'Arirang' handset produced using 'indigenous technology,' says state media
Funny thing about an open-source operating system -- it can show up in the most unexpected of places. North Korea has unveiled its own Android smartphone through its state-controlled KCNA TV news channel, which recently showed supreme leader Kim Jong-un visiting a "cell phone factory."
Dubbed "AS1201 Arirang" after a Korean folk song, North Korea says its smartphone is manufactured using "indigenous technology." Yet on the phone's screen you can clearly see the stock Android UI, as developed by Google in Mountain View, Calif.
The KCNA said of Kim's visit to the factory --
He learned in detail about the performance, quality and packing of “Arirang” hand phone being made at this factory.
He highly appreciated the creative ingenuity and patriotic enthusiasm with which the officials and employees of the factory laid a solid foundation for mass-producing hand phones by building a new modern hand phone production process.
However observers have cast doubt on whether the secretive communist country is actually manufacturing the devices itself. The North Korea Tech Blog notes that it's more likely the "Arirang" is actually manufactured in neighboring China before being boxed up in the DPRK.
Of course the device is unlikely to be of much use to North Korea's impoverished population, most of which is forbidden from accessing the Internet due to strict controls on their media consumption and contact with the outside world.
Oddly enough, it's not the first time Android gadgets have shown up in North Korea, nor is it the country's only connection to Google. An Android-powered tablet was shown at a trade show in the capital city of Pyongyang late last year. And back in January Google chairman Eric Schmidt visited the country on what was described as a "private humanitarian mission."