South Koreans finally have the chance to purchase Apple's iPhone, available this Saturday from KT, the country's second largest mobile carrier.
After years of anticipation and pent-up demand, Apple's iPhone smartphone is
coming to South Korea
via network operator KT, with the phones offered in three different models,
with a price range of $342 to free, depending on the service plan chosen.
The Wall Street Journal reported usage plans will range from 45,000 won to
95,000 won, or about $40 to $80. KT, the country's second-largest carrier, said
it will start taking Internet booking orders soon and begin selling the device
on Nov. 28.
Mobile industry analysts are also closely watching the impact the of the
iPhone on the South Korean mobile phone market, which is dominated by handset
makers Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics. It is estimated that 80 percent
of the country's phones come from the two companies. "This is
phenomenal," Hwang Sung-jin, who monitors the mobile industry at
Prudential Investment & Securities Co. in Seoul,
The Associated Press. "The
iPhone's release will definitely stiffen competition for local companies such
as Samsung and LG."
Approximately 6.4 million iPhones are active in the United
States alone, and data from research firm
Gartner showed that Apple's share of worldwide smartphone sales grew from 5.3
percent in the first quarter of 2008 to 10.8 percent in the first quarter of
2009. "A lot of people here, the Korean media, are very critical of
iPhone," Chin Wonsuk, a Seoul
filmmaker who had previously used an iPhone, told
the Journal. "But no one has
used it here before. They don't know what it can do."
Apple already has a three-year, nonexclusive agreement
to sell iPhones in China
through mobile operator China Unicom and is in talks with China Mobile. Despite
an underwhelming start (according to a report in Bloomberg, Unicom sold fewer
iPhones than anticipated, due to an offering price as high as 7,999 yuan, or
$1,172), Unicom Chairman Chang Xiaobing told foreign media in Hong Kong that the
company is "very confident" about the market position of the iPhone.
While Chang admitted sales could have been better in the world's largest
mobile phone market, he told Bloomberg Television sales are "acceptable" and
the company is now focused on subscriber growth. "In some markets where vendors
get their marketing right, the iPhone is already the best-selling smartphone," IDC
research analyst Aloysius Choong told the news service. "Unicom must lower its
prices if it wants to access the mass market for the iPhone."