Librem 5

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Librem 5
Librem5 Azdle 09 desktop.jpg
First releasedNovember 18, 2020; 3 months ago (2020-11-18)
Dimensions153 x 75 x 15.5 mm[1]
Mass230 grams[2]
Operating systemPureOS/Phosh
CPUNXP i.MX 8M Quad core Cortex-A53, 64bit ARM @max 1.5GHz (auxiliary 266MHz Cortex-M4F)
GPUVivante GC7000Lite
ModemBroadMobi BM818 or
Thales Cinterion PLS8 baseband
MemoryMicron 3GB LPDDR4-3200 DRAM
StorageKioxia 32GB eMMC flash memory
Removable storagemicroSD (2TB max)
Battery4500mAh, user-replaceable, 12V fast charging
Data inputsSensors:


  • power and volume buttons,
  • 3 hardware kill switches (cellular modem, Wi-Fi/Bluetooth, cameras/mic)
DisplayMantix 144mm (5.7″) 720×1440 IPS TFT
Rear cameraSamsung S5K3L6XX 13.25 MP, LED flash
Front cameraSK hynix YACG4D0C9SHC 8.0 MP[1]
SoundWolfson Media WM8962 DAC
ConnectivityRedpine Signals RS9116 Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n (2.4GHz/5GHz) and Bluetooth 5,
3.5mm headphone/microphone jack,
USB-C USB 3.0 PD/DisplayPort,
3FF Smartcard reader
Otherhaptic motor, notification LED with pulse-width modulation control of RGB color

The Librem 5 is a smartphone manufactured by Purism that is part of their Librem line of products. The phone is designed with the goal of using free software whenever possible, includes PureOS, a Linux operating system by default, and as of 2021 is the only smartphone recommended by the Free Software Foundation.[3] Like the rest of the Librem products, the Librem 5 focuses on privacy and freedom, and includes features like hardware kill switches, and easily-replaceable components. Its name, with a numerical "5", refers to its screen size, and not a release version. After an announcement on August 24, 2017, the distribution of developer kits and limited pre-release models occurred throughout 2019 and most of 2020. The first mass production version of the Librem 5 was shipped on November 18, 2020.


On August 24, 2017, Purism started a crowdfunding campaign for Librem 5,[4][5] a smartphone aimed not only to run purely on the free software provided in PureOS, but to "[focus] on security by design and privacy protection by default". Purism claimed that the phone would become "the world's first ever IP-native mobile handset, using end-to-end encrypted decentralized communication".[6] Purism has cooperated with GNOME in its development of Librem 5 software. It is planned, that KDE and Ubuntu Touch will also be offered as optional interfaces.[7]

The release of Librem 5 was delayed several times. It was originally planned to launch in January 2019. Purism announced on September 4, 2018 that the launch date of Librem 5 would be postponed until April 2019,[8] due to two power management bugs in the silicon and the Europe/North America holiday season. Development kits for software developers, which were shipped out in December 2018,[9] were unaffected by the bugs, since developers normally connect the device to a power outlet, rather than rely on the phone battery. In February, the launch date was postponed again to the third quarter of 2019, because of the necessity of further CPU tests.[10]

Specifications and pre-orders, for $649, to increase to $699, were announced in July 2019.[11] On September 5, 2019, Purism announced that shipping was scheduled to occur later that month, but that it would be done as an "iterative" process.[12] The iterative release plan included the announcement of six different "batches" of Librem 5 releases, of which the first four would be limited pre-production models. Each consecutive batch, which consisted of different arboreal-themed code names and release dates, would feature hardware, mechanical, and software improvements. Purism contacted each customer that had pre-ordered to allow them to choose which batch they'd prefer to receive. Pre-mass production batches, in order of release, included code names "Aspen", "Birch", "Chestnut", and "Dogwood". The fifth batch, "Evergreen" would be the official mass production model, while the sixth batch, "Fir", would be the second mass production model.

On September 24, 2019, Purism announced that the first batch of limited production Librem 5 phones (Aspen), had started shipping.[13][14] A video of an early phone was produced,[15] and a shipping and status update was released soon after.[16][17] However, it was later reported that the Aspen batch, had been shipped only to employees and developers. On November 22, 2019, it was reported that the second batch (Birch), would consist of around 100 phones, and would be in the hands of backers by the first week of December.[18] In December 2019, Jim Salter of Ars Technica reported "prototype" devices were being received; however, they were not really a "phone" yet. There was no audio when attempting to place a phone call, and cameras didn't work yet.[19] Reports of the third batch of limited pre-mass production models (Chestnut) being received by customers and reviewers occurred in January 2020.[20] Chestnut Librem 5 models were the first to have the ability to make calls and send text messages. By May 2020, TechRadar reported that the call quality was fine, though the speaker mode was "a bit quiet" and the volume adjustment didn't work. The battery time, at 3–5 hours, and the inability of the phone to charge while turned on, they called "A stark reminder of the Librem 5's beta status".[2]

On November 18, 2020, Purism announced via press release that they had begun shipping the finished version of the Librem 5 known as "Evergreen".[21][22][23] Following its release, in December 2019, Purism announced that it will offer a "Librem 5 USA" version of the phone for the price of $1999, which is assembled in the United States for extra supply chain security.[24] According to Purism CEO Todd Weaver, “having a secure auditable US based supply chain including parts procurement, fabrication, testing, assembly, and fulfillment all from within the same facility is the best possible security story.”[25]


An artist's rendering of the Librem 5 phone

Librem 5 features an i.MX 8M Quad Core processor, with an integrated GPU which supports OpenGL 3.0, OpenGL ES 3.1, Vulkan 1.0 and OpenCL 1.2 with default drivers;[26] however, since the driver used is the open source Etnaviv driver, it at present only supports OpenGL 2.1 and OpenGL ES 2.0.[27][1] It has 3GB of RAM, 32GB of eMMC storage, a 13MP rear camera, and an 8MP front camera. The left of the phone features three hardware kill switches, which cuts power to the camera and microphone, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth modem, and the baseband modem.[28]) The device uses a USB-C connector to charge its 4500mAh lithium battery. The 144mm (5.7") IPS display has a resolution of 1440×720 pixels. It is the first phone to contain a smartcard reader and two M.2 slots for replaceable cellular modem and WiFi/Bluetooth cards. It also has a 3.5mm headphone/mic jack, a single SIM slot and a microSD card slot.[14]

Mobile security[edit]

The hardware features three hardware kill switches that physically cut off power from both cameras and the microphone, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and baseband processor, respectively. Further precautionary measures can be used with Lockdown Mode, which, in addition to powering off the cameras, microphone, WiFi, Bluetooth and cellular baseband, also cuts power to the GNSS, IMU, ambient light and proximity sensor.[29] The kill switch to cut the circuit to the microphone will prevent that the 3.5mm audio jack is used for acoustic cryptanalysis.[30]

Librem 5 is the first phone with easily-accessible hardware kill switches to cut the electrical current to the cellular baseband, Wi-Fi/Bluetooth and GNSS. This is possible due to the fact that these components are not integrated into the System on a Chip (SoC) like in conventional smartphones. Instead, the cellular baseband and Wi-Fi/Bluetooth are located on two replaceable M.2 cards, which means that they can be changed to support different wireless standards. Librem 5 uses six separate chips (i.MX 8M Quad, RS9116, BM818/PLS8, Teseo-LIV3F, WM8962 and bq25895)[1] in place of the integrated mobile SoC found in most smartphones. The downside is, that it takes more energy to operate separate chips, and the phone's circuit boards are much larger, but using separate components means longer support from the manufacturers than with mobile SoC's which have short lifespans.[31] According to Purism, Librem 5 is designed to avoid planned obsolescence, and will receive lifetime software updates.[32]

Librem 5 is the first phone to contain a smartcard reader, where an OpenPGP card can be inserted for secure cryptographic operations. Purism plans to use OpenPGP cards to implement storage of GPG keys, disk unlocking, secure authentication, a local password vault, protection of sensitive files, user personas, and travel personas.[33]

To promote better security, all the source code in the root file system is free/open source software and can be reviewed by the user. Purism publishes the schematics of Librem 5's printed circuit boards (PCBs) under the GPL 3.0+ license,[34] and publishes x-rays of the phone,[35] so that the user can verify that there hasn't been any changes to the hardware, such as inserted spy chips.[36]


Phosh,[37] the GNOME mobile shell, developed by Purism and GNOME (2018-05)

Librem 5 ships with Purism's PureOS, a Debian GNU/Linux derivative. The operating system uses a new mobile user interface developed by Purism called Phosh, a portmanteau from "phone shell". It is based on Wayland, wlroots, GTK 3, and GNOME.[38] Unlike other mobile Linux interfaces, such as Ubuntu Touch and KDE Plasma Mobile, Phosh is based on tight integration with the desktop Linux software stack, which Purism developers believe will make it easier to maintain in the long-term and incorporate into existing desktop Linux distros. Phosh has been packaged in a number of desktop distros (Debian, Arch, Manjaro, Fedora and openSUSE) and is used by 8 of the 16 Linux ports for the PinePhone.[39]

The phone is a convergence device:[40][41] if connected to a keyboard, monitor, and mouse, it can run Linux applications as a desktop computer would. Many desktop Linux applications can run on the phone as well, albeit possibly without a touch-friendly UI.[14]

Mobile/desktop convergence: the Librem 5 mobile, when connected to a keyboard, screen, and mouse, runs as a desktop computer.

Purism is taking a unique approach to convergence by downsizing existing desktop software to reuse it in a mobile environment. Purism has developed the libhandy library to make GTK software adaptive so its interface elements adjust to smaller mobile screens.[42] In contrast, other companies such as Microsoft and Samsung with Ubuntu (and Canonical before Unity8) tried to achieve convergence by having separate sets of software for the mobile and desktop PC environments. Most iOS apps, Android apps and Plasma Mobile's Kirigami implement convergence by upsizing existing mobile apps to use them in a desktop interface.[39]

Purism claims the "Librem 5 will be the first ever Matrix-powered smartphone, natively using end-to-end encrypted decentralised communication in its dialer and messaging app".[43][44]

Purism was unable to find a free/open source cellular modem, so the phone uses a modem with proprietary hardware, but isolates it from the rest of the components rather than having it integrated with the System on a Chip (SoC). This prevents code on the modem from being able to read or modify data going to and from the SoC.[14][45]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Batto, Amos. "Comparing specs of upcoming Linux phones". Purism forum. Retrieved 2020-09-03.
  2. ^ a b Cawley, Christian (May 4, 2020). "Librem 5 review". TechRadar. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  3. ^ Ethical Tech Giving Guide
  4. ^ "Purism Unveils Plans to Build Librem 5, the World's First Encrypted, Open Smartphone Ecosystem Giving Users Complete Device Control". Purism. 24 Aug 2017.
  5. ^ Claburn, Thomas (21 Oct 2017). "Wanna exorcise Intel's secretive hidden CPU from your hardware? Meet Purism's laptops". The Register. Retrieved 2019-11-15.
  6. ^ "Librem 5". Purism. The Librem 5 phone will be the world’s first ever IP-native mobile handset, using end-to-end encrypted decentralized communication over the Internet.
  7. ^ Vaughan-Nichols, Steven (2018-04-24). "Ubuntu Touch lives on in Purism's Librem 5 smartphone". ZDNet. Retrieved 2019-10-08.
  8. ^ Tung, Liam (2018-09-05). "Linux phone battery bug: Purism's Librem 5 delayed until April 2019". ZDNet. Retrieved 2019-10-08.
  9. ^ Sriram Ramkrishna (2018-12-18). "Librem 5 dev kits are shipping!". Purism.
  10. ^ Weaver, Todd (2019-02-21). "Massive Progress, Exact CPU Selected & Minor Shipping Adjustment". Retrieved 2019-10-08.
  11. ^ "Linux Smartphone Librem 5 is Available for Preorder". It's Foss. Retrieved 2019-11-04.
  12. ^ Weaver, Todd (September 5, 2019). "Librem 5 Shipping Announcement". Purism. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
  13. ^ "First Librem 5 Smartphones are Shipping". Purism. 2019-09-24. Retrieved 2019-10-08.
  14. ^ a b c d Amadeo, Ron (2019-09-26). "Purism's Librem 5 phone starts shipping—a fully open GNU/Linux phone". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2019-10-08.
  15. ^ "Purism Shows Off The Librem 5 Linux Smartphone In Action". Phoronix. Retrieved 2019-11-04.
  16. ^ "Purism Provides Update On Librem 5 Shipping, Known Issues". Phoronix. Retrieved 2019-11-04.
  17. ^ Medley, Sam. "Hands-on video of the Librem 5 Linux phone shows improvements, but there is a lot of work left to do". Notebookcheck. Retrieved 2019-11-04.
  18. ^ Salter, Jim (2019-11-22). "The Librem 5 has been "shipping" for a month—but not to backers". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2019-11-22.
  19. ^ Salter, Jim (2019-12-02). "Librem 5 backers have begun receiving their Linux phones". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2020-01-05.
  20. ^ Amadeo, Ron (January 24, 2020). "Librem 5 phone hands-on—Open source phone shows the cost of being different". Ars Technica. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  21. ^ Hamner, David (November 18, 2020). "Librem 5 Mass Production Phone Has Begun Shipping" (Press release). Retrieved December 19, 2020.
  22. ^ Nestor, Marius (November 18, 2020). "Purism's Librem 5 Mass Production Linux Phone Begins Shipping to Customers". 9to5Linux. Retrieved December 19, 2020.
  23. ^ Linder, Brad (November 18, 2020). "Purism's Librem 5 Linux smartphone is now shipping". Retrieved December 19, 2020.
  24. ^ Humphries, Matthew (December 6, 2019). "American-Made Librem 5 Phone Costs $1,999". PCMAG. Retrieved 2020-01-05.
  25. ^ Rankin, Kyle (December 5, 2019). "Librem 5 USA". Purism.
  26. ^ "Purism Confirm Final Specs for the Librem 5".
  27. ^ "Etnaviv Gallium3D Is Almost To OpenGL 2.0 Compliance".
  28. ^ "Purism Librem5 modem revealed, will provide LTE and GPS support". TuxPhones. 2 April 2019.
  29. ^ Rankin, Kyle (11 March 2019). "Lockdown Mode on the Librem 5: Beyond Hardware Kill Switches". Purism.
  30. ^ Mathews, Lee (2018-08-31). "Now Hackers Can Spy On You By Listening To Your Screen". Forbes. Retrieved 2019-03-13.
  31. ^ Batto, Amos (2020-08-15). "Adding kill switches to protect your privacy is not as simple as you might think". Retrieved 2020-09-03.
  32. ^ Rankin, Kyle (2020-05-14). "Librem 5 Longevity: Solving The Problem of Disposable Technology". Purism. Retrieved 2020-09-03.
  33. ^ Rankin, Kyle (2020-08-15). "Your Own Personal Enclave: The Smart Card Reader on the Librem 5". Purism. Retrieved 2020-09-03.
  34. ^ "Librem 5 schematic". Retrieved 2020-09-03.
  35. ^ "Librem 5 Phone – Birch". Retrieved 2020-09-03.
  36. ^ Packham, Sean (2019-12-02). "A Different Kind of Transparency". Purism. Retrieved 2020-09-03.
  37. ^ "Librem 5 design report #5". Purism (company). Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  38. ^ "Phosh".
  39. ^ a b Batto, Amos (5 August 2020). "The strategic advantages of Phosh for mobile Linu". WordPress.
  40. ^ Jose, Manuel (2019). "Purism: A Linux OS is talking Convergence again".
  41. ^ Larabel, Michael. "Purism's PureOS Proclaims Convergence Success For Mobile & Desktop Support". Phoronix.
  42. ^ Plazas, Adrian (17 June 2019). "The New libhandy 0.0.10". Purism.
  43. ^ "Librem 5". Purism. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  44. ^ "The Librem 5 from Purism: A Matrix Native Smartphone". blog.
  45. ^ Faerber, Nicole (4 September 2018). "Progress update from the Librem 5 hardware department". Purism.

External links[edit]