Kev Quirk

This post is more than three years old so may contain incorrect information, or opinions I no longer hold.

Librem 5 - My Thoughts

18 Dec 2019 | ~3 minute read

Purism recently announced that they were ready to start shipping their long awaited Librem 5 phone. The phone was originally priced at $649, then it was increased to $699, then $749. It now stands at a whopping $799!

Purism talk about the price increase on their blog, explaining that the phone is intended to be a device with longevity. So your $799 investment will go a long way when compared to many devices that last just a few years. They say in their post:

When you look at the longevity designed into the Librem 5, there’s just no comparison with existing disposable smartphones on the market with a 3-year expiration date. Whether it’s a $1100 flagship phone, a $500 unlocked mid-range phone, or a free low-end smartphone that’s subsidized by selling your data, the sticker price only tells part of the story. Whether it’s OS and app updates that slow down your phone, security updates that stop after a few years, batteries that fail, networks that upgrade, or storage that fills up, you’ll be paying that same price in a few years, and a few years after that. You don’t own a modern smartphone, you rent it.

I disagree.

While I agree that all of the above is true, I do not agree that the Librem 5 is any different. Over a 3 year period the Librem's paltry 32GB of internal storage will fill up. Their 3,500 mAh battery will begin to fail and their hardware will become more outdated.

As far as I can see, there is nothing that gives the Librem 5 a longer life than any other smartphone.

Librem 5 Price

$799 for a device that has hardware below the current flagship devices that are similarly priced is ridiculous to me.

I understand that Purism have had to build the device from scratch. But can you see your friends paying $799 for this device? I can't. It's below par in terms of hardware, it's ugly, and it runs an OS that no-one in the mainstream has ever heard of.

Alternatives?

Yes the Librem 5 is privacy focussed, but you can get the same effect by buying an Android device and flashing it with Lineage OS. By doing so, you also have access to Android's vast library of apps too.

I'd rather buy a reconditioned iPhone from eBay (like I did) for a lot less money. Or buy something like the Motorola G7, which costs less than $200 and has comparable hardware to the Librem 5. Then flash it with Lineage.

There's also projects like Ubports that offer a very similar software experience as the Librem 5, but you can flash it on to a range of hardware.

Will it sell?

I don't see a significant market for the Librem 5. Other than privacy, I think it's over-priced and has very few advantages over iPhone or Android. The verbiage about the longevity of the Librem 5 is complete and utter rubbish too.

I can't see people parting with $799 for the sake of some privacy gains. Especially when they can get the same from Lineage for a fraction of the price.

I personally think the Librem 5 will be an utter failure.

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