New LG device based on censored Android version to be permitted for use by haredi businessmen as tiny portable computer for work-related purposes; voice calls to be blocked
from Israel Wullman
After the “kosher” cellular phone being sold at ultra-Orthodox population centers in Israel and around the world, here comes the kosher smartphone: The new Android-powered phone will be used mainly by haredi businessmen and managers in need of routine updates for work-related purposes.
If all goes as planned, the device’s marketing will begin in about two months.
Several business groups are currently involved – separately – in a kosher smartphone initiative, but the most serious project appears to be that of veteran filtered Internet provider Nativ. The company is working on a unique Android version (ROM) which will be integrated into the LG L7 II smartphone.
The device comes with a 4.3-inch touch screen and 1 GHz dual core processor, as well as a particularly strong 2,460mAh battery.
In order to distinguish it from the regular kosher cell phone, voice calls will be blocked on the world’s first kosher smartphone, which will serve as a portable computer rather than as a telephone.
It will include a regular SIM card, allow (filtered) email services through the Nativ server and GPS navigation, and users will be able to download permitted applications only (mainly navigation services, banks, government ministries, public transportation, etc).
The device will enable partial Internet access (after filtering), while Facebook and any other kind of social service will be blocked. It has yet to be decided whether the camera, music player and memory card slot will be unavailable as well.
Nativ, by the way, will be able to block specific components in the device by demand.
Software changes only
As opposed to the classic kosher devices, which are hermetically blocked against message and network services and external intrusions, through changes in both hardware and software components, the kosher smartphone’s regular abilities will be neutralized through a software version only.
Importers of the devices examined by the entrepreneurs – including LG, Samsung, Alcatel and ZTE phones – refused to make any technical changes in them. The device will not be sold by cellular operators either. It will be purchased from the importer, Ronlight, with the regular version and will be charged by the entrepreneurs with the kosher version and marketed by them independently.
The kosher smartphone will also be supervised by the “rabbis’ committee for communication affairs,” which includes rabbis from different ultra-Orthodox factions. Sources in the committee are already involved in setting the devices technical specifications, and it won’t be marketed before it receives their approval.
In any event, the device will be restricted to those who need it for work purposes and can present an approval from their community rabbi. Sources in the rabbis’ committee refused to comment on the matter, claiming that the rabbis had yet to make a decision on the matter.
The project is aimed at closing a loophole: Clearly, haredim who own small businesses or work as freelancers in the secular society cannot settle for the classic kosher phone. Their work requires them to follow their emails constantly, and some need regular Internet connection to professional websites as well. So far, they have been forced to use “regular” smartphones and acquire network filtering services.
A partial solution by some entrepreneurs, which has been used for some two years now in the format of a haredi experiment in the United States and England as well, is the adoption of unique Blackberry devices which have been connected to an independent server, where the access to all “forbidden” services has been completely blocked in a computerized manner, and opened in a selective manner.
As the Blackberry solution was found to be highly expensive and unprofitable due to the low demand, efforts are now being focused on Android devices, which are considered available and cheap.
The rabbis’ committee views the Android initiative as a sort of pilot ahead of the next generation of kosher phones, which are currently based on archaic second-generation push-button devices. It is clear to them too that the production of such devices will soon come to an end.
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