NORTH Korea is known for its secrecy, but a smartphone smuggled out of the furtive nation gives us a fresh glimpse at the country’s way of life.
A western software developer who holidayed in the hermit kingdom has leaked details about a North Korean smartphone in a lengthy blog post published this week.
YouTube The Arirang 151 is possibly one of the most hi-tech consumer electronics devices available in North Korea YouTube It’s not clear how much of North Korea’s electronics are produced locally, or imported from nearby China
Christian Budde Christensen, from Denmark, explains how his favourite souvenir from the trip was a “locally produced” smartphone.
The phone in question is the Arirang 151, which was launched in 2016.
It runs on a modified version of Google’s popular Android operating system, and “looks like a generic Android Phone”.
He describes how it has decent features, including a camera, Bluetooth, 3G internet, and a MicroSD card slot.
YouTube The handset smuggled out of North Korea by Christensen was pre-loaded with several western video games Rex Features North Korea is known for many things, but a thriving consumer electronics scene isn’t one of them Smuggled North Korean smartphone reveals wacky promo video hidden in handset memory
But Christensen notes that it doesn’t have Wi-Fi, which he says makes sense: “I observed no WiFi hotspots on my own phone throughout my visit.”
The tech whiz entered North Korea with a travel company called Young Pioneer Tours.
The firm is best known for its unique tours to the notorious nation, and appeared frequently in the press last year after US student Otto Warmbier – who travelled with YPT – died after being detained by North Korean authorities.
In his blog, Christensen writes: “As so many others, we had been exposed to the country almost daily through the news, or documentaries.”
YouTube It’s impossible to know just how many North Koreans have access to smartphones
“We repeatedly found ourselves left with more questions than answers, so we decided to go there and see for ourselves.”
Christensen describes being “impressed” by how difficult it was to use his North Korean phone to exchange data with “foreign devices”.
“While I was able to make a connection with a computer via Bluetooth, I couldn’t successfully exchange any information.”
“When I inserted a SIM card, the phone simply shut down.”
Reuters The country is often accused of spying on its citizens, and access to electronics is said to be very limited
“When I tried to transfer anything to the phone, the files would simply disappear when opened.”
However, the phone did come with lots of files and apps already installed on it.
For instance, it shipped with a 500MB promo video that used up an eighth of the handset’s 4GB total storage.
There were also pre-installed games that included popular titles like Super Mario, Plants vs Zombies, Cut The Rope, and five different versions of Angry Birds.
Reuters The secretive regime is often in the press, most recently on account of its ongoing feud with US President Donald Trump
The phone also had an “app locker” on it, which is designed to hide away apps and encrypt text messages and contacts.
But Christensen says the messages weren’t actually being end-to-end encrypted, and were simply protected by a lock screen.
“It is possible that the purpose of the locker is to give the user some false sense of privacy, encouraging more liberated conversations.”