중앙데일리

Korea’s first iPhones sell like high-tech hotcakes

900 preorder customers attend gala launch party Saturday

Nov 30,2009
Over 800 people wait for their Apple iPhones in a line that stretched up to one kilometer (3,280 feet) Saturday at the Jamsil Indoor Stadium in Songpa District, southern Seoul, where KT held the product’s official launch event. [NEWSIS]
Ask an early adopter of electronics anywhere in the world if he or she would be willing to stand in a long line - say, for an iPhone - and most likely the answer would be yes.

Things are no different in Korea, where Huh Jin-seok, 26, waited for more than a day to become the first recipient of the Apple handset Saturday morning at Jamsil Indoor Stadium in southern Seoul. The college student received the smartphone device, sold locally by KT, Korea’s largest Internet operator and second-biggest mobile phone operator, at a launching event held at the stadium attended by around 900 preorder customers.

“I’ve always wanted to buy an i-Phone because of the diverse applications and the App Store services,” Huh said, after receiving a coupon for a year of free calls and an iPhone speaker worth 200,000 won ($171) as a prize. “The music and video players are also superior.”

Huh was one of the hundreds of people who received their phones and shared in the glitzy launch of the i-Phone in Korea. Each was also given a white T-shirt, an iPhone battery charger and a case.

Though the device was first introduced in other countries in 2007, it has taken several years to reach Korea due to domestic telecommunications regulations critics describe as protectionist, including laws that require locally developed technologies to be used in smartphones.

The iPhone has been already introduced in 80 countries around the world, including the United States and Japan, and more than 30 million devices have been sold. When the Korea Communications Commission finally gave it the green light, Korea and Iceland were the only countries left in the OECD where the device was unavailable.

But the delays don’t appear to have hurt the phone’s reception here, with Apple Korea receiving some 65,000 orders less than a week after the launch notice, according to KT.

“Though the smartphone market is active around the world, only 1 percent of Korea’s cell phone users are subscribers of smartphones,” said KT President Kim Woo-shik at the event on Saturday.

“The launching of the iPhone here will not only boost the local smartphone industry but also the wireless Internet industry.”

Meanwhile, the debut of the iPhone is expected to challenge Samsung and LG, the companies that currently dominate the local market. Mobile companies such as SK Telecom, that launched its own Omnia 2 smartphone less than a month ago, have decided to lower charges by offering more benefits to new subscribers.


By Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]
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