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Samsung, SoftBank show no sign of improved relations

Unlike NTT DOCOMO and KDDI, SoftBank not ready to carry Galaxy S5

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Published : 2014-04-06 20:33
Updated : 2014-04-06 20:33

An immediate breakthrough in relations between Samsung Electronics and SoftBank appears unlikely as Japan’s third-largest mobile carrier’s release of the Galaxy S5 has yet to be decided.

Instead of carrying Samsung products, SoftBank has chosen to team up with Samsung’s rival Apple. This has made it increasingly difficult for the Korean tech firm to succeed in the Japanese market.

“We (SoftBank) have not sold Samsung smartphones before,” said Yusuke Abe, a public relations official from the Japanese company, declining to comment on anything about the future relationship between the mobile manufacturer and carrier. 

SoftBank had been a sole provider of California-based Apple’s iPhone smartphones before NTT DOCOMO and KDDI ― the two largest telecom operators in Japan ― started carrying the iPhone 5S and 5C in 2013.

An industry watcher said while NTT DOCOMO and KDDI have plans to carry the Galaxy S5, SoftBank is expected to continue shunning the Galaxy series due to its strong ties with Apple.

This means that previous efforts by Samsung’s heir Lee Jay-yong to partner with SoftBank, run by Masayoshi Son, a Korean descendant, have been in vain, observers pointed out.

Lee and Samsung’s mobile chief Shin Jong-kyun reportedly toured Japan’s three biggest mobile network providers to promote the Galaxy S4 in April 2013.

Samsung has so far declined to comment on the release of the latest Galaxy model in Japan, saying it is not allowed to announce release plans at Japanese mobile carriers.

The possible failure to release the handset through SoftBank could further hamper Samsung’s efforts to increase its market share in Japan, according to a person close to the matter.

Samsung was already hit hard when iPhones started to sell through all three major Japanese mobile carriers.

The Korean firm’s market share in Japan steadily declined in 2013, according to international market research firm Strategy Analytics, from 14.1 percent in the first quarter to 13 percent in the second, 9.9 percent in the third and 6.9 percent in the fourth.

According to the weekly ranking of smartphone sales published by BCN, a market research firm in Japan, the Galaxy J and Galaxy Note 3 ranked 33rd and 39th in the last week of March while the iPhone 5S carried by NTT DOCOMO and SoftBank came in first and second, respectively.

Some market watchers speculated that SoftBank’s ownership of U.S. mobile carrier Sprint, along with its possible acquisition of T-Mobile, could further affect Samsung’s businesses in the U.S. as the Japanese firm may likely try to put more focus on Apple’s iPhones and Japanese smartphones rather that the Korean tech firm’s handsets.

Meanwhile, the SoftBank CEO is said to have made an unofficial visit to Korea in January to oversee the venture firms SoftBank has invested in.

By Kim Young-won (wone0102@heraldcorp.com)

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