KT to offer free Android phones: report

Nicole McCormick
24 Feb 2010

South Korea’s smartphone war is about to get even more heated, with iPhone distributor KT gearing up to release its first Android-enabled device for free.

The Korea Timesreports that KT will give away LG’s first Android-powered handset – the LG KH5200 – to customers signing on to two-plans of at least 45,000 won per month.

In contrast, Apple's iPhone, Samsung's Omnia and Motorola's MotoRoi cost between 200,000 won ($172.81) and 300,000 won for users paying 45,000 won monthly over two years, according to Yonhap News.

The budget LG KH5200 smartphone comes with a factory price of about 600,000 won, said the Korea Times. It reports that KT and LG plan to provide subsidies of 500,000 won and 100,000 won respectively.

The news plunges Korea’s fledgling smartphone market deeper into a price battle.

Rival SK Telecom is already substantially subsidizing Samsung's Omnia2 smartphone in order to make it more attractive in the wake of the launch of the iPhone 3GS by rival KT in late-November.

For its part, KT racked up 200,000 iPhone sales in its first month, with sales dipping to between 3,000-5,000 a day during January.

In a new report, financial services arm CLSA estimates that KT could sell between 900,000 and 1 million iPhones by year-end.

CLSA predicts KT’s other smartphone sales could reach between 400,000-500,000 this year.

But operators could find it increasingly difficult to milk smartphone sales.

Choi See-joong, chairman of the Korea Communications Commission (KCC), said at the Mobile World Congress last week that the consumer-conscious commission was pushing operators to lower smartphone tariff burdens.

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