Korean Smartphone Market Set to Heat up as Autumn Temperatures Cool
10월 14, 2013

Who will come out as a winner in the new autumn version of the smartphone battles?

Autumn 2013 will see a string of new smartphone releases, with the race already on. ‘Vega Secret Note,’ the ‘Galaxy Round,’ the ‘iPhone 5S’ and the ‘Vu 3’ will all be released in short succession over the next few months, with an advantageous position in the lucrative Korean market going to the victor. A fierce marketing battle between manufacturers is anticipated. The proxy war among mobile carriers, who are recruiting subscribers with each terminal, is forecast to be heat up.
Pantech joins the phablet market
As we reported last week Pantech unveiled the ‘Vega Secret Note’ on October 10, and entered the ‘phablet market’ for the first time with the Secret Note, the first LTE-A smartphone Pantech released for all three cell phone carriers.
At the end of this year, the Secret Note will compete directly with the ‘Galaxy Note 3’ and the ‘Vu 3,’ released by Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics respectively. As the pen is built into the large screen, consumers will perceive them to be in the same product group. The Secret Note has the best hardware: i.e. 3GB RAM and a full HD display and a USB host. Its price is most likely to be in the mid- 900,000’s and less expensive than the Galaxy Note 3.
The Galaxy Note 3 is the undisputed front runner in the phablet market. It has the most advanced hardware and pen-based functions. But its price tag, in excess of KRW1 million, could prove a burden to consumers.
The factory price of the Vu 3 is the lowest, at KRW890,000. It features 4:3 aspect ratio. Speaking of weak points, the 5.2-inch screen is smaller than that of other phablet products. The unit comes with HD screen quality.
The 'iPhone effect' could swing the balance
The influence of the iPhone to be released in Korea at the end of this month also attracts attention. Critics are watching closely to see whether the new iPhone will be able to revitalize a lackluster performance by Apple with their last release in Korea (iPhone 4S). There is a dedicated Apple following in Korea, but the question is how much replacement demand the new iPhone will generate - perceptions were that the 4S was not enough of an upgrade for many to shell out the dollars to purchase one.
In the past Apple maintain its premium image by restricting aggressive marketing and discounts, but recently these tactics have emerged, and this is worthy of note. If price wars ensue the competitiveness of the iPhone 5C against other similar brands is expected to be considerable.
As Korean manufacturers have also recently released premium smartphones, they are expected to roll out powerful marketing campaigns to protect / augment their share in the domestic market. Prominent products were unveiled in the second half, e.g. Samsung Electronics’ ‘Galaxy Note 3’ and ‘Galaxy Round,’ and LG Electronics’ ‘G2’ and ‘Vu 3,’ and Pantech’s ‘Vega Secret Note.’
Hot proxy war among mobile carriers 

As well as the very visible competition between handset manufacturers, mobile carriers, namely KT, SKT, and LG U+, are also competing fiercely to recruit subscribers. Most noteworthy is KT, which recently declared ‘Emergency management,’ and signs of change are already visible in the market.
“In October, KT subscribers began to increase,” said an industry official. “As KT have adopted an aggressive posture, other mobile carriers will respond, and competition will become tougher.”
Taking advantage of the image it built as the first cell phone carrier to introduce the iPhone to Korea, KT is forecast to lend its weight to the iPhone 5S and 5C.
SK Telecom will launch a counterattack against KT with the iPhone, and try to hold on to subscribers with the Galaxy Round available only through SK Telecom. LG U+ is expected to capitalize on the strengths of the LTE network to defend its position.

Edited from original on ET News

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