In the past, Apple and Google were criticized for the belated launch of new smartphones in Korea. However, this year will be an exception. The early introduction of Apple’s new iPhone and Google’s new Nexus smartphone is drawing a lot of attention, since local mobile phone manufacturers could take a direct hit from the launch.
Korean smartphone makers are already suffering owing to the recent government regulations on the mobile phone subsidy. With the release of Apple’s and Google’s new mobile phones, local companies are worried over fierce competition in the future.
In particular, Google’s flagship product is emerging as a decisive factor in the Korean premium smartphone market, as Korean mobile carriers are more actively participating in its local distribution. Advanced and cheaper than previous models, the Google Nexus 5 is being sold online on Google Play starting November 1, and will be revealed through local mobile carriers.
A KT official said, “Advance sales of the Nexus 5 will begin on November 15, and it will officially launch November 21,” adding, “The factory price will be similar to or a little lower than that of a handset currently sold on Google Play.”
SK Telecom is also preparing to showcase the new model within the next week.
In November 2012, the launch price of the Nexus 4 was half that of the LG Optimus G, even with the same features. As Google’s previous model was immensely popular overseas, its release in Korea seemed likely. However, the company postponed the launch, and only showcased the smartphone nationwide in May 2013, seven months after the initial release abroad. Hence, local mobile carriers gave up on the release in the market. In sharp contrast, the Nexus 5 will be introduced in Korea immediately after it is unveiled abroad, and therefore the launch is getting a lot of market attention.
Google’s new smartphone will be the first to run the latest version of Android, called Android 4.4 KitKat. Equipped with a 4.95 inch full HD 1920x1080p display at a pixel density of 445 pixels per inch (ppi), its quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor is similar to that of the G2. But its 8 megapixel rear camera and 2300mAh battery are not as good as other premium smartphones.
Despite the two drawbacks, the Nexus 5 is said to have marketability due to its price competitiveness. Even with the latest version of Android and a premium level of equipment specification, the 16GB model is 459,000 won (US$431.92) and the 32GB is 519,000 won (US$488.38). The price of the 32GB model is nearly half that of new Korean premium products such as Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3 (1.067 million won, US$999.90), LG’s G2 (954,800 won, US$894.76), and Pantech’s Vega Secret Note (999,000 won, US$932.76).
A source in the mobile telecommunications industry predicted, “I’m sure that the market will respond differently to the Nexus 5, compared to the previous one, which was released too late. Moreover, the Nexus 4 was a 3-G phone.” The industry source added, “But I don’t think that the new model can revive the dwindling market. The competition between Android devices is likely to only be more intense.”