14 Aug 2013

North Korea gets smart

10:55 am on 14 August 2013

North Korea, one of the world's most censored societies, says it has developed its own smartphone.

North Korea has 2 million mobile phone users, but the country remains isolated. Almost everyone with a phone is prevented from contacting the outside world.

The BBC reports that the Arirang handset, described as a "hand phone" in state media, was shown to leader Kim Jong-un during a factory tour - although experts dispute its origins.

North Korea has had a mobile network since 2008, but activity is heavily monitored and restricted.

Last year a tablet was launched, but it later emerged it was likely to have been made in China.

Clues to the tablet's origin were uncovered by Martyn Williams, an expert on North Korean technology, who noted that parts of the tablet's software code suggested links to a manufacturer in Hong Kong.

The Arirang smartphone - named after a popular folk song - was unlikely to have been made in the country, Mr Williams added.

He noted that no actual manufacturing was shown, and that the device was "probably made to order by a Chinese manufacturer and shipped to the May 11 Factory where they are inspected before going on sale".

The BBC reports Mr Kim was seen to be using the device, which appeared to be running a version of Google's Android mobile operating system.

It is believed that many in North Korea, particular those near the borders, use illegally-owned mobiles to contact people outside the country.