Hi I am Jewish and on Shabbat we are forbidden from creating even the tiniest electrical spark. I recently noticed that on my laptop the mic was always listening and I could see the little green bar register sounds when I spoke, so I turned it off during Shabbat.

I use my phone as a white noise machine with an app for that, so I am wondering if I have an HTC rezound and also a Samsung Note II, will the mic on those phones have the same thing where the mic will always be listening and registering sounds, or when I am not using a call or voice recognition feature will it be truly "Off"?

  • 2
    I'm not sure I understand the motivation behind this question. What's special about the mic in particular? Why would that be forbidden and not the rest of the phone?
    – Dan Hulme
    Apr 23 '14 at 17:56
  • 1
    I'm more curious how a white noise machine would be exempt from the "no electricity on Shabbat" rule.
    – Chahk
    Apr 23 '14 at 19:06
  • Running ANY part of the phone creates electricity, even with the screen locked the phone is doing things, wakelocking and synching and killing tasks in RAM and so on and so on. The mic is no different, so you'd have to turn off the entire device. Unless you have a Nexus 5 or a Moto X with always listening then the mic is always off. HOWEVER, the phone, as I said, is always using electrical power and your white noise will activate the speaker... so that doesn't make ANY sense whatsoever to me. Same with the laptop, it's ALL on, and the screen uses the most power in general.
    – RossC
    Apr 24 '14 at 9:52
  • Jewish laws on electrical use on the Sabbath are non-intuitive if you do not have the right background. It's not as simple as saying "omg no electricity!!1!11one". The prohibition is more along the lines of saying that a person may not purposefully take an action to close or open an electrical circuit, but is permitted to let an electronic device continue to hum along on its own if it is already on. Presumably, the OP does not want the voice recognition on his phone to do anything for him on the Sabbath. Mar 10 '17 at 13:28
  • The Sabbath is holy and set aside for G-d. While the question is about the technology, I believe it is best to focus on our setting aside the things of this world and spend that day with Him.
    – SDsolar
    Mar 11 '17 at 4:02

It depends on the phone, the operating system, and apps installed on it.

Older Android phones do not activate the microphone unless it is required by an app (e.g. phone, voice dictation, etc.)

Newer phones such as Google's Nexus 5 or Motorola's Moto X for example, have a dedicated low-power audio processing module that can be configured to be always on, and listen for particular trigger phrases (e.g. "Ok, Google"), even when the phone's screen is off. There are some 3rd-party apps that mimic this functionality on phones without the dedicated sound processors, but at the expense of higher battery drain.

Generally such features can be disabled within the system or app settings.

The religious implications of using a phone are up to you and your particular sect to determine. Such discussions are out of scope of this site.

  • "Can I turn off the microphone?" or "My religious leader said I have to turn off the microphone, how do I do that?" are surely on-topic here. "Does this microphone setup violate my religion?" Is clearly off-topic. Mar 10 '17 at 13:35
  • I understand what you are saying, but disagree that this is off-topic. The OP question was about the technology.
    – SDsolar
    Mar 11 '17 at 4:01

As to your question: It depends on which apps (or malware) is running in the phone. For instance, when I am in the Google app, it is constantly listening for me to say, "OK, Google" which then takes your utterances and sends the audio to the Google servers where it is decoded and the transcription is sent back to your phone. Whether doing a search or telling it to make a call, the mic is constantly listening and communicating to the mother ship.

For true Shabbat, I would recommend that you not turn on any electronic device nor do any human-centered work. Rituals like worrying about electrons takes your mind off G-d.

You may have heard about telephones designed to be used on Shabbat use a photocel/LED beam detector so when you press the buttons you are interrupting the flow rather than creating it. Those were the old hard-wired phones some years back. Of course, that would trigger the phone company to run relay switches to complete the calls.

They did the same with elevator buttons. But of course, on the elevators, in the end it would activate heavy-duty electric motors to move the car.

If you really want to celebrate Shabbat I would humbly suggest that you use that time to get into the scripture and keep your focus on G-d the entire day. He does not want us to practice certain rituals like avoiding electricity. Instead, He wants us to turn our minds to Him and spend time with Him. Prayer and study is the most pure of offerings.

If you have to ask "Is this a sin?" I suggest instead that you ask "Will this help me get to know Him better, and for Him to get to know me better?"

He wants you to know Him, and He reveals himself in the scrolls. In Genesis, it says that Adam walked with YHWH. I believe that is what the LORD desires from all of us.



Your phone's mic will be turned off all the time. It will be activated only when apps which use the mic for working. For example talking tom, voice recorder, making calls, etc.

  • Where is your proof? From what I've been reading, you don't even know if it is on when your phone is turned off. And on iPhones you can't even remove the battery.
    – SDsolar
    Mar 11 '17 at 4:00

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