SKT ups smartphone ante

Nicole McCormick
07 Jan 2010
Daily News

South Korea’s dominant cellco SK Telecom has announced that it will launch more than 12 Android-powered Google smartphones in South Korea from next month.

The smartphones will rival Apple’s iPhone 3GS devices, which SKT rival KT launched in the market on November 30, 2009.

SKT said US vendor Motorola will manufacture its first Google device, while other foreign and local vendors, including Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics, will provide about 10 Google devices.

For its part, KT has attracted relatively strong interest in the iPhone, with sales exceeding more than 160,000 devices in the first four weeks of the smartphone’s release. KT is offering the 32GB iPhone 3GS for 132,000 won ($116.68) to customers on 24-month contracts.

SKT, on the other hand, has been forced to slash the price of Samsung’s Omina2 smartphone - which is powered by Microsoft's Windows 6.5 mobile operating system - from $900 to only $300 for postpaid customers in order compete against the iPhone. SKT is even offering free Omina2 devices for customers taking $80 monthly plans.

Some reports say that SKT’s strong support of Android may see it snub plans to release the iPhone in South Korea. The Korea Times recently reported that some of SKT’s leading decision-makers are seriously considering shelving plans to release the iPhone.

“We are maintaining a wait-and-see approach for the iPhone,” an SKT official told KT in mid-November. “But we don't intend to be aggressive and push for an early release.”

SKT shunning the iPhone could seriously hamper Apple’s plans to make a huge dent in the South Korean smartphone market, given the firm has more than a 50% subscriber market share.

Meanwhile, US mobile giant AT&T Mobility has finally announced plans to retail an Android-enabled smartphone by June, becoming the last US cellco to jump on the Android bandwagon.

“In the first half of the year, AT&T will launch five new devices from Dell, HTC and Motorola based on the Android platform,” Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T Mobility, is quoted as saying.

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