Nokia Braces for Another Misfire
SK Telecom, the country's biggest mobile telephony operator, might cancel the release of Nokia's ``6210,'' which had been picked as its first handset from the Finnish mobile phone giant, industry sources said.
Nokia has already released 6210s through KTF, SK Telecom's rival carrier, but sales have been sluggish amid poor reviews of the phone's capabilities.
With the government last month lifting its local software requirements for data-enabled handsets, which acted effectively as a trade barrier for foreign electronics makers, SK Telecom is looking to bring in more foreign devices to spice up its lineup.
However, it warrants further watching whether Nokia will have a big part in the picture, as SK Telecom is clearly concerned about repeating KTF's slow start with 6210s.
SK Telecom had originally planned to release 6210s during the first half of the year, but is now considering canceling the handset, sources said. The company would rather concentrate its promotional efforts on a new Samsung phone, which will run on a Linux-based mobile LiMo platform, and an Android-powered Motorola handset, both expected for release during the third and fourth quarters.
An SK Telecom spokesman downplayed the rumors, saying that the company hasn't discussed the possibility of canceling 6210s. The delayed release is due to network inter-working tests taking longer than expected, as well as adjusting equipment and software, he said.
``We expect Nokia to be a long-term business partner for us. It's not like 6210s would be the last Nokia handset we will be releasing,'' the SK Telecom official said.
KTF, which will be absorbed by its parent company, KT, the country's biggest telephone and Internet provider, next month, had hoped 6210s would generate excitement, but is now discouraged by the cool response from local consumers.
It is believed that KTF has secured 30,000 6210s handsets in its first order, and may experience trouble in clearing inventory. Some KTF stores are including the 6210s in the company's lineup of ``free phones,'' but sales remain modest.
The biggest problem seems to be the limitation in capabilities, as the 6210s handsets sold to Korean consumers are clearly not what the mobile carriers had in mind. The original models feature a wealth of location-based service applications, but due to local regulations blocking the export of digital maps, these functions were excluded from the handsets provided in Korea, leaving them virtually amputated.
Nokia, the world's biggest mobile-phone manufacturer, first entered the Korean market in the 1990s, but sluggish sales forced it to bail in 2003. Nokia could ill-afford another misfire in its second try in Korea, and can't be too happy about its early struggles out of the gate.
SK Telecom canceling 6210s could deal a bigger blow to Nokia, as the carrier controls more than 50 percent of the country's wireless market.