iPhone Is The Best Selling Phone in Korea

Mobile | 2009/12/15 10:27 | Web 2.0 Asia

(Via Bloter.net) According to Atlas Research Group, a mobile-focused research firm in Korea, iPhone came out as the best selling phone in Korea in the week of November 30. During that week, iPhone posted 10.2% market share of all mobile handsets (not just smartphones) sold in Korea.

The actual market share would be higher, as the figure does not include corporate bulk sales. For instance, Daum, Korea's #2 internet portal, announced to give free iPhones to all its employees. (The plan later changed to include an option to select a Samsung phone instead.)

The biggest market share loser turned out to be Samsung, which seems pretty natural given the company's high market share. Thanks to iPhone, Samsung's smartphone market share in Korea took a hit of 25.4%, and it turned out that 43.5% of those who switched to iPhone were Samsung phone users.

Just as the iPhone was a boon for AT&T (which is now taking all the blames for poor 3G coverage in the US), iPhone is helping KT, the Korean carrier for the iPhone, gain market share. The stop-loss strategy for the market-leader SK Telecom? A killer Android device, which is rumored to be similar to Motorola Droid but is better, bound for January 2010 launch.

Image Google

No more "in Korea, iPhone is the next month phone" joke.

KT is launching Apple iPhone soon and has opened a pre-order site this past Sunday. For the first 2 days, KT sold 22,000 iPhones (which are to be shipped out on the 28th). With this run-rate, KT will likely sell 400K-500K iPhones within the year. The sales figures are quite promising, considering it's been only 2 days and some people might be giving it just a little bit more time to see if they can get a better deal. 

Speaking of the deal, iPhone in Korea looks fairly affordable. iPhone 3G S (32GB) costs KRW 946,000 (about US$800), but with KT subsidies under a 2-year contract, the phone comes in at KRW 396,000 (approx. US$ 300), and the user can pay that amount in 24-month installments. And here are KT's iPhone monthly plans: 

  • i-slim (KRW 35,000 or about US$ 30 per month): 150 mins of free calls, 200 free texts, 100MB free data use
  • i-light (KRW 45,000 or about US$ 40 per month): 200 mins of free calls, 300 free texts, 500MB free data use
  • i-medium (KRW 65,000 or about US$ 60 per month): 400 mins of free calls, 300 free texts, 1,000MB free data use
  • i-premium (KRW 95,000 or about US$ 90 per month): 800 mins of free calls, 300 free texts, 3,000MB free data use

I'm a bit bothered by the data usage cap, but then assuming that many users will resort to Wi-fi for some of the data-heavy uses, iPhone's monthly price plans also seem pretty reasonable. Besides, these plans are not too much more expensive than the current ARPU of many mobile users anyway. 

Of course many bloggers and Twitter users, who have been crossing their fingers for the iPhone in Korea for such a long time, are rejoicing. On the contrary, Samsung and LG don't seem to be too much excited by the news. For example, Samsung's uneasiness is hinted by this news: Daum, Korea's #2 portal, had announced a plan to give free iPhones and free data charges for 2 years a while ago. Recently, Samsung has lobbied itself into the deal, and Daum is now giving an on its free phone program. Of course Samsung's new smartphones are no slouch and have better specs than iPhone in quite a few areas. But the talk of the town, at least for now, is clearly the iPhone. 

Samsung Bada is Yet Another Mobile Platform

Mobile | 2009/11/11 13:45 | Web 2.0 Asia

Samsung announced its new mobile platform called Bada. Bada means "Ocean" in Korean; the word can also mean "to download" (an app), so I guess branding-wise, Bada couldn't have been more aptly named, at least for Korean-speaking audience.

So what is Bada? The "About" section of Bada homepage gives an intro, which I think is unnecessarily long and yet somehow fails to get to the point. In a nutshell, Bada is Samsung's Symbian. Bada entails a new, Samsung-developed smartphone operating system, Samsung's app store, and Samsung app developer program.

So Bada joins Symbian, iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, and Blackberry as yet another "mobile apps platform". One has to wonder why the world needs yet another "platform" when it has iPhone and Android, but after all this might not be insignificant, given Samsung's footprint in the global mobile handset market. Samsung's Q3 2009 worldwide market share was 21.0%, putting itself in a solid #2 spot and getting more and more neck-and-neck with Nokia (37.8%). Of course these are total sales and we would see a significantly different landscape if we focus only on smartphones, which Bada seems to focus on. But one can imagine the proportion of smartphones in Samsung's phone lineup will only grow, hence the higher importance of Bada. For developers though, Bada may translate into yet another platform to customize their apps to.

Yet again, no iPhone for Korea

Mobile | 2009/06/12 10:52 | Web 2.0 Asia

In the recent WWDC 2009, Apple announced iPhone 3G S and gave the list of countries the phone will be available - Korea wasn't included in the list this time again. Korea is just about the only developed country that doesn't have an iPhone yet. When countries like Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, and Qatar are getting their iPhones soon (nothing against those countries, by the way) and yet South Korea, the world's 11th economy, isn't getting one, there's something seriously wrong there. 

Including my friend Danny, Korean bloggers are not hesitating to express their disappointments over the no-iPhone news. Both SKT and KTF, the leading carriers of Korea, have been in talks with Apple to introduce iPhone in Korea, for quite a long time. But both companies seemed to have backed out a little bit now, saying they couldn't strike mutually beneficial business deals with Apple. Well, that's just a polite way of saying that Apple demanded too much. But then, given the huge success of iPhone, Apple may actually deserve to demand much. Now carriers have to admit Apple's got the upper hand in the smartphone game. 

But it might actually go deeper than that. Out of fear to become "dumb bit pipes", Korean wireless carriers have been working so hard to transform themselves into digital content empires by acquiring content companies and building a tight control over the content value chain. But iPhone is all about getting out of carrier value chain: web browsing on WiFi networks or App Store downloads have nothing to do with carriers. So the fact that the carriers haven't yet fully recouped their massive content investment might be the true reason, or at least part of the reason, why Korea still doesn't have an iPhone yet. 

TAG Apple, iPhone, KTF, SKT

Chan-jin Lee is the so-called "first-generation venture heroes" in Korea. He was the founder of Haan Soft. Many readers of this blog may not be familiar with the company, but it's the maker of "HWP", a word processor software that had effectively kept Korea as one of only few markets in the world where Microsoft Word didn't get a significant market traction, for many years. (Now even in Korea MS Word has the lion's share of the market, but HWP still sees quite significant usage to this date). Haan Soft also owns Thinkfree, an online office application suite. 

In 1999, after 10 years of tenure at Haansoft, Lee had moved on to his second venture, Dreamwiz, an internet portal. Talk about a big transition: Unlike some folks in Redmond, Lee had a big success with packaged software but had soon developed a foresight that the future would lie in the web not in the packaged software. Dreamwiz is not top 5 portal now, but it's still a decent tier-2 portal site in Korea. 

So his first venture was a smash hit, and the second one wasn't too shabby either. And now this serial entrepreneur seems to have caught another startup bug - this time, the name of the game is smartphone apps. 

These days, Lee seems to be focused single-handedly on developing iPhone apps, such as the iPhone Go-Stop game. (Go-Stop is like a Korean poker). With no iPhone officially available yet in Korea, Lee's iPhone apps are not exactly seeing millions of downloads - but the figures do show a pretty steep growth, Lee says. Lee recently wrote a blog post (in Korean) that the cumulative revenue of his iPhone apps has reached the $10K mark, in 2 months. Still pretty small figures, but Lee seems to be pretty giddy-up; After all, iPhone hasn't even launched in Korea yet. 

Lee's iPhone game (Go Stop)

If you still have a lingering doubt that the mobile web, despite all the hypes, never took off and therefore will likely remain that way in the future, maybe it's time to think again. Lee may be little known outside of Korea, but that doesn't mean he's not a visionary. This man is a classic visionary type who just knows when something big is coming. (Maybe he gets a tingling feeling in the back or something.) According to Lee, first there was packaged software, then there was the internet, and now it's the smartphone apps. He's pretty tenacious - he spent a decade each for the first two waves, and he's now braced for spending his third decade on this newly emerging market. His smartphone apps venture is still very much nascent, but let's see how he pulls this one and turns it into a jackpot. Meanwhile, you are also welcome to join the smartphone apps bandwagon, especially if you are bold enough to trust one serial entrepreneur's hunch. 

TAG chan-jin lee, dreamwiz, go-stop, iPhone, smartphone

사용자 삽입 이미지

Image from Google

WIPI (Wireless Internet Platform for Interoperability) is Korea's standard mobile application platform that's currently required on all mobile phones sold in Korea. WIPI was driven by the Korean government, but the government is now thinking about scraping WIPI altogether.   

The original idea behind WIPI was to give interoperability to Korean mobile content providers, who had to re-develop their applications for different carriers that were each using different mobile application platforms. Before WIPI was introduced, SK Telecom was using its own VM (virtual machine), KTF was using Qualcomm's Brew, and LG Telecom used Java. As such, content providers - say a mobile game developer - had to re-develop their applications at least three times if they wanted to serve customers through all three carriers. Multiply this to the number of handsets they had to optimize their apps for, and you could imagine how much pain in the arse it had been for them.

Came for the rescue was WIPI. WIPI was a middleware that could theoretically run both Java (MIDP) and Brew applications on top of it. How wonderful - It was like developer's dreams come true. But in practice, there had been lots of small rough edges; Also, the WIPI requirement effectively kept certain phones from entering into the Korean market, most notably the iPhone. (Do you honestly believe Apple would even toy with the idea of getting WIPI onto their iPhone just for the smallish Korean market?)

WIPI was (and honestly, still is) a noble concept, and it did its part very well. Thanks to WIPI, Korean mobile content developers could save lots of energy and time. But it was still only a Korean standard (despite Korean government's hard efforts to globalize it), and in this open era any technology standard that's bound to a specific country doesn't sound terribly good. So it looks like we'll have to say goodbye to WIPI - and hopefully say hello to iPhone.

TAG iPhone, wipi
KT (Korea Telecom) announced it will start offering a $3-per-month unlimited wireless internet access plan for the users of its "NESPOT" WLAN hotspot service.

This means that the iPod touch users who have Skype account can practically use their iPod touch as a phone (via Skype), at only three bucks a month. (Plus your Skype fees, of course, but those won't be huge).

Well, given the ubiquity of NESPOT coverage, at least in Korea, who needs an iPhone when they can use iPod touch + Skype + $3/month NESPOT?

사용자 삽입 이미지