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The smartphone looks kind of like a Galaxy S5 clone from the back, iPhone 3G clone from the front

Cellular data services in North Korea are illegal.  Experts warn that if you get caught using one in the isolated hostile Asian state it may lead to you being accused of spying, arrested, and sent to one of the nation's not-so-secret concentration camps  
 
But when you're "Supreme Leader" Kim Jong-un, North Korea's oft-volatile despot, you don't exactly have to worry about such punitive punishments.
 
It's well known that Kim Jong-un has as soft spot for smartphones, which he used extensively while be educated in Switzerland as a youth.  While his father -- the late "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il -- would never be caught dead with a smartphone, Kim Jong-un has reportedly found it impossible to lay down his smartphone since taking control of North Korea.
 
Last year Jong-un toured a sparse smartphone "factory" where the phone "Arirang" (named after a North Korean folk song) was supposedly made.  But expert commentary at the time suggested that the phone was merely boxed at that facility as a publicity move, and perhaps to provide a place to flash the phones with government-created monitoring solutions.

Kim John-Un
Kim Jong-un tours North Korea's smartphone boxing plant in 2013. [Image Source: Reuters]

A year later we finally know where Arirang is really made and by whom, thanks to a post by Japanese blog Ameblo.

It appears the phone is Ariarang AS1201 is an upgraded model of the Uniscope U1201, made by Jiangsu, China based Qidong Uniscope Communication Co., Ltd.  Here's a quick video of the U1201 that shows off the spec, including its dual-core Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM) CPU (Snapdragon S4)...



In China the phone reportedly runs the once ubiquitous Android 4.0.4  ("Ice Cream Sandwich"); in North Korea it may still use that Google Inc. (GOOG) OS or it may fork it to make a distribution that's easier for North Korea's government to control.
 
North Korea also has a newer model dubbed "Pyongyang" (named after North Korea's capital city), which is nicknamed the "Pyongyang Touch".  It's unclear who makes the Pyongyang Touch, but it's possible also made by Qidong Uniscope.  It features an upgrade hard spec in a thinner package and bright colored plastics -- specifically pink, navy blue, and white variants similar to the Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd.'s (KRX:005930) (KRX:005935Galaxy S5, while OS appears to have been reskinned to look more iPhone like.  The front face evokes Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) iPhone 3G.

Pyongyang Touch
[Image Source: Choson Sinbo]

The new phone hasn't gotten quite the mass-media coverage of the first model, but the Choson Sinbo -- a pro-North Korean Japanese newspaper -- claims that its very popular with younger professionals, including North Korean civil servants and students.

The phone presumably only comes with the apps that are pre-loaded given the ongoing illegality of data services in North Korea.  While North Korea's army is relatively tech-savvy and known for belligerent cyberattacks, most of the nation also is forbidden to use the internet.  One allowance that Kim Jong-un has appeared to tolerate is the inclusion of foreign-language dictionary apps on the smartphones, which allows younger North Koreans to learn Chinese and other local languages.

It appears that Jong-un would rather try to control how the population gets its smartphones, rather than trying a futile effort to ban the popular black market that was the primary source of smartphones prior to these releases.

Sources: Ameblo.jp [Translated], Choson Sinbo [Translated]





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