Speculation arose after a photograph emerged of Kim Jong-un chairing a meeting with top security advisors

Does Kim Jong-un use an iPhone? That's the question bouncing around web technology forums this morning after the North Korean leader was spotted with a smartphone close at hand.

Although images are not clear enough to see exactly which smartphone the despot uses, speculation has led some to suggest it could an Apple iPhone, or possibly an HTC or Sony.

While those brands, from the US, Taiwan and Japan respectively, cannot be ruled out, one manufacturer it is unlikely to be is Samsung.

It would, of course, be a major embarrassment for Kim Jong-un to be seen with a phone made a South Korean brand.

The speculation arose after a photograph emerged of Kim Jong-un chairing a meeting with top security advisors.

With a lit cigarette in his hand, and a glass ashtray and pile of paperwork in front of him, the image alone is an interesting insight into the operations of the man at the head of the world’s most secretive state.

But it is the all-black, large-screen mobile phone to Kim Jong-un’s right-hand side that has dominated coverage of the image’s release.

South Korean media has covered the release extensively, and debate has naturally shifted towards who the manufacturer might be.

Samsung said it was 99 per cent sure that the phone wasn’t one of theirs, adding: “It looks more like an HTC model”. The Samsung SIII is currently outselling the iPhone in global markets.

South Korea's intelligence agents have carefully inspected the photo too and have also concluded that the Taiwanese firm is the most-likely manufacturer.

HTC refused to discuss the speculation, but online the widespread belief is that the phone was indeed made by the company, which had a 91 per cent slump in profits over the last quarter.

Around one million North Koreans now own a mobile phones after they were introduced into the country by Egyptian firm Orascom in 2008.

The phones are restricted to domestic calls only and do not have text or internet functionality. 

Foreign visitors to the country cannot bring their own phones with them, but are able to purchase sim cards that allow international calls but bar them from contacting local people.

The fact Kim Jong-un uses a smartphone would suggest that he, and probably his family and close advisors too, have a far greater ability to communicate.

They are likely to be able to make international calls and browse the internet browsing on their phones.