South Korea Loves the iPhone

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China can't touch South Korea -- or, at least so far as the iPhone is concerned.

Carrier KT Corp. (NYSE: KTC  ) pre-sold 65,000 handsets before the iPhone's debut weekend on the peninsula, according to The Wall Street Journal. China Unicom (NYSE: CHU  ) sold 60,000 less during its opening sales weekend a month ago.

Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) should nevertheless be pleased. China Unicom's failure is less a failure of the device as it is of the carrier and government policy. Cheaper, more functional iPhones have been widely available in Beijing's gray market for a while. Many of them operate via China Mobile's (NYSE: CHL  ) vast network.

Others are simply buying from the U.S. "Its about 3500 Yuan, or $500 cheaper to get a contract with AT&T (NYSE: T  ) , break it, pay the cancellation fee, ship it to China, get it unlocked, and use it as a normal phone," wrote a commenter to the Journal story named "Brandon."

If KT Corp. is doing better in South Korea -- home to global electronics superstars Samsung and LG -- it may because it's taking China Unicom's strategy and reversing it. For example, KT is offering some iPhone models free, and monthly plan rates range between $38 and $115, the Journal reports. Such pricing has KT predicting it will sell up to a half-million iPhones to its customers.

And where is SK Telecom (NYSE: SKM  ) in all this? On the sidelines, with executives waiting and evaluating whether they want to strike a deal with Apple. Let's hope they don't wait too long. KT Corp.'s customers aren't exactly proving to be patient.

But that's my take. Do you agree? Should SK Telecom book a deal with Apple soon? Please vote in the poll below. You can also sound off in the comments section at the bottom.

Apple is a Stock Advisor selection. SK Telecom is a Global Gains recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers had stock and options positions in Apple at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy can't decide on its favorite on-hold music. What's yours?

Read/Post Comments (8) | Recommend This Article (7)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 02, 2009, at 3:33 PM, fjose wrote:

    Why would they buy it in the US when you could purchase one unlocked in Hong Kong?

  • Report this Comment On December 02, 2009, at 3:34 PM, fjose wrote:

    Why not get it from Hong Kong, legal and unlocked?

  • Report this Comment On December 02, 2009, at 4:03 PM, wuff3t wrote:

    Why not ask the same question, twice?

  • Report this Comment On December 02, 2009, at 4:04 PM, wuff3t wrote:

    Why not ask the same question, twice?

  • Report this Comment On December 02, 2009, at 8:09 PM, WoodyDog1400 wrote:

    Maybe because it was not avail in Hong Kong until after it was in China... Sock before the shoe people.

  • Report this Comment On December 02, 2009, at 8:24 PM, achkorea wrote:

    Umm, WoodyDog 1400, it's been available in Hong Kong for a long time. It was available there before mainland China.

  • Report this Comment On December 02, 2009, at 8:43 PM, achkorea wrote:

    Just adding to fjose's comment(s), to get it in the U.S. is significantly cheaper than buying it in Hong Kong, unlocked or not. I live in South Korea and am anxiously awaiting my iPhone, as I type this. Honestly, I would have bought the iPhone at any cost here, however, when everyone was wondering what KT would do or how they would introduce the iPhone, pricing was the biggest concern as Samsung Omnia II entered the marketplace around $1000 US!! Yes, that's right. There were no packages available that would make the phones cheaper, you paid the price for what you wanted. And the Koreans paid it. KT's pricing strategy was brilliant, at a time when many Koreans said the iPhone would not do well in Korea, their strategy floored the Koreans. No one thought such a thing was possible, phones were astronomically priced and Koreans just accepted it. Now KT and Apple have changed the Korean cell phone market completely and clearly most koreans are happy with that fact. After they get the iphone, they might not like it because it's so different from what they know. I will change carriers as soon as my iPhone arrives and I will be very glad to do so. I currently have SK and my monthly bill is already more than my KT data package will be. If I want music on my current phone, I can't transfer it from my computer without paying SK or going through a long, difficult antiquated process. Congratulations KT!

  • Report this Comment On December 09, 2009, at 2:50 PM, drax009 wrote:

    Impressive opening weekend sales for the iPhone, but Korea is mobile phone technology central. Most users in Korea will give it a cursory glance at best. They have mobile phone technology and features far superior to anything in the USA although that may be very difficult for the Apple cultist/kool-aid drinkers to swallow. Choke on that little dose of cyanide Apple d-bags!

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