Report: Korean carriers in talks with Apple over LTE-equipped next-gen iPhone

While most are expecting Apple to include the rumored LTE connectivity in the upcoming next-gen iPhone, we get word from Korea Times today that Korean carriers SK Telecom and KT have revealed they are currently in talks with Apple to carry a new iPhone on their LTE networks:

SK Telecom and KT are in talks to offer long-term evolution (LTE) connectivity on Apple’s next handset, tentatively named the iPhone 5, officials from the companies said Wednesday…The two local telecom companies are authorized Korean partners to sell the American firm’s i-branded devices here. The smallest carrier LG Uplus is unable to sell Apple’s products as it doesn’t own a suitable frequency.

According to an official at KT, which is home to roughly 1.4 million users compared to SK Telecom’s 4 million LTE subscribers, the carrier is in talks “with Apple to persuade the latter to support KT’s 1.8-gigahertz frequency in Korea for the upcoming iPhone.” Although it’s unclear exactly what type of negotiations might be taking place, we know the current third-gen LTE iPad supports only AT&T, Verizon, and a few Canadian carriers on 700 MHz and 2100 MHz frequency bands. If the talks are indeed to discuss launching an LTE iPhone with support for the 800 MHz and 1800 MHz bands, it’s importnat to note that many other markets also operate over those bands including Australia and parts of Europe.
Read more

iPhone 4S buyer’s remorse in South Korea over hardware issues and lack of 4G LTE

You’d think one of the top-rated smartphones by Consumer Reports would become a smash hit in tech-crazy South Korea where people don’t settle for anything less but the very greatest gadgets. Heck, even Hong Kong shoppers turned to South Korea because pre-orders in their home country sold out in ten minutes. But according to Korea Times, local carriers SK Telecom and KT are struggling to hit the promised sales target agreed with Apple.

They apparently sold below 150,000 pre-orders since the device hit South Korea November 4. The story came from the mouth of an unnamed SK Telecom executive and a 31-year-old iPhone 4 user who dropped a planned iPhone 4S purchase due to “hardware-related issues”.

Seriously? Didn’t we establish battery woes as software-driven? The report cites other woes such as noises during 3G-based calls and while operating video functions. Let’s be honest here, iPhone 4S does have its share of teething problems, just like any other Apple product. But the South Koreans appear to be really freaking out over a lack of 4G LTE:

The rising appetite for LTE smartphones in South Korea replaces any desire for the Apple iPhone 4S, officials and experts said.

4G LTE has hit the ground running in the country. Carriers SK Telecom and LG Uplus sold over 500,000 pricey LTE plans since late-September introduction. The Korea Communications Commission expects the number of LTE phone users in the country to top 1.5 million by the year’s end. Not having support for 4G LTE radio technology on the iconic device in the 48 million people market that is leading the world in Internet speeds and is defined by the demanding, tech-savvy consumers? Yeah, this can lead to some friction.

Besides, Siri doesn’t speak Korean (yet) and South Korea is also Samsung’s home turf. And it’s not like iPhone 4S users in some other markets aren’t feeling buyer’s remorse. Us? Forget the handset, it’ll be old news by the next summer anyway. What matters is that with the iPhone 4S came Siri, an exclusive feature deemed a world-changing event, and rightfully if we may add.

Read more

Ahead of the launch, Samsung wants iPhone 5 banished from Korea


An artist’s rendition of iPhone 5.

The Korea Times reports that Samsung “is seeking a complete ban” on the iPhone 5 sales in Korea – even before the handset is even released, let alone officially announced. Local carriers KT and SK Telecom have so far sold about 3.1 million iPhones in the country. The paper quotes an unnamed Samsung senior executive:

Just after the arrival of the iPhone 5 here, Samsung plans to take Apple to court here for its violation of Samsung’s wireless technology related patents. For as long as Apple does not drop mobile telecommunications functions, it would be impossible for it to sell its i-branded products without using our patents. We will stick to a strong stance against Apple during the lingering legal fights.

Another Samsung executive is “quite confident” about “a big breakthrough” provided Samsung wins in Germany, adding that “so will other envisioned efforts against such products as the iPhone 5″. The report goes on to mention that iPhone sports an LG Display-made screen, LG Innotek’s eight-megapixel camera, Samsung-made NAND flash and A5 chip and an NFC chip for wireless payment.

The twist in this case, of course, is the fact that Apple is Samsung’s biggest customer, buying displays, NAND flash memory and custom-built A4 and A5 chips for its products. It has been reported that Samsung may soon lose its iOS device processor contract as Apple turns to rival TSMC.

The manufacturing relationship means Samsung gets information about the innards of Apple’s non-released devices months before the actual manufacturing ramp up. This early access to Apple’s designs could have led Samsung to move with the iPhone 5 ban in Korea ahead of Apple’s official launch. On the other hand, Apple did not accuse Samsung yet of abusing its manufacturing contract to rip off Apple’s upcoming devices with its own products.

Read more