By Kim Yoo-chul
KT, an exclusive local partner of Apple to sell iPhone, plans to introduce an upgraded version of the device ― 4G iPhone ― to the domestic market in April at the earliest.
Talks over initial sales volume of such gadgets have already been under way and KT is set to sell the devices to its bigger local corporate clients as a "litmus test" in April, KT officials said.
KT, the runner-up of SK Telecom in the local telecom market, however, plans to provide the upgraded iPhones to local distributors in June.
"We don't see any bigger hurdle to introduce 4G iPhones here, as legal issues were completely cleared. It’s possible to launch the devices within the first half," a high-ranking KT executive told The Korea Times, asking not to be identified.
"Still, there are some 3G iPhone stocks. But KT and Apple have reached a broad consensus to introduce the advanced models as early as possible," according to the executive.
They said the coming 4G iPhones will be equipped with organic light emitting diode (OLED) screens on surface and live video chat functionalities, while removable battery is highly likely.
The new 4G iPhone is also going to be loaded with dual core processors and higher and powerful graphic chips that can deliver higher video resolutions and better "still" images when taking pictures.
"With KT, we've been in talks with other telecom carriers to gauge the launching timing of 4G iPhones in South Korea. More tech-oriented features will be added to the models," a representative of Apple’s South Korean office said.
Counter Google’s Rush
Analysts and KT officials said the reason for an early introduction is deisgned to counter Google's rush of higher speed smartphones with the open-based Android operating system.
Ignited by iPhone arrivals, the nation's smartphone market has been gaining a further momentum. Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics are rushing to strengthen their own smartphone line-ups.
But KT is urgently tasked to calm down the skyrocketing consumer interests toward Android phones. Android operating system has competitive edges over greater flexibility for programmers building applications.
"At a time when major handsets vendors such as Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics are hiking the portion of contents-featured Google-powered phones, KT hopes to secure its bottom line by bringing upgraded iPhones," Kim Dong-june, an analyst at a local brokerage of Eugene Investment, said.
KT officials said the company is aiming to continue its dominance in the local market by adding live chat video and even Wi-Fi functions to the upcoming devices.
During the period from November last year to Jan. 7, KT sold 220,000 units of 3G iPhones ― a good performance for the carrier.
KT, led by CEO Lee Suk-chae, is targeting to sell 500,000 units of iPhones including the 4G ones by the end of this year, a KT spokesman said.