A model shows LG Electronics’ latest smartphone, which is powered by the Google-backed Android operating system. / Korea Times
By Kim Tong-hyung
KT is obviously enjoying being the country's exclusive carrier for Apple's iPhone, which has been flying off shelves since its domestic release on Nov. 30.
Now bitter industry rival SK Telecom is looking to generate just as much buzz by getting out of the gate early on premium phones powered by the Google-backed Android operating system.
SK Telecom, the country's biggest mobile telephony operator, currently plans to release its first Android phone, produced by Motorola, sometime around mid-January, industry sources said.
The carrier is also pressing other major handset vendors, including Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics, to fast-track the debut of their first Android devices for the local market.
It appears that Samsung will be quicker than its domestic competitor, as the company plans to unveil an Android handset by February.
The Android platform, developed by a massive cross-industry alliance led by Internet giant Google, is based on open source Linux software and enables greater flexibility for programmers building applications and features tailored to handsets.
Apple has been dominating the smartphone war recently with iPhone, its iconic do-it-all handset, and App Store, its online applications service.
This has electronics makers and wireless carriers desperately seeking ways to beat Apple at its own game, and so far, the Android operating system has been gaining hype as the next big thing in mobile services.
With SK Telecom, which controls more than 50 percent of mobile users, planning to introduce around 10 Android-powered handsets next year, Korea is expected to be one of many markets around the world next year where Apple and the Android community will duke it out for smartphone supremacy.
``The users of our Android handsets will have a lot of freedom in software usage as we plan to provide Android applications on our T-Store online applications market,'' said a SK Telecom official.
Smarphones, which provide a variety of functions such as Web browsing, e-mail and multimedia atop of voice, are critical for carriers such as SK Telecom, which need to boost their data revenue in the saturated voice market.
Handset vendors are also keying in on smartphones, which provide larger margins than conventional handsets.
KT has been enjoying scorching sales of the iPhone ― more than 160,000 handsets in the first four weeks of release.