You may have heard of the term, “kosher phone” and wondered what it was. The first time I heard it, I wondered what it meant, too. Thankfully, I quickly found out that it wasn’t anything I didn’t already know of. You probably already know what a kosher phone is; you only know it by a different name.
If you have some knowledge of Jewish language and culture, the word. “kosher”, might not be new to you. This Hebrew word means fit or proper. For example, food that is kosher is food that meets the Jewish dietary regulations.
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What are kosher phones?
A kosher phone is a mobile phone whose capabilities are limited to voice calls and SMS only. No Internet (2G, 3G, 4G, or 5G), no location services, no Wi-Fi, and in some cases, no Bluetooth. The idea behind kosher phones is that it allows the user to stay away from the distractions of the digital world.
Americans call this type of phone a dumb phone. The name is a play on the contrast with smartphones, as they exist on opposing ends of the mobile phone spectrum. A smartphone is designed to connect the user to digital services in every way possible – Web, email, IM, social media, downloads, media streaming, location services – while a kosher phone is designed to keep the user away from all of these.
Besides the connectivity angle, kosher phones also differ from smartphone in terms of input capabilities. Modern smartphones have full-screen touchscreens through which you and I can enter text by way of a virtual keyboard and also interact with different menus. Kosher phones come with an old-school alphanumeric keypad.
Who wants kosher phones?
The list of target audiences for kosher phones include religious people who want to stay disconnected from the things of the world, subscribers who want to unplug from the constant wave of activity in the digital space, underage children who are not ready for online exposure, elder citizens who find smartphones and services confusing, as well as individuals who want a backup phone for use during emergencies.
For example, because these phones do not connect to the Internet, they have extremely long battery life. This makes them ideal for calls and SMS in emergency situations.
Enter the Kosher Smartphone: What is it?
There are people who want to stay disconnected from social media, audio and video streaming, instant messaging, and the link, but are a little bit more liberal and so want to be able to shop online or carry out banking and investment transactions. Their solution is what is called a kosher smartphone. What is that, you may ask? A Kosher smartphone is an Android-powered smartphone that has been heavily modified to block out all the unwanted apps that cause “distractions”. Shopping, financial, and navigation apps are allowed on the phones.
Kosher smartphones are usually sold via wireless carriers or network operators, who customize them before they are made available to interested subscribers. Kosher smartphones and kosher mobile plans are available from carriers in Israel. Outside of Israel, telephone operators with large Jewish communities also provide these heavily customized smartphones and plans.
In a country like the United States, kosher phones and plans are increasingly difficult to find, as carriers have shut down their 2G and 3G networks. Most kosher or dumb phones run on these older mobile technologies. A kosher smartphone connecting to 4G and 5G networks then becomes a viable alternative in such a situation.