- Estimates suggest that almost 40 percent of the population of North Korea have smartphones.
- However, most people can apparently only access the country’s internal intranet and have to go to a physical store to get new apps.
- Phones available in the country include the Phurun Hanul, a device that is said to have a 6,000mAh battery.
A recent report suggests that smartphone use in North Korea is surprisingly widespread. According to NKNews, some estimates say that 40 percent of North Korea’s population use smartphones.
Much like users in other countries, the report states that people in North Korea use their phones to send messages, make phone calls, shop, and play games. Of course, as North Korea is one of the most repressive regimes on earth, there are plenty of caveats when it comes to what users can do with their devices.
One of the biggest differences, according to the report, is that most of the general population of North Korea can’t access the internet. Instead, they have to make do with the county’s internal intranet. This restricts what users can use their phones for.
North Korean apps are said to include games, ebook readers, money transfer services, and more.
Getting new apps, for example, isn’t as easy as simply downloading them from an app store. Instead, sources quoted by the North Korean publication say that if people want a new app, they have to go to a communication center to download it. Apparently, there are around 700 of these centers in the country.
One of the most popular apps is said to be a combination of Netflix and an ebook reader. The report also mentions a motorcycle racing game called Mt. Paektu to Mt. Hanna and an app called Ullim that lets people transfer money to other users using the receiver’s phone number, which sounds a lot like PayPal.
The publication says there are four major smartphone brands in North Korea. One recent device is the Phurun Hanul which is said to have a 5.5-inch display, a fingerprint sensor on the back, and, quite astonishingly, a 6,000mAh battery.
Other available devices include an iPhone copycat called the Pyongyang Touch and the Samsung Galaxy S7-like Jindallae 3. However, the phones don’t come cheap. The report states they can cost up to $800, or almost half of the country’s $1800 GDP per capita.
Previously, there have been clues that North Korea has a preference for Android-based devices. The AS1201 Arirang was revealed in the country in 2013 and is said to use Android. It was also reported in the same year that North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un used an Android phone made by HTC.
The country appeared less impressed with the Samsung-made Android devices given to athletes at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. It is said that all the Galaxy S7 Edge phones were confiscated by the coach before the athletes managed to get hold of them.