flash anything to the internal eMMC in order to run it!

This is such a killer feature for me - while also providing a modern-ish platform for the various distributions and app developers to test their wares. It's probably the biggest single most important thing about the PinePhone right now.

No more unsuccessful rooting, flashing and possibly bricking. No more nagging feeling that you are merely renting a device and are constantly at the whim of a corporate overlord (which never ends well).

I think, like the author, I'm a bit more excited about the flexibility of the PinePhone but acknowledge the importance of the work Purism is doing to try and bring a First Tier Linux phone to market. We all benefit from this.


> It’s as easy as loading the distro onto an SD card, and then booting the phone. You don’t even have to flash anything to the internal eMMC in order to run it!

FWIW while the Librem 5 can't run the bootloader straight from the SD card, the kernel can use the rootfs from SD card just fine - I have multiple distros installed on SD card there this way.

The Librem 5 also supports booting via fastboot (uuu), which personally I find to be a more convenient option for emergency fallbacks than having to juggle with SD cards like you have to do on the PinePhone.

FYI - the reason why L5 doesn't boot straight from the SD card is that the SD card reader is on the USB interface behind a hub, because both SDIO interfaces available on i.MX8MQ are already taken (one by eMMC and other by WiFi).


This is good info, I didn't know this!

Shame though, because among all the Pine devices I have (Pinebook Pro, Pinephone) I've gotten very used to booting from the SD card to swap things out.

Have you written / do you have any links to documentation for how to use fastboot?


For info on Jumpdrive and many other things, see the FAQ: https://source.puri.sm/Librem5/community-wiki/-/wikis/Freque...


My Nokia N9 proved to me that a Linux-based phone without having to be an entirely different world like Android is possible — and I’m stoked to see Librem and the PinePhone take this even further!

We’ve come a long way since the OpenMoko :)


As did my Nokia N900 more than 10 years ago.


The PinePhone is _so close_.

Some suggestions, as a user, to get it over the edge:

1. Every app in the Manjaro distribution that ships pre-installed should at least fit on the screen; many apps have popups that do not.

2. Dialing should never cause a reboot; calling voicemail has crashed the phone for me.

3. Either give up on having a camera or make it _fast_.

4. Some kind of loading indicator for apps would be nice.

5. Either don't allow X apps to be installed or make the X wrapper work; I can install gtk emacs but it doesn't run.


> Every app in the Manjaro distribution that ships pre-installed should at least fit on the screen; many apps have popups that do not.

Sounds like an issue you should bring up with the application authors. These are usually easy fixes.

> Either give up on having a camera or make it _fast_.

We've already seen demos of the camera running at 60fps. Why would you want people to "give up" on a perfectly achievable goal?


Camera framerate may have been fixed, but just opening the camera app on Mobian takes a few seconds. People are used nowadays to their camera app opening near-instantly, so they can capture fleeting moments.


I've pushed a Megapixels update that makes the app launch a bunch faster and the camera preview is a lot smoother too


It's really great, thank you for your hard work Martijn!


> Sounds like an issue you should bring up with the application authors. These are usually easy fixes.

The application authors are mostly unaware. The Manjaro ARM team is using libhandy to port desktop applications on a case-by-case.

They are also in charge of what applications are preinstalled; IMHO, they shouldn't be preinstalling any applications which do not _at least_ fit on the display in every popup and window they open.

> We've already seen demos of the camera running at 60fps.

It displays at 60fps, but I still can't seem to get it to take non-blurry photos of my kids.


Would love a phone w/out a camera. I do not know why they are seen as necessity.


I use a fancy Sony mirrorless camera for photography that is meant to be kept and looked at in the future. However, it is pretty obvious why cameras on phones are necessary even to people with good cameras: when communicating with people over a messenger app like Signal or Whatsapp, one quite often has to send them a quick pic to get their opinion. (For example, today I didn't know which kind of olive oil my partner wanted me to pick up from the supermarket, so I just sent a picture of what was available on the shelf.)

Sure, I could have lugged my full-size camera along and then sent it over to the phone via wi-fi, but using a real camera in a supermarket is going to get you some unpleasant attention from staff.


The move towards functional linux phones are moving forward and with noticeable steps, and when my libre 5 phone arrive it will be interesting to see how close they have gotten. That said, my expectations are low when it comes to the base set in daily use:

1) managing 3G/2G network. There seems to be quite a few hacks in the telecom infrastructure and I have long suspected that mobile phone operating systems are simply expected to handle each unique occurrence. I expect calls will occasionally fail, especially for answering and calling, but also in transitioning between networks.

2) Bluetooth audio support for calling is already known to be broken. I can only hope it will be fixed some time in the future, but I suspect different devices for handing handsfree calls will have their own hacks which won't be supported.

3) As the article alluded to, the GPS software has a bunch of hacks to address short comings. I am expecting there to be both long delays at finding signals and strange jumps in accuracy. Since my personal interaction with a GPS tend to be in moments where delays will be very noticeable, like when you entered the car and waiting for the map to show where to go before starting the car, delays and inaccuracy will be noticeable in such use.

4) For music it will need to interact with other devices, especially over Bluetooth, and I strongly suspect each manufacturer has it own hacks in how to do track progression, rewind/forward, play lists and so on.

5) Android app support. Here I have some hope that Anbox will work. I am however worried that a lot of apps will break in strange ways when run in a emulator from missing dependencies or strange hacks.


Honestly, I wouldn't expect much from GPS on the Pinephone (at least the 2GB version): the only maps apps available are extremely bare-bones, little more than tech demos compared to Android software like OSMAnd or Maps.me.

Also, while Anbox has been used in some cases so hackers can say "See, I did it", I don't think Pinephone users are actually going to be using Anbox on an everyday basis. It is too RAM-heavy and too taxing on the Pinephone’s weak processor. People expect to be able to near-instantly switch between apps (e.g. between Signal and Firefox), and that is probably never going to be possible on this iteration of the Pinephone.

With regard to music and Bluetooth, however, already Mobian on the Pinephone gives me the same functionality with my Bluetooth amp as my Android phone. No complaints there.


A fantasy that exists since OpenMoko, released in 2007, 13 years ago, just as long as the iPhone exists in the market.


Sailfish OS, MeeGo and Maemo have been proving it since 2009. I've been running linux on my phone since 2012.


The Nokia phones had closed binary blobs that required a custom kernel version (so e.g. the Nokia N900 is forever stuck on kernel 2.6), as well as modems that were not isolated from memory. Also, many UI components on Nokia’s OS and Sailfish were closed-source. Yes, they used a lot of Linux-associated software, but the reason why the Pinephone is getting such buzz is that it is both completely open and also it runs a mainline kernel that can be upgraded at will.


> Yes, they used a lot of Linux-associated software

That's a bit of an understatement. It's not 'a lot'. Everything running on those phones is a GNU/linux application. The fact that there are binary blobs and that the UI was closed source doesn't take away from that. The post I was replying to was complaining about linux phones, not about "open hardware/open source" phones.


About the USA-made version of Librem 5:

> it’s kind of appalling that literally anyone would pay this much. It’s kind of appalling that Purism would charge this much. I can imagine a scheme where the parts are shipped from China, and verified and assembled by a part-time college student in the States and they’d likely still be able to price it cheaper than $1999.00.

There are definitely valid reasons not to buy Chinese products: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boycott_Chinese_products. Also what are the other competing smartphones which are made in USA?


Are there any? It costs the Earth to build in America. It might not even be possible. Maybe you can assemble in America but it seems like a fool's errand. Like five people want this and they're also so obsessive about other things that they won't buy your stuff unless it's perfect anyway.


The problem in the US is that everything is aligned against making stuff here. The unions have been in damage control mode for decades, trying to avoid losing the factories that employ two hundred to the more automated factories that employ twenty, but then as a result losing 100% rather than 90% of the jobs to China.

We impose labor and environmental rules on products made in the US but don't require the same standards for products made overseas, even though we could.

China is basically a trust that uses profits in industries it has already taken over to subsidize its entry into industries it hasn't yet, and for decades we did nothing so we could get cheaper shit, claiming that we would keep making the high tech stuff, until we turn around and every phone and computer is made in China.

There are solutions to this. Obvious solutions. But it would imply paying more for stuff because it's not being made in a polluting sweatshop in an undemocratic country which is acting like the nation state version of a 19th century robber baron. (At least initially; you know what stage two of the robber baron playbook is if we do nothing.)


> There are solutions to this. Obvious solutions. But it would imply paying more for stuff.

Well, even if you do, you are up to myriad of other issues.

The progressing general business unfriendliness of the West will not go anywhere. If it does not go, the situation will not change even if you put 1000000% tariff on Chinese goods.

I myself been working on setting up a small knock down kit assembly factory 6 years ago in Richmond, Canada. It was a nightmare. We also attempted going across the border to Washington with same results.

If doing even something as simple is that is a guaranteed to fail endeavour, than, what else you think you can do?


Trump just fought China with tariffs. That is not the answer and I don't think is one of the "obvious solutions" referenced. Let me put it this way...

Should we allow a factory in Indiana to avoid environmental regulation if they just pay a 30% tariff? Is it ok to have a 5% mortality rate at a factory in Alabama if they pay a 60% tariff? Should U.S. companies be allowed to just pay fees to become exempt from FDA/EPA/OSHA/etc. rules?

I know some will argue that it is the case in the U.S. A mining company can break the rules, kill a dozen workers, then pay a million dollar fine and go back to business as usual.

But we don't investigate, we don't fine, we don't punish in any way foreign companies that don't follow U.S. environment/labor/safety rules. We open the door and put their products on the shelf right next to U.S. products. The answer is not to levy a tariff to make them price-neutral. The answer is to ban them just like we should ban U.S.-made products that don't follow the rules.

If a company can pass inspection and certify that they meet U.S. rules the same as U.S. manufacturers, and still have a price advantage, I say let them clobber U.S. competition. But the U.S. company gets regulator inspections as part of their taxes. Foreign companies have to pay for U.S.-recognized inspectors on their own dime.

Same thing for U.S. soy farmers selling into China or Norway. They should have to meet the standards of those countries and pay for the inspections that prove it.


Should smaller countries just close their borders if they don't have a large enough economy to support compliance with ~200 other countries requirements?

Even now I know factories that only export to the EU, or only ship to America because supporting 2 sets of complex regulatory compliance requirements isn't manageable given their team size.


> Should we allow a factory in Indiana to avoid environmental regulation if they just pay a 30% tariff?

There are problems that tariffs are a solution to, like currency manipulation. Lack of environmental rules is not really one of those problems.

> The answer is to ban them just like we should ban U.S.-made products that don't follow the rules.

The real problem is that there are two problems, which currently sort of cancel out.

The first problem is that the existing rules in the US are effective but prohibitively burdensome. The second problem is that the same rules don't apply to China. Businesses solve the first problem by invoking the second.

We can't solve just one. If you imposed the existing rules on China, things would become unreasonably expensive. If you stopped imposing them on the US, there would be as much pollution in the US as there is in China. We need more efficient rules. Which is hard. Worse, it's not sexy and nobody wants to do the work.

But in a sense we can have one solve the other in the opposite direction too. Apply the same rules to other countries and they can't be avoided by leaving the US, which then creates pressure to fix the rules so that they're not prohibitively inefficient, since they can no longer be avoided.


> The first problem is that the existing rules in the US are effective but prohibitively burdensome

Is this an argument to repeal the XIII Amendment in the US?


> If you imposed the existing rules on China, things would become unreasonably expensive.

For a time, yes. But the large market reachable by meeting those requirements would lead to innovation in trying to meet those requirements. (Or in trying to cheat those requirements, which would require some care to enforce.)

They can also be enforced via a ratchet upwards, so that there's time to adapt.


> Should we allow a factory in Indiana to avoid environmental regulation if they just pay a 30% tariff? Is it ok to have a 5% mortality rate at a factory in Alabama if they pay a 60% tariff? Should U.S. companies be allowed to just pay fees to become exempt from FDA/EPA/OSHA/etc. rules?

People keep talking about environmental regulation, but I'd say that they alone do not account even for a few percents of all problems hampering US manufacturing.

Same is for labour rates, US labour rates in non-flyover states are already lower than in South China...

Seeing people keep talking about that, and fail to see way bigger elephants in the room.


I think this was howard dean's big talking point before they made him look crazy.


Was it a regulator paperwork hurdle? Regulations themselves? High cost of labor? No skilled labor available? High cost of warehouse/manufacturing floor space? All-of-the-above?


All of the above, times 10.

The Ease of Doing Business index is a complete BS.

Western countries in their majority should not be far away from countries they scorn as "third world" for how hard it is to run a business.

If you calculate costs purely on paper, running a factory in South China is already more expensive than in USA. It was so for quite some time.

You do not see Chinese factory moving to US in droves, despite some early optimism.

Chinese entrepreneurs saw for themselves that behind attractive land, utility, services, and some times labour costs, hides an impassible bog.


> The problem in the US is that everything is aligned against making stuff here. The unions have been in damage control mode for decades, trying to avoid losing the factories that employ two hundred to the more automated factories that employ twenty, but then as a result losing 100% rather than 90% of the jobs to China.

Short-termism around corporate earnings has done more damage to U.S. industry than unions ever could. And to be clear, I don't think China is any better, despite popular (misconceived) impressions to the contrary.

> But it would imply paying more for stuff because it's not being made in a polluting sweatshop in an undemocratic country which is acting like the nation state version of a 19th century robber baron.

That's increasingly not applicable with automation as well as the plunging cost of renewable energy. There's natural gas being flared in the Dakotas because it is uneconomical to deliver it. And as I understand it both North and South Dakota are not known for an overly restrictive regulatory environment or leadership. It's more a matter of volition IMO.


> The unions have been in damage control mode for decades, trying to avoid losing the factories that employ two hundred to the more automated factories that employ twenty, but then as a result losing 100% rather than 90% of the jobs to China.

Eh aren't they basically non existent? Like 6.2% unionised in private industry and that tends to be more in other industries.

I find it hard to blame them for this later migration. Hell if you'd take their lobbying on foreign policy they'd probably be fairly protectionist.

At the end of the day I think the major dealbreaker is that everything in china whether it's low skill labour or high skill labour like engineers automating things is cheaper and that the capabilities exist. (Some part of bumfuck Africa or SEA might also be cheaper but not have these capabilities) There's also plenty of competition there driving those prices down vs...well what's left in the US and EU.


> Eh aren't they basically non existent? Like 6.2% unionised in private industry and that tends to be more in other industries.

That wasn't the case when this started. The decline of unions in the US and the movement of US manufacturing to China has pretty well gone hand in hand.

> Hell if you'd take their lobbying on foreign policy they'd probably be fairly protectionist.

Protectionism apropos of nothing is a non-starter, because there's no argument for it. You can say we need tariffs on China to account for currency manipulation and prevent a single undemocratic nation from monopolizing important world markets, but you can't win an argument that says food workers should pay more for transportation just to benefit auto workers who already make more money than they do.

But they do often win arguments about not automating away jobs, because there is less money to be made automating them than there is in getting paid to do them when they're not automated, since the automation would apply to everyone in the industry and just lower prices. So we've been fighting automation for the sake of jobs even though it's the main thing that can make higher priced US labor competitive with lower priced foreign labor, and then we lose the jobs anyway.


> trying to avoid losing the factories that employ two hundred to the more automated factories that employ twenty

Do you have an example where this happened?


We will pay of course in due time, but you meant that of course. Complacency has a cost.


I think having visible pricing differences for made-in-USA phones is good purely because it will make a lot of starry eyed kids starting hardware companies reconsider their assumption that they can make the economics of manufacturing in America work out just because they want it to.

I've seen so many go through that cycle, and if they aren't involved in an industry with strong reasons other than money to manufacture locally it invariably wastes time and talent, and often kills the company.


> There are definitely valid reasons not to buy Chinese products: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boycott_Chinese_products. Also what are the other competing smartphones which are made in USA?

Made in USA is a big stretch when nearly all components are imported from abroad.

Better to say "Few screws inserted in USA"

On why you cannot really make thing outside of China:

The biggest proponents of very purposefully locking manufacturing in China are major American companies...

I heard from multiple first hand accounts if Apple trying really hard to move out of China, and putting a concerted multi-year strategy of moving suppliers to TW, and Vietnam. If they cannot move, who will?

The emphasis on the later is because there is positive precedent of any major company succeeding in moving, and that validates beancounter opinion "If multinational A doesn't move, why should we?"


Author here: I think this reply and the reply by AnthonyMouse in another sub-thread [1] nail it.

I'd also add that just because you don't want to buy Chinese products != Buy USA made products. There are a vast number of other countries that would jump at the notion of becoming your supply chain, and don't necessarily have all the ethical grievances of supporting China.

I actually think my main objection though had nothing to do with "buying Chinese goods" vs. "not buying Chinese goods." Mainly: why would you buy a $2k smartphone that is grossly overpriced and isn't really providing much more than the base model? As the above comment here says, it should really be closer to "few screws inserted in USA" than "Made in USA."

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25339390


> As the above comment here says, it should really be closer to "few screws inserted in USA" than "Made in USA."

This is simply wrong: https://puri.sm/products/librem-5-usa/. Mainboard PCB, Mainboard PCBA, Electronics, Modem PCB etc. are produced in USA. All Purism devices are assembled in USA, but this one is actually made in USA.


Because you have to start somewhere and by paying $2k today for a few screws inserted in the USA you hopefully prove the demand for full manufacturing to be supplied in the USA. And hopefully not just in the USA, centralising the entire worlds manufacturing capacity in one region is not particularly anti-fragile.


The problem is scale though. The market today for the Librem 5 is... a handful of Linux nerds and privacy purists?

It seems fine as a statement piece if you're a big company willing to put your wallet on the line, it means a lot less if you're Purism and you need to stay focused in order to do it. And I will argue again: you could probably do this for vastly cheaper than $1999 even in the States. If anything it hurts this more, since people will look at this as an example and say, "Well, I'm not paying $2000 for something like that, guess USA manufacturing is dead since they can't produce good hardware at reasonable prices."


It's only ~2.5x the cost of the Made in China version. I'm intrigued that you think it could be done for less?

Given that no one currently is and that the average salary in the US appears to be about double the average in China - that seems about right?


> Given that no one currently is and that the average salary in the US appears to be about double the average in China - that seems about right?

An experienced factory worker (5-7+ years) with professional training, certifications, and clean track record costs at least 15k CNY a month in salary, and 6-10k more in pension/insurance/other social payments.

Factory workers in US get how much now?

> An early career Factory Worker with 1-4 years of experience earns an average total compensation of $13.28 based on 228 salaries. A mid-career Factory Worker with 5-9 years of experience earns an average total compensation of $14.17 based on 91 salaries.


Where are those numbers coming from?

A line manager working near a top city might get that... that's about the same as an engineer with a couple years experience makes. A high level engineer might expect 30k per month. Foxconn pays about 12k per month for non-technical managers with 3-5 years experience.

If you are a technician who assembles parts you are probably getting a salary between 3500 - 8000 RMB per month (+ social insurance payments if you work for a nicer/bigger employer). Maybe as much as 12,000 if you have advanced skills, but usually at that point you would be managing people as well.


US ones from there: https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Factory_Worker/Hour...

Chinese, from my own knowledge of contract manufacturing. While saying this, I mean that it is not necessarily that all of workers are hired at such seniority level, and, yes, most of them will be seniormost workers on their line.

Foxconn, Flextronics, Pegatron — those companies are completely out of this league, they focus on the bottom line only, and do not work in markets where professional staff on the line matters.

One of our own manufacturing contractors who specialises on things including automotive assemblies for Germans (they did some of the new S-Klasse electronics,) and medical devices has such workers, and they do go through all the problem retaining them.

Out of other high end contract manufacturers, GoerTek had particularly good prices, and quality level despite them being somewhat volume oriented, but shame, they dropped all non-audio business as of late. Same was for LuxShare, after they got Apple's business, it became impossible to get through to them.

Some companies with own manufacturing also been known for well paid line workforce, BuBuGao, and Huawei instantly come to mind.


The people doing the final assembly of the Librem 5 USA are working in Purism's Fulfillment Center in Carlsbad, California, which is a suburb of San Diego. Housing is very expensive in the San Diego area, so we are talking about wages for assembly workers that are much higher than $13 or $14 per hour. It sounds like the company making the PCB's is also located in the San Diego area (based on what Purism said about its Librem 5 DevKit), which means that Purism is paying a company that likely makes prototype boards, which means that Purism is paying a lot more for its boards than Chinese mass production prices. I doubt that Purism has more than a couple hundred orders for the Librem 5 USA, but it says that it will store the parts for the phone and do the final assembly itself. It also is doing just-in-time manufacturing of the phone in very small quantities. All of this has very high unit costs.

Frankly, ThatGeoGuy's assessment of the Librem 5 USA is ridiculous. First of all, he doesn't evaluate what it costs to set up a facility in a San Diego suburb that stores parts with supply chain security, orders small-scale PCBA production, and does small-scale final assembly. Second, he ignores the fact that the Librem 5 USA is a niche product for corporate and government clients who need supply chain security. It is competing with products like the Silent Circle's Silent Phone, Motorola Solutions' LEX L11 and Bittium's Tough Mobile 2. The only one of those phones which publicly lists its price is the Bittium Tough Mobile 2, which costs €1550 (US$1816), so the Librem 5 USA is in the same price range. Third, he totally ignores the cost of paying roughly a dozen developers to work for 3.3 years to develop a Linux phone. How does a company recover those high development costs that have gone way over budget? One way is to develop a side product with high profit margins that caters to niche customers with specialized needs.


Wow. I'm really surprised it got anywhere near that close.


I'm not sure why they even offer the USA option. It hardly adds any real value, no one will buy it and people will just whinge about it.

At least it does provide one data point on what it costs to do though.


Certified crimping tools can cost more than this phone. I don't think you can draw any conclusions based on this data point. The price is that high because they will be made to order. They never expected more than a hundred orders in the first place.


Is there an open source phone where you can get the board done at one of the pcb huts, order parts from Mouser, 3D print the case and put everything together?


One gonna need at least a few grands worth of strange equipment normally used by people who repair electronics (the strange equipment used by manufacturers costs millions). Having prior experience with these tools is recommended.

Another obstacle is 3d printed case, phones need both high precision and high strength, AFAIK many 3d printers/materials lack at least one of these properties.

Still it looks doable, and apparently some people actually did similar stuff.

http://alumni.media.mit.edu/~mellis/cellphone/index.html

https://diy3dprinting.blogspot.com/2013/09/diy-mobile-phone-...


You can certainly do microsoldering in $1000 area now. Not sure about BGA as I have not done those, but I can imagine an oven wouldn't cost more than $1000 as well. There are so many affordable tools available now, it is within reach to build your own phone.


Phones are small, you gonna need a microscope or at least a magnifier with good lighting. BGA is not too hard but you need these laser-cut reballing stencils, ideally not universal but specific to particular chips. AFAIK lead-free solder is very hard to do at home, to use leaded solder you gonna need a setup with good ventilation.

If the goal is to make just a single phone, and you don’t already own all that stuff, I’m afraid the required equipment is going to be above $1000. Maybe if you live in China will be cheaper, but not for the rest of the world.


When reading this, it feels like the goal of those projects have derived?

For me, the "goal" of mainline GNU/Linux smartphones is that we get like PCs. I prefer fedora, you prefer Debian, they prefer Slackware, all is well, we are all free to choose whatever we want for our computer.

Here I'm reading it's all fragmented? And if it's fragmented, I guess it means it doesn't rely enough on Linux drivers, so long term support won't be there?

Is someone "wrong"? Like Librem is saying they are going mainline but actually aren't? Or is it Pinephone? Or I'm misrepreaentating what mainline should mean?


The two projects (Pinephone and Librem) have definitely diverged in terms of their goals, but that's fine.

I don't see any lack of contribution to the mainline kernel or upstream code from either community. The main divergence between the two is the price point and how the communities are run. As for fragmentation, well, if you want a choice in distro, then fragmentation does kind of happen as a result of that.

But overall a lot of the momentum is in the same direction. The biggest sticking point I see happened years ago, when Purism opted to make Phosh + PureOS and make it GNOME based instead of rallying more effort to the UBPorts project. That said, it's free software, so this happens all the time.

(Don't get me wrong though, I really love what Ubuntu Touch has become, and the UBPorts community too!)


The pinephone can run the mainline kernel so it will probably have support for a while. There are several distros available for it because people are excited to develop free/libre mobile devices and they are experimenting.


The Librem 5 can also run the mainline kernel. Enabling all the component drivers upstream is of course an ongoing process, but it's going rather well.

See https://debconf20.debconf.org/talks/13-my-phone-runs-debian-... (around 20:30)


I'm impressed with the rate of progress in the Linux distros for smartphones due to these devices, especially the Pinephone as it's more accessible.

But I honestly expected few major phone manufacturers to join these development effort in some manner after seeing the fate of Huawei with Android or specifically Google Play Services/OHA(Open Handset Alliance), I'm surprised it didn't happen yet or perhaps it's because of OHA it's not happening.

Tizen didn't work out for smartphones although it seems to be gaining market share in wearables, why not direct the smartphone investment part of it to PostmarketOS, UBPorts etc. I presume Linux Foundation has to play a role in it.


Huawei now is pushing their mikro-kernel based OS, nothing to do with Linux, Harmony OS.

Ironically it used to be a research project demoed a few times at FOSDEN and US gave them a reason to bring it into production.

Tizen is also being used in Samsung's smart TVs.

LG has WebOS and Sharp Aquos.

And then there is ChromeOS as well.

Basically, GNU/Linux desktop has proven to not be something that general public even considers when it comes with strings attached about FOSS politics and little UI/UX that those people actually care about, without the apps all their friends use.


There is no doubt on the issue of chicken-and-egg problem with the app ecosystem, but wouldn't it be the only problem or even say the major problem to address if the manufacturers get on to supporting mainline Linux for smartphones instead of developing a completely new operating system from the scratch.


That leads to the same problem that killed Netbooks, besides the XP price dumping, and also plagues the PC and Android eco-systems, differentiation.

Mainline GNU/Linux isn't something that makes average consumer pick vendor A or B when looking for a new device at the shopping mall.

And the hardware alone also doesn't sell, it must be the whole vertical experience on how software + hardware work together to bring that experience into existence.


I think the differentiation issue would persist no matter what OS a smartphone manufacturer come up with at this point if it is open-source, which it should be in order to get more manufacturers on board for getting apps developed for it and thereby risking fragmentation.


> And the hardware alone also doesn't sell, it must be the whole vertical experience on how software + hardware work together to bring that experience into existence.

This is exactly why Librem 5 is more promising as Purism develop both hardware and software.


As well as Sailfish OS, which is supported on a number of Sony devices among others. Development of the OS is happening at a faster clip now due to the support of the Aurora (Avrora) OS developers. Huawei is considering shipping phones with Sailfish in the future as well.

EDIT: Typos.


> It’s obviously not really appropriate to compare the Librem 5 and the Pinephone spec for spec.

If you still want to do it, check this: https://forums.puri.sm/t/comparing-specs-of-upcoming-linux-p....


> Both phones can run fairly hot. I think given how I hold the phone (closer to the base of the phone) I tend to notice the Librem 5 more often than I notice the Pinephone getting hotter. This is mostly because the frame / chassis for the Librem 5 is metal, and conducts the heat around the sides of the phone. So you’ll notice it getting hot after you’ve used your phone for a good bit.

Power management is complex these days. You'll often get a minimal implementation from the chip vendor, and it is a fair amount of work to really polish the lower level support. On top of that, you have to integrate this with the rest of the OS, so that active apps can increase the clocks, which then get automatically scaled back as system load decreases. So there's a lot to do on the userspace side as well.


This is the major reason I deferred my Evergreen Librem 5 order for the Fir batch (set to ship in ~1 year), which will (a) have a smaller process size (14nm vs 28nm currently) and (b) allow for more time for optimizations.


Fir batch will probably have its own disadvantages: https://source.puri.sm/Librem5/community-wiki/-/wikis/Freque....


Thank you for that link - I had not seen that - my impression was that Fir would be a die shrink and otherwise identical.

Reading through the explanation, I think the tradeoff is still worth it for me since I care more about battery life and heat than full convergence (I plan to use this device as a portable Linux machine on the go, not so much (if at all) docked). I do think Purism should have been clearer about this though.


Meanwhile in the "repurpose existing phones" camp: https://wiki.postmarketos.org/wiki/SDM845_Mainlining

Yeah, sure, the Librem5/Pinephone boot directly into open source firmware instead of some Qualcomm monstrosity that even acts as a hypervisor, but. Near-mainline Linux with GPU support on actually powerful devices with 3-ish-GHz fast cores, 8GiB RAM, and so on. And you can buy these on the used market rather than investing in more new e-waste.


I threw out my Qualcomm phones long ago because the lack of software updates had made them useless and freedreno really didn't look like it was going to catch up. Part of me wishes I hadn't but also the Pinephone is better than my Samsung galaxy S3 in terms of specs and with actually competent software.

If people on qualcomm phones had any amount of faith the company wouldn't screw them over or the community would be able to make a huge leap in terms of compatibility they probably would keep the phones but that's not how things have worked for about a decade.


GNU/Linux phones provide a few things which are not achievable elsewhere: convergence, lifetime updates, killswitches and so on.


It’s not obvious for me why wouldn’t they install better cameras. For me camera system is one of the most important parts of a smartphone specification. Don’t those makers realize that there are people for whom those things are important?


With the PinePhone 5MP is the limit of the AllWinner A64 SoC, and IIRC it‘s similar with the Librem 5. Also, it‘s important to remember that what makes smartphone cameras great is an advanced software stack, which does not exist for GNU/Linux yet (developments like the Megapixels app are showing some promise though).


I understand that the camera can be an important feature of a smartphone for some people, but I for one, don't care about it at all above a certain "eh, good enough" threshold, that is currently easily met by any smartphone. If I want to take good pictures, I use an actual camera, with a proper lens.

All this to say: you can't always serve everyone.


> I understand that the camera can be an important feature of a smartphone for some people, but I for one, don't care about it at all above a certain "eh, good enough" threshold, that is currently easily met by any smartphone.

Judging by many, many reviews of smartphones, most people do deeply care about the quality and features of their phone's camera, and it's very likely to be the only camera many people have.


Isn't the whole goal to serve as close to everyone as possible? Or is the idea that these will always be niche phones sold at flagship prices but without flagship features? I get that universal appeal is an impossible objective, even for popular brands, but surely a part of the grand scheme of all this is to prove that these sorts of phones can have mainstream appeal if given the time and support needed to develop into competitive products.


People will probably build alternative camera modules in the future. Early adopters have already been able to replace the motherboards to get a ram/flash upgrade.


I'm all for more variety of hardware and more control over software. That said, what makes these a better option, for anyone, than buying an android phone with an unlockable bootloader and loading a Google-less version of Android on it?


Mainline Linux support means the device is going to be supported for a very long time. For Android phones you're always relying on the manufacturer - even with the likes of the FairPhone you're still beholden to qualcomm's willingness to provide updates.

You also get the same software running as you do on desktop Linux - just hook up a display and you've got a regular Linux desktop. You can print from the device itself, because of course it can just run CUPS. You can direct audio output from each application (including to the earpiece) because it's just running pulseaudio. Hook up a webcam, a Wii mote, once you have actual control of the hardware the possibilities are endless.


The desktop environment is nice, but android can do all the rest of it. I've never had problems with printing from my phone and webcams and gamepads work just fine over USB.


Just speaking for myself, as somebody who has preordered a Librem 5, but may not be representative at all of the wider community around it:

I want a pocketable Linux device I can take with me everywhere. That's it. I don't care how well it works as a phone. I want a fully-featured, honest-to-god GNU/Linux terminal in my pocket that I can use to do anything that I could do on a (massively underpowered) Linux laptop, especially on the command line (i.e. I don't even care too much about GUI apps except some basics like web and PDF display).

If it can someday replace my phone, that's a massive bonus of course, but realistically I don't think it will within the next decade, for my specific smartphone needs. But that's OK - I don't mind carrying alongside it an Android device that is my actual "smartphone".


You might be interested in things like the Pandora/Pyra, the Cosmo Communicator or the GPD Win.


Thank you :-) I own both a Win 2 (Windows for gaming) and a Pocket 2 (Linux, for study/coding) and am very happy with both of them - but neither is actually pocketable, which is why I'm looking towards the Librem 5 (and have also considered a Pinephone, and would be very tempted to get one if they come out with something closer to Librem 5 in terms of power)


Right now? Probably not a whole lot.

Eventually once the software is more refined, there are definitely some features worth adopting for. The kill-switches are a decent feature, and I would love to have something like that on every phone (especially the cam & mic one, since I don't tend to put tape over my phone cameras!).

For the Pinephone, the hope is that one day you'll be able to buy one (or some successor) and be able to load whatever distro you want on it. It's vastly easier to work with than installing a custom bootloader, and then flashing a new version of Android. So as far as that goes, there's a lot to be desired.


Unlike android, most GNU/Linux OSes are built so that you can hack around problems on your own pretty easily without having to completely rebuild the OS. Also since you're just running X11/Wayland you have a way larger selection of software available. Almost anything open source that runs on your Linux desktop will run on your phone (although often with less performance.)

Finally, you're not stuck with a PalmOS style mobile GUI and can use a normal overlapping window manager.


The efficiency of developing software on GNU/Linux.

(edit: rewording)


Roughly the same thing that makes running Ubuntu (or any Linux distro) on your computer a better option than running a Google-less version of ChromeOS.



    I *did not* / will *not* test:

    Phone calls & SMS / MMS functionality 

    I haven’t bothered plugging them into a display. 

    Email (...) I’ve been too lazy to try setting this up 
      
    Cameras 

    GPS / location
Anyone who expected an article like "I actually tested those phones in real life and will tell if they are actually suitable as phones", don't expect.

(Article is not empty, does mentions how these machines behave on the GUI side, data-only SIM, web browsing, music, charging.)


I was honestly really surprised that this was the “will not test” list rather than the “must test” list!


ThatGeoGuy, Since you called me that "crazy uncle at Thankgiving," I feel that the "crazy uncle" should have a chance to respond to the arguments that you made in your review: https://forums.puri.sm/t/pinephone-vs-librem-5/9092/83


I should point out that very little of this article compares the hardware of these two devices. This article has two main comparisons. One of these is Pine64 vs Purism and the others Phosh vs LoMiri. For those who haven't read the article but want to quickly skim to the sections with actual comparison between the Librem 5 and the Pinephone, here are the relevant headers:

- Kill Switches

- Charging the battery

- Temperature

- Phone shape

The rest of the article is not about Librem 5 vs Pinephone. While the sections on the apps could have compared the two phones, instead they compare two operating systems. I would have loved a discussion of the performance differences between the two phones or the screen brightness or the speakers. However, most of this article is largely irrelevant to the phones.


I own a Pinephone with the latest revision board which was bought in the July 31st batch this year (and got shipped in September/November within the EU).

I have to say that hardware-wise, the Pinephone got very _very_ far already. It's an amazing hacker's device, especially with the USB-C host.

The only issue that persists is software. Phosh is pretty much useless because not a single app will work as a real mobile app, let alone act in a responsive manner with their underlying design philosophies. It all feels like Android 1.x, which was barely useable outside the context of shitty car navigation handhelds.

The available cross-compiled versions of Browsers (e.g. Firefox or Chromium) are totally broken, as they are made for Desktop and do not even downscale their user interface, and are neither responsive anyhow. So for now, I am using my own (prototypical) Browser Stealth [1] due to lack for alternatives because there at least the UI doesn't crash every few seconds when being used within a WebKit2GTK webview.

I don't have many requirements for my phone, to be honest. I don't use social apps, and only communicate via telegram. But currently the amount of software that's available for phosh is still the one reminding me of a developer environment or say, an Android emulator image.

I seriously thought about taking ownership in creating a few apps for it, like one for openstreetmaps, notes, text editor, which are the more important ones for me.

But to be bluntly honest, I don't even know where to start with the whole GTK shitshow. It's absolutely impossible to develop an app without any working examples. There's no non-auto-transpiled-bindings-documentation, there's no libhandy examples that actually work, and there's certainly not any responsive GTK app examples that would show how to make a "real mobile" app. How do people develop apps for mobile GTK?

Seriously, I cannot understand it. I want to, but there's no way anyone can keep the mood up digging through a _mobile phone's gdb output while the on screen keyboard crashed_ to figure out how the API works.

I think what GTK really needs is something like Electron, but maybe based on WebKit2GTK and (maybe?) gjs. Something that allows bundling your assets to build an app that is offline-ready, and is easy to build with common methodologies of UI frameworks.

Because currently I don't see the reason why libhandy exists. It tries to fix a problem, and doesn't fix the underlying cause. GTK boxes and their layouting (and reflow?) concept just isn't made for an adaptive/responsive UI, so you'll always end up with a totally broken UX by modern standards. (You're welcome to challenge me on this, but as long as "make a sidebar that can fade-in/fade-out with a swipe" takes more than a week to build, I think you're wrong.)

[1] https://github.com/tholian-network/stealth


Firefox is bearable with firefox-mobile-config, and Chromium can be usable now (not on all distributions yet): https://fosstodon.org/@linmob/105334115920899338 (Also, Plasma Mobile‘s Angelfish Browser is quite good, it works on Phosh too).

BTW: May I add your Browser to https://linmobapps.frama.io?


Oh, didn't know about the firefox-mobile-config. Does this also change the UI layout for the buttons, similar to Android's UI for fennex/fenix?

> BTW: May I add your Browser to https://linmobapps.frama.it?

Sure, of course, but as I said it's still very prototypical and needs a lot of work :)

PS: Really nice blog you got there! How's your experience with Lorimi so far?


You probably know firefox-mobile-config, it's what makes Firefox somewhat usable on Mobian, Arch Linux ARM, Manjaro and postmarketOS. It scales the UI, but it does not really change it to that degree.

Thanks! I have been busy with my day job lately, so I have just been trying to use my PinePhone with Phosh mostly. Lomiri is nice, but Manjaro Lomiri is not yet at the point where it does not break on upgrades, which makes it nice to play with but impossible to use.


If I were you, I'd try to get in contact with the libhandy developer and try to get a conversation started, e.g. on the GNOME discourse instance.

I think many in the community are interested in this, but have been waiting for hardware to show up.


Have you looked at plasma-mobile at all? It seems like they've had convergence in mind longer... I wonder if the environment is any better? I predict a lot of Electron apps and PWAs for these devices.


I'm surprised battery life isn't mentioned. My understanding is that it's abysmal for Librem 5? I could live with a phone that has software issues, but I can't live with a phone that spends most of the day turned off because it needs charging every few hours...


> My understanding is that it's abysmal for Librem 5?

It's more or less fine, especially considering that suspend is not yet implemented at all: https://puri.sm/posts/librem-5-4500mah-battery-upgrade/.


That article basically says that if I turn wifi off and don't use the phone, it still wont even last a whole day, in the best case... To me, that's abysmal.


True, but it will be sufficiently improved with software updates.


If that happens, then the phone becomes viable. Until that date, it's just an expensive toy to tinker with.


It's worth noting that postmarketOS and Mobian already support Librem 5, and running other distros like Arch, Fedora etc. on it by yourself is not a challenge for someone reasonably comfortable with GNU/Linux. Running Plasma Mobile via pmOS is a no brainer, and I've almost got UBports (Ubuntu Touch) to run there already as well (it struggled with one quirk of the etnaviv driver last time I tried it, resulting in garbled display content, but it worked otherwise).


There's the third way: https://wiki.postmarketos.org/wiki/Devices

You can buy the used devices cheaper than Pinephone and play with them. Not perfect hardware support, but enough for hackable mobile device with privacy and low-distraction mode.


https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25343592

>with privacy

There is no privacy with all proprietary drivers. There is no security either.


For now, I sort of trust Apple enough on privacy and security, PRISM disclosures and their being a huge corporation.

What will get me to buy a product like Librem or Pinephone in the future would be as a universal device, that is a dock that would make it my only digital device - and feel secure against hacks, etc.


I really like alternatives, but imo AOSP is really secure and private OS. What I need is a AOSP smartphone with frequently OTA updates (like in Pixel's phone), working out of box.

I wouldn't compromise my security by choosing one of this smartphones.


Frankly, good luck with that. I attempted for a few months to do that for my Pixel 3a (which in theory is officially supported). When I followed the official guide to compile android, I found that a LOT of things did not work that I expected it to, including: VoLTE, SMS over LTE, and wifi-calling. The phone was useless on LTE, I had to force it onto 3G for any phone functionality. I also had a weird issue where a new SIM would refuse to work in it, I had to activate a new SIM in a Google Stock android, then it would work in AOSP.

I had to manually search through the Google image to find what libraries existed, manually extract them, add them to my AOSP build, THEN compile. I was only able to do this because others had done much of the grunt work already (i.e. GrapheneOS), but when it was "upgraded" to Android 10, it all changed and all my work went out the window. Now I just use GrapheneOS and accept the comprimises I have to deal with.


Technically, nothing prevents you from installing AOSP on these smartphones. Even better, you can have lifetime updates and verifiable drivers. In practice, GloDroid exists on Pinephone [0], but it's far from usable.

[0] https://forum.pine64.org/showthread.php?tid=10613



I have a question, does Google's Android licenses allow Android apps to be used on non-android operating systems?

I know that some Google provided APIs will be missing, but still, we could soon have alternatives, like OpenStreet for maps.


> It too has kill-switches, but these are not easy to access on the side of the phone and instead are inside the case of the phone.

Ha, I can't help but think this is something linux folks won't even think twice about. :)


Hmm, I would not underestimate the convenience of having them out the outside easily accessible, especially when you consider that switching off radios at the moment should also help with battery consumption? (<- this is an assumption; I don't own either device and cannot test this)


Ha, I meant linux folks don't mind inconveniences like having to recompile the kernel, like having to use jtag and having the take the back off to access switches. :)


I wonder if they have ever tried to shop their tech to China. Chinese mobile companies are interested in building an alternative mobile operating system and have the resources to make it work


Kind of annoying to have a review and not have a single picture of the phones, screenshots, etc. Yes, I can google them myself, but c'mon.

Also $1999 and the camera doesn't work yet? Yikes.




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