Print 16 comment(s) - last by Piiman.. on Apr 12 at 1:25 PM

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: [Translated], Choson Sinbo [Translated]

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poor SOB in blue
By zlandar on 4/10/2014 1:36:53 PM , Rating: 3
I wonder what he's thinking as Kim and his lackeys are all staring at him?

Going to guess "don't drop the phone don't drop the phone".

RE: poor SOB in blue
By kattanna on 4/10/2014 1:40:28 PM , Rating: 5
well would you want to be responsible for the loss of a full 8% of the production run with that one phone?


RE: poor SOB in blue
By Motoman on 4/11/2014 7:45:18 PM , Rating: 1
What kills me is Lil' Kim's military buddies there, all with their little notepads out studying the guy who's putting phones in boxes and taking notes like their lives depend on it.

Also, I am highly entertained by the fact that it just occurred to me to call him Lil' Kim. I giggled.

RE: poor SOB in blue
By Piiman on 4/12/2014 1:25:58 PM , Rating: 3
Isn't one of them his Uncle that he executed a few months back? So their life may in fact be on the line.

RE: poor SOB in blue
By Piiman on 4/12/2014 1:24:26 PM , Rating: 2
I like how they are all taking notes and looking really serious.

2 errors
By Lonyo on 4/10/2014 3:01:25 PM , Rating: 2
1) The title says Pyonyang Touch, not Pyongyang.
2) Arirang isn't a NORTH Korean folk song, it's a Korean folk song.

RE: 2 errors
By wordsworm on 4/10/2014 3:18:38 PM , Rating: 1
I enjoy watching the Chinese women's army march. Very hot indeed. But the N. Koreans take the cake really when it comes to the ladies marching in formation.

RE: 2 errors
By wushuktl on 4/11/2014 7:07:41 AM , Rating: 2
seems relevant

Not all N Korean
By melgross on 4/10/2014 3:34:45 PM , Rating: 2
I notice that the table on the right, holding the monitor, is made from aluminum structural extrusions from an American company called 80/20. I use the stuff myself all the time, so it's easy to spot. 80/20 is sold worldwide, so I can understand that they have it.

RE: Not all N Korean
By Doh! on 4/11/2014 12:23:23 PM , Rating: 2
No...that's a cheap knock-off from China.

Is it just me...
By MrBlastman on 4/10/2014 1:14:08 PM , Rating: 2
Or is Kim trying to sport a youthful Mao Tse-tung look? His hairdo especially is reminiscent of a pre-hairloss Mao.

I spy with my little eye
By Belegost on 4/10/2014 1:50:06 PM , Rating: 2
Luna! Wonder if they're planning to upgrade their XP machines or if N. Korea will be pwned by a Russian botnet.

I thought...
By rountad on 4/10/2014 2:44:51 PM , Rating: 2
...that Pyongyang Touch was was the soldiers do to you as they are "relocating" you to a government sponsored internment camp.

who cares...
By dew111 on 4/11/2014 3:39:33 PM , Rating: 2
...if data services are banned? Most North Koreans don't have electricity. So, smartphones are the least of their worries.

Got a Ring to it
By Reclaimer77 on 4/10/14, Rating: -1
RE: Got a Ring to it
By B166ER on 4/12/14, Rating: 0
"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il

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