Report: North Korea Gets a New PDA

A new PDA (personal digital assistant) has hit stores in North Korea, according to a student who writes a blog from the secretive state.

The device, which doesn't appear to carry any branding, has a color touchscreen display that occupies its entire front, according to photos published on the "Pyongyang Show and Tell" blog. The Russian-language blog is maintained by a Russian student who is studying in the country.

Installed software includes a Korean dictionary and translation dictionaries pairing Korean to and from Russian, English, Chinese and German, the blog report said. There are several basic utility programs and an electronic map of the country although the PDA does not feature GPS (global positioning system).

There is also no wireless networking so data transfer has to take place via a USB connection to a Windows or Linux computer. Data can also be transferred via MicroSD card, which is the same as used in domestic cell phones.

"Comparing it to modern things like, let's say, the iPad, it's nothing," the blog's author, who didn't wish his name to be used, told IDG News Service via email. "It's still good as a dictionary, except I don't see any other advantages."

It's not the first PDA in North Korea.

In 2003 the country's media said "Hana 21," a PDA developed by the Samilpo Information Center, had been put on sale. The device included English-Korean and Korean-English dictionaries as its main function and also had several games and a basic word processor. Input was by pen and touchscreen.

According to published images of the Hana 21, the two devices are different.

At the time the Hana 21 was said to cost around 200 euros (US$182 at the exchange rate of the time).

The new PDA that hit stores recently costs around US$140.

"It's still hard to buy for a Korean, but there are many people who keep their money for years and can afford it," the student said via email.

PDAs have long been out of fashion in many countries after their features and functions were duplicated by smartphones. North Korea has a 3G cellular network, but most cell phones have only basic features.

Martyn Williams covers Japan and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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