North Korea launches a home-grown smartphone

Alan O'Doherty
August 15, 2013

North Korea claims to have produced its first home grown smartphone but, as with any news from within the most secretive nation on earth, it’s worth taking these claims with a pinch of salt.

The BBC reported that the ‘Arirang’ handset (described as a ‘hand phone’) made its debut via state media during a factory tour by Kim Jong Un. The country has had a mobile network since 2008 but it is heavily restricted with calls outside the country being impossible and those within North Korea heavily monitored by the government.

The BBC also reported that the device was most likely not manufactured in North Korea as no manufacturing was shown in the state news report. Instead, the device was probably made to order in China, one the isolated nation’s few allies.

The handset appears to be running a version of Android though undoubtedly a heavily tweaked one to ensure there is no risk of citizens gaining access to non-state media or other information. The specifications of the device were not revealed but Kim praised the ‘high pixels’ apparently referring to the camera – a sound endorsement if ever we heard one.

Defectors from North Korea have reported that illegal phone ownership goes on in the country, with those near the borders managing to contact the outside world, though they do so at huge risk as the penalties for doing so are severe.


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