A picture of North Korea's Kim Jong Un with a smartphone that was published recently has triggered intense debate on the phone brand possessed by the leader of the world's most secretive state.
In one of the photographs released by North Korea's official news agency, KCNA, Kim was spotted holding intense deliberations with the country’s top national security advisers last week wherein a smartphone found next to him on the table hogged the limelight. The positioning of the black smartphone next to his right arm beside a set of documents, which he was browsing through with a lighted cigarette in hand indicated that the device belonged to Kim.
"It's believed that the smartphone belonged to Kim given that the device was placed right next to the documents he was looking at," a Seoul government official told the Agence France-Presse.
The image has stirred curiosity among the South Korean media, who are seen giving wide coverage to speculations over the brand with technology analysts attempting to figure out the model and the brand from the images. A long-shot image of the smartphone does not divulge many details on the brand or the model favored by Kim.
It appeared like a four-inch screen mobile phone with a slightly bulging rear. Speculations were rife suggesting that it is an Apple iPhone, Samsung, or a HTC model.
However, South Korean mobile giant Samsung rejected the theory of Kim’s mystery phone being a Samsung model. An official from the Samsung told AFP: "It's not a Samsung phone."
The Seoul intelligence experts also pointed out how it is unlikely that the North’s leader will choose a South Korean brand, as the North considers the South an archrival of the reclusive state.
Applying the same hypothesis, technology and political analysts firmly believe that Kim will not favor an American brand. Therefore, Kim using an Apple iPhone is least likely, although some of the Apple models like Apple iPhone 3GS and 3G series do resemble the mystery phone seen in the photograph.
"It must have been politically uncomfortable for Kim Jong Un to use products made by the US... and he can't publicly endorse the fact that the South is more technologically advanced," South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper said in a report.
"I regret to say that I don't think Kim would be seen dead with a Samsung," a technician in the South Korean capital, Seoul, told Daily Mail.
Given the political dimensions that come into play in the choice of a mobile phone possessed by Kim, observers believe the mystery phone would be a HTC model. The Taiwanese mobile maker’s HTC Desire C model and other series seem to bear a close resemblance to the cell phone in the image.
South Korea's intelligence agents who have carefully inspected the photo also concluded that the Taiwanese firm was the likely manufacturer of Kim’s smartphone.
When queried by the media on the issue, HTC neither confirmed nor rejected the claim.
"We aren't going to get into a discussion about the device but we do appreciate the support of all users," the Taiwanese company said in a terse statement.
North Korea is one of the most secluded and censored states in the world with nominal IT and mobile penetration. Mobile phones were introduced in North Korea in 2008. However, its 1 million mobile users are allowed to make only domestic calls, with international calls banned. Public is not given access to internet through mobile phones, but media reports from Seoul suggest that Kim, his relatives and other elite members in the military have access to internet and smartphones.