Rami Levy to sell first haredi smartphone

The modified Nexus 4 will have limited browser capabilities and is expected to hit the shelves next week.

Motorola Android smartphone 311 (photo credit: Brendan McDermid / Reuters)
Motorola Android smartphone 311
(photo credit: Brendan McDermid / Reuters)
Discount chain Rami Levy on Thursday announced that for the first time in Israel, it will sell smartphones oriented toward the ultra-Orthodox community.
The phone, expected to hit the shelves on Tuesday, is a modified Nexus 4, which is able to make phone calls and send text messages, but has limited Web browser capabilities.
It will provide access to preapproved “kosher” applications, such as those offered by government ministries, banks and health funds, as well as navigation applications such as Waze and communications applications such as WhatsApp.
The haredi-friendly smartphone, developed in consultation with religious leaders, hopes to follow in the footsteps of other “kosher” cellular phones, widely used in the community, that restrict access to potentially religiously problematic material.
“There’s no Google. That says it all,” a Rami Levy spokesman said.
The advent of a religiously acceptable smartphone could be a boon to ultra-Orthodox businessmen who are barred from accessing the same realtime conveniences a smartphone offers that competitors have.
Rami Levy expects to sell as many as 50,000 units within a year, and will offer trade-in deals for those already harboring smart phones, either in secret or out of business necessity when there were no better alternatives.
The modified phone is targeted toward the pragmatic, business-oriented side of the community, and may not meet the standards of the more extreme haredi factions.
Last year, a leading haredi rabbi, Haim Kanievsky, published a pronouncement on the front page of Yated Ne’eman, an influential haredi newspaper, forbidding the use of iPhones. With its Internet connection and access to corrupting information, the device had the destructive potential of a weapon of war, he wrote.
Around the same time, Bnei Brak rabbi Lior Glazer ceremoniously smashed an iPhone 5 with a hammer, calling it an “impure” device, and condemning any of its owners as “an abomination.”