March 16, 2011 07:19
The number of smartphone users has skyrocketed from fewer than 1 million early last year to 9.7 million or some 20 percent of all 50 million mobile phone users.
SK Telecom has 5 million smartphone subscribers, KT 3.7 million and LG Uplus 1 million. Now roughly every other customer who gets a new phone opts for a smartphone. If the trend continues, the number of users is likely to rise to 20 million by the end of this year.
SK Telecom says at this rate most users will have switched to smartphones by 2015. Cell phone makers already consider them their main product. About 40 percent of mobile phones sold in Korea last year were smartphones, and by 2013 the figure is expected to surpass 90 percent.
Most new phones to be launched this year by Samsung, LG, and Apple are smartphones. Pantech has already stopped sales of feature phones and only sells smartphones in Korea.
The fervor began in November 2009, when KT introduced Apple's iPhone in Korea. Challenges from domestic makers fuelled the popularity as the Samsung Galaxy, LG Optimus and Sky's Vega hit the market.
Smartphones costs W300,000-W500,000 (US$1=W1,130) more than feature phones for the unit alone, and customers are often tied to expensive schemes over 24 months or longer. Nonetheless it is likely to become difficult to buy normal feature phones after 2013, and by 2015 all mobile phones in use may be smartphones.
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