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Cellphone firms offer something for everyone

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Jan 14,2005
Now that all cellphone users can change their service provider while keeping their phone number, companies are adding all kinds of new services at a rapid pace to steal customers from their rivals. Last year, subscribers of SK Telecom and KTF were the first beneficiaries of the number portability plan, which was designed by the government to reduce SK Telecom’s domination of the mobile phone service market and provide customers more choices. On Jan. 1, LG Telecom customers were allowed to switch over. As a result, the competition has picked up among mobile phone service providers, with companies trying to figure out ways to draw new subscribers. SK Telecom said recently that it plans on introducing a “mobile health care phone” next month, which is targeted at subscribers who are at least middle aged. The company claims the phone, which comes with a battery that contains a sensor, can monitor the phone owners’ blood sugar, stress and body fat levels, all by merely placing a finger on the sensor. Not to be outdone, KTF plans to introduce this month a cellphone that it claims provides eyesight checkups, including color blindness tests. The phone owner only needs to look into the phone’s monitor for the checkups, and a program can determine one’s eye prescription. KTF said the service is for customers who rarely have time to visit the eye doctor because they can’t get away from the office. For those who might have too much to drink after work, KTF is also coming out with a phone where the customer can check his or her blood alcohol content. Through a simple game, a program determines how intoxicated the phone owner is by measuring how fast and accurate the phone owner reacts when the icon moves. KTF said it expects a large number of customers who enjoy drinking to subscribe to the service. The telecommunication service providers are also introducing services targeted to romantically challenged users in their teens or in their 20s. After a successful blind date, one party may send off a text message asking for another get-together. But he or she has no way of knowing whether the other person actually read the message. The anxious wait can end now. KTF has started a service where the text message sender can find out whether the other person has seen the message or not. Acknowledging the globalization trend, SK Telecom and KTF are both preparing a service that can translate Chinese, Japanese and English. The language service also allows a voice system that gives the correct pronunciation for foreign words. The service is expected to be introduced in March. LG Telecom said it has been providing a service that would ban any spam advertisements or a call from potential stalkers. By registering the suspicious number on the company’s Web site or through the phone, LG Telecom’s station will cut off any incoming calls from that number. Users can list as up to 20 phone numbers for a 2,000 won ($1.90) monthly fee. by Lee Hee-sung, Lee Ho-jeong


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