Rival phone companies compete over iPhone 4S

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Rival phone companies compete over iPhone 4S

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Pyo Hyun-myung, front right, president of the individual customer division at KT counts down the launch of iPhone 4S with fans in a queue at the KT iPhone 4S launching festival held at Olleh Square in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul yesterday morning. [YONHAP]


Apple’s iPhone 4S hit the Korean market yesterday with great fanfare as the competition to lure customers heated up between the country’s two largest mobile carriers. 

SK Telecom, Korea’s No. 1 mobile operator, and runner-up KT each held special events to celebrate the arrival of the iPhone 4S, the first Apple smartphone that the two archrivals have launched concurrently. 

This time, SKT took the first aggressive action. At midnight on Thursday, SKT invited the first 100 customers who placed preorders for the iPhone 4S to activate the handset before dawn and join a celebration with popular Korean hip-hop artists.  

At KT’s flagship store, Olleh Square in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, Apple fans re-enacted the ritual commonly practiced by global Apple fans on the first day of produce launch, forming a long queue before sunrise. KT was the first mobile carrier to introduce Apple’s iPhone in the country in 2009.

Apple’s iPhone 4S, one of the last products created during the lifetime of Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder and former CEO who died last month after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, sports a string of new features from the updated operating system. However, the voice-operated function “Siri” will not be available in Korea this year.

The iPhone 4S is expected to stack up against the Galaxy series of smartphones from Samsung Electronics, to attract the country’s rapidly increasing number of smartphone users.

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SKT and KT are fighting to maintain their current subscribers by offering special discounts for new subscribers to the iPhone 4S. While SKT focuses on luring those using the iPhone 3GS under KT with half-priced iPhone 4S phones in return for used 3GS phones, KT is promising customers will receive more benefits when they keep their subscriptions with the company. 

SKT unveiled the “iPhone4S Perfect Discount Program” ahead of the launch of the new iPhone. Discounts are given to current iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4users, regardless of which mobile operator’s subscription they have. The company said the discounts range from 40,000 won ($35) to 340,000 won at the maximum. How much discount a customer can get depends on the condition of the used phone. 

“Current iPhone users can buy the new model for ‘almost free.’ The program eases the financial burden on iPhone fans,” the company said.

KT says current subscribers using the iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4 are better off maintaining their KT membership to buy the new model.

“The big difference is the current iPhone 3GS users under KT should change their numbers when they subscribe to an iPhone 4S with SKT,” an official from KT said. 

“If customers change their numbers, they need to make new subscriptions that incur subscription fees, USIM purchase fees and higher interest rates (5.9 percent) on installment payments for the new device,” the official said.  

There have been rumors that the iPhone 4S supply is globally insufficient. However, the Korean mobile carriers said they have secured sufficient amounts of the new model, though they declined to reveal the exact numbers.


By Song Su-hyun, Yonhap [ssh@joongang.co.kr] 

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