A North Korean smartphone similar in design to the iPhone 3 is proving popular with younger citizens, the Japan-based pro-North Korea outlet Choson Sinbo reported last Thursday.
The phone, which local citizens have called the “Pyongyang Touch,” is currently sold in three different colors; pink, navy blue and white, the news service said.
While no details about the devices’ technical capabilities were published, a close inspection of screenshots published by the Chosun Sinbo suggests it is running a modified version of the popular Android operating system – localized for North Korean purposes.
Strict censorship laws mean that cellphones built for domestic North Korean usage are unable to call overseas numbers and have no internet connectivity.
State media outlet the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) announced last August that North Korea had started manufacturing a smart phone called “Arirang” using its own indigenous technologies.
But photographs of Kim Jong Un visiting the “Arirang” factory last August – which showed little more than the final stages of assembly – raised suspicions that North Korean cellphones were nothing more than Chinese imports re-branded for local use.
Last Friday the technology website GSM Insider reported that – as suspected – the “Arirang” phone was a re-banded North Korean clone of the Chinese made Uniscope U1201.
The website published photographs of the “Arirang” alongside a Uniscope U1201, which showed the devices to have identical physical appearances in all ways – except for branding. GSM Insider suggested that the Arirang phone was therefore likely manufactured in China, then shipped to North Korea to be re-packaged at the factory visited by Kim Jong Un last August.
While a thorough search on Chinese electronics whole-seller Alibaba could not reveal any generic Android devices sharing the precise design as the new “Pyongyang Touch,” similar iPhone 3 clones such as the W100 suggest the North Korean device could support radio reception and MP3 playback.
The number of mobile phone users in North Korea has been increasing since the nations first 3G network was introduced by Egyptian firm Orascom in 2008. As of May last year it was estimated that about two million people were using mobile phones in North Korea.
Picture: Chosun Sinbo