중앙데일리

iPhone is a no-show as local market stays closed

June 10,2009
Apple’s iPhone
The local mobile phone industry has been buzzing lately with the overseas launch of Samsung’s Ultra Haptic cell phone and the introduction of LG Electronics’ new luxurious Prada 2 phone here. However, one model is still missing in Korea’s abundant cell phone market - the iPhone.

Apple unveiled the newest version, the iPhone 3G S, on Monday local time in San Francisco during the annual Worldwide Developers Conference. The phone will feature a faster processor, longer battery life and a video camera. Starting from the 19th, the phone will be sold in eight countries including the U.S., Canada and France. Although Korea is not included, Philip Schiller, Apple’s top marketing executive, said that a few more countries will be added to that list.

For years, KTF and SK Telecom have both engaged in talks with Apple on launching the iPhone here. The biggest hurdle has been the local software standard WIPI (Wireless Internet Platform for Interoperability), which local mobile phone operators have been required to use as the mobile platform for their handsets. However, even after the Korea Communications Commission scraped the WIPI mandate this April - making it possible for foreign-made handsets with different protocols to come into the market - Koreans still haven’t heard news of iPhone’s launch.

“We have no official plans as of yet to launch the iPhone in Korea,” said a manager at KT, which has now absorbed KTF.

The main problem? Experts say mobile content services including ringtones, games and music will be difficult to download onto the iPhone through Korean service providers as the iPhone has its own unique content system in which music and video are downloaded through Apple’s own iTunes and App Store. For local mobile communications companies, including KT and SK Telecom, which provide their own content services, this means that they have to give up a big portion of their profit to Apple.

“I am very skeptical of the iPhone’s success in Korea,” said Oh Sung-kwon, a telecommunications analyst at Kyobo Securities Co. “Koreans have waited too long for its launch. Most people who were tired of waiting bought the iPod Touch instead.” The iPod Touch is basically an iPhone without mobile phone capability. “Also, KT will not give up one of their biggest money sources [content services] that easily,” he added.



By Cho Jae-eun [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]



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