North Korea's Home-Grown Android Phone Is Incredibly Underwhelming

A Wi-Fi and 3G phone for a country with no Internet. Oh, and it has a 1 megapixel camera.

An upside to living in the most isolated and repressed society on the planet is that "unplugging" is never a problem. North Korea has no Internet access whatsoever, only a country-wide intranet plus about 2 million 3G subscribers (who face censorship and service cuts).

However, North Korea does have some examples of home-built digital gadgets, customized for its very special market. There is an Android tablet, for example, that comes with no Wi-Fi but does have a copy of Angry Birds.

Now, the blog Tech in Asia reports on North Korea's homemade smartphone handset, the Arirang. It runs Android 4.1, supports both 3G and Wi-Fi, and boasts a 4.2-inch HD touchscreen, a 4-core processor, and a 1 MP camera.

You read that right: A one megapixel camera. By way of comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S4 has a 13 megapixel camera and the iPhone 5 has 8 megapixels. The puny camera is of special interest as North Korea watchers try to figure out whether the handset is really made in North Korea or just re-assembled and reboxed Chinese goods, an indirect signal of the country's economic condition. Some take for granted that Chinese factories would disdain to make such a poor quality product.

Apparently Kim Jong-un, North Korea's dictator, especially praised the camera on his tour of the factory where the Arirang is produced. Either he's not aware of prevailing specs in the industry, or he is happy with such poor-quality images. North Korean cell subscribers will have a hard time getting any clear pictures to the outside world.

[Image: Flickr user Stephan Ridgway]

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