By Rachel Lee
Korean smartphone users change their gadget more frequently than in any other country, data showed Sunday.
According to the data released by Strategy Analytics (SA), 67.8 percent of Korean smartphone users changed their phones last year. The figure indicates more than two-thirds of users bought new phones. The report covered a total of 88 countries.
Chile came second with 55.5 percent, followed by the United States at 55.2 percent and Uruguay at 53.6 percent. Bangladesh was the last of those surveyed at 8.4 percent.
Here, most consumers sign a two-year contract with mobile carriers who subsidize their smartphones. Given that consumers tend to change their phones after the contract ends, the replacement rate could be expected to be about 50 percent. The higher rate of replacement means a large number of Korean consumers switch to a new phone even before their contract expires.
"Korean consumers tend to follow trends all the time so they can keep everything up-to-date, especially gadgets like smartphones and tablet PCs," said the owner of a KT shop in southern Seoul, asking not to be named. "Some of our customers here come in and get the latest phone even if their contract is still valid for more than a year. I don't think they think getting a brand new one is necessarily a waste of money." KT is Korea's second- largest mobile-phone carrier.
"I bought an Apple iPhone 4 last summer and, after about three month, the iPhone 5 was released," said Lee Jong-hyuk, a 27-year-old officer worker, Sunday. "I already knew it would come out soon so I bought it without any hesitation. I like trying new gadgets and experiencing new technology anyway, but most importantly I don't want to fall behind the people around me by keeping an old phone."
The SA report expects the figure for Korea to increase by 2.2 percent this year, reaching 70 percent despite the economic recession with near zero economic growth. The analytics firm also predicts the replacement rate will fall slowly from next year, reaching 62.9 percent in 2017, but the report forecast the figure would not decline below 60 percent over the next four years.
Korea is home to Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics, the world's leading makers of smartphones and other electronics.