Sony Has Another Stab at Korean Smartphone Market

Sony will have another shot at the Korean smartphone market, which is especially tough for foreign companies, two years and three months after it pulled out.

Once the greatest electronic firm in the world, Sony struggled to keep up with the pace and trends of the market in the past decade. In the smartphone industry it paled into insignificance compared to Apple and Samsung. But now it is determined to reverse its fortunes.

Sony Korea on Thursday launched the top-end Xperia Z1 and wearable device Smart Watch 2. Sony's last smartphone to go on sale in Korea was the mid-range Xperia Ray in October 2011, but it flopped.

The Korean market remained firmly in the hands of domestic makers Samsung, LG, and Pantech because consumers were going after only the premium products.

But Sony is confident that it can grab a share of the market this time based on the experience it has gained since. The Xperia Z1 is a quality premium product, first unveiled at the IFA 2013 in Germany and boasts a high definition camera with 20.70 megapixels compared to the 13-megapixel cameras sported by the best products of Samsung and LG.

This makes it possible to shoot high-definition video and take 61 pictures in just two seconds. The camera is waterproof. The handset is competitively priced at W749,000 (US$1=W1,064) while the highest-spec smartphones by Korean makers cost over W1 million.

Sony struggled in the global market as well, even losing the home ground in Japan to Apple and Samsung. But it started to fight back last year, and market researcher BCN said Sony topped the market share in Japan ahead of Apple and Samsung in June 2013.

The Xperia Z was the bestselling phone in Japan in the first quarter of last year. Although Apple dethroned Sony soon after with the iPhone 5S and 5C in September, that was enough to restore Sony's confidence.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jan. 17, 2014 12:40 KST