08 Nov Kosher Phones
A reader asked: What’s a kosher phone?
The question reminds me of an old cartoon of mine:
But don’t be too hard on yourself if you assume that a kosher phone is something like this. I’m sure that’s something too.
But in contemporary Hasidic parlance, kosher phones are phones that have been restricted in some ways, so as to ensure that they don’t provide access to various apps and sites that are considered problematic. Some kosher phones might be modified smartphones, like the following: This smartphone has Waze, camera, calendar, weather, and the “Seal of Trust.” Although it is very restricted, with few apps and no browser, it is still a rather advanced phone.
But the kosher phone I have is one of the most restrictive phones. It is a flip phone. The original device is the LG VX5500, which was released in 2008. It comes with talk, text, camera and, I believe, a browser. The unmodified phone can be bought on Ebay for $20.
Here is the kosher version. It’s listed on Venishmartem, a website for recommending internet solutions for Orthodox Jews, as follows:
Some of the features:
1. It has a symbol of kosher supervision.
2. The symbol sits on the camera eye, so the camera is disabled.
3. Where the messaging features should be, we have various shapes.
If you click on them, you are told they are disabled:
(here is the unedited version of the LG’s messaging feature)
4. Whatever features used to be at the first tab, they’re now named “colors,” and various color options are available. If you click blue, you have several shades of blue to choose from. Then you hit the dead end again.
In other words, the only features that work are phones, contacts and settings. As simple as a flip phone can get.
Naturally, the resistance to texting and internet spurned a whole industry in phone news and phone information. I remember as a child we used to call “800-tellme,” before that was discontinued and replaced by the web. Within the Hasidic community, a thriving industry of hotlines cropped up, and serve as ways to get instant information without having internet access. I am guessing that this is why we see so many people walking around with their phones on their ears. Most of them aren’t even talking. They are probably just doing the equivalent of the subway full of riders with their eyes glued to their screens, only here it is ears.