Monday, October 24, 2016

Apple`s iPhone 7 hits the South Korea market.

Customers line up to purchase Apple’s iPhone 7 at a Frisbee store in Myeong-dong, central Seoul, Friday.  (Yonhap)

According to the Korea Herald, sales of Apple’s iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus began in South Korea on Friday, amid high expectations that the US tech giant could reap added success here in the absence of Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy Note 7.

Apple officially launched its latest iPhone series through Korea’s three major mobile carriers SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus as well as local Apple retailer Frisbee, with sales starting from 8 a.m. on Friday.

Korea has long been a tough market for Apple, as Samsung has maintained its undisputed leadership in the local smartphone business with a market share of approximately 70 percent.

But now, expectations are high that Apple could score new purchases from Korean customers who may be willing to try out the new iPhone as Samsung has pulled its new smartphone from the market due to battery safety issues.

The 4.7-inch iPhone 7 and the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus are available in five colors -- rose gold, silver, gold, black and the all-popular jet black edition. Both run on the iOS 10 operating system.

Unlike previous models, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus do not have earphone sockets and are instead accompanied by wireless earphones -- a design change made by Apple to make the new devices waterproof.

The iPhone 7 is priced at 869,000 won ($767) while the iPhone 7 Plus costs 1.02 million won for the 32GB model. Prices are higher for the 128GB and 256GB models.

Korea’s three mobile carriers have begun a fierce competition to attract more iPhone 7 customers to their own retailers, introducing varying subsidies and discount promotions.

In terms of immediate savings, customers can choose to receive either an upfront subsidy -- which varies by carrier -- or a unilateral 20 percent discount on the monthly payment plan of their choice.

The three firms have also introduce their own warranty programs for new iPhone customers.

SKT introduced the “T iPhone Club” on Friday, which offers repair and loss warranties for iPhone 7 devices starting from 4,900 per month. Club members can also receive discount benefits when changing to a new iPhone device after 12 months.

KT and LG Uplus also launched similar programs which offer discount benefits to customers who want to upgrade to a new iPhone device after 12 months at 2,300 won per month.

Even with the Galaxy Note 7 out of the way, Apple’s iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are geared to compete against LG Electronics’ newly-launched V20 and even older smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S7, according to industry insiders.

“While some Galaxy Note 7 owners looking for alternative devices may choose to purchase the new iPhone 7, others may choose the LG V20 or even older smartphones made by Samsung because they’re used to Android-based devices,” said one owner of a local cell phone retailer in southern Seoul.

Customers looking for an upgraded Android handset are likely to lean toward the 5.7-inch LG V20, which boasts high-end audio and camera features.

They could also wait for the local launch of Google’s 5-inch Pixel and 5.5-inch Pixel XL smartphones which have begun sales abroad. Google has yet to announce an official launch date for Korea.

At the same time, some customers who are reluctant to choose new brands other than Samsung may choose wait for next year’s release of the Galaxy S8.

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