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Switch to iPhone 4S or LTE?

Customers hesitate to make choice with introduction of LTE handsets

Cho Yoon-ah, 30, is hesitating over whether to buy the newest version of Apple’s smartphone, the iPhone 4S, or one of the LTE handsets now that her two-year mobile contract is almost over.

Cho even signed up in advance to get the iPhone 4S, but local mobile carriers’ aggressive move to introduce smartphones that run on the fourth generation Long Term Evolution network has left her confused.

The 4G LTE network technology is reported to have greater capacity and five times faster delivery speed compared to the current third generation communications technology.

“Telecoms are claiming that they will soon offer nationwide coverage and I have been hearing news that LTE handsets will take over most of the smartphone lineup by the first half of next year, so I don’t know if the time is right to purchase another iPhone,” she said.

Due to customers like Cho, a number of mobile selling outlets across the country are currently offering discounts for the iPhone 4S ― as much as 230,000 won ― as an increasing number of people are nearing the end of their two-year contract with Apple. 
iPhone 4S
iPhone 4S
Galaxy S2 LTE
Galaxy S2 LTE

The Apple’s iPhone 3GS was introduced in the country in November 2009 and most customers signed up for a two-year contract to save on initial purchasing costs. A two-year contract gives customers certain telecom fee discounts as well as subsidies.

According to industry sources, the number of smartphone users in Korea reached 21.64 million as of early December.

A number of people are currently making the switch from a feature phone to a smartphone with the mobile carriers’ promotion. The number of LTE handset owners topped the 1 million mark earlier this week.

SK Telecom, the country’s top mobile carrier, said the figure for LTE mobile phone users is nearing 600,000 as of Wednesday and it is currently providing a package of promotions for those who choose an LTE handset by this month. The promotions include giving 50 percent more data to use, lower rates for video calls and discounting the subscription fee for those who change mobile carriers for 4G phones.

Its rival LG Uplus also said Wednesday that it has secured a total of 470,000 LTE mobile phone users as of Tuesday, with all LG affiliates taking part in the promotion campaign for its flagship smartphone LG Optimus LTE.

About 2,000 LG Electronics’ employees, including those affiliated with the firm’s mobile communications unit, are currently taking part in a campaign designed to open the details of its flagship smartphone to the public.

LG Uplus plans to offer LTE services in 84 cities across the nation, completing its nationwide coverage by March, which is ahead of its rivals. SKT is aiming to give nationwide LTE coverage by April, while its other rival KT is getting ready to launch the service.

LG Uplus has pinned hopes on its LTE business, witnessed by its plan to inject 1.2 trillion won this year alone. It also expects to roll out 80 percent of its new smartphone lineup in 2012 with LTE handsets.

KT, on the other hand, said this week that it is offering discounts on a set of premium smart gadgets, including Galaxy S2 High Definition LTE, Vega LTE M and Galaxy Note LTE, until Jan. 20.

If customers choose to subscribe to a monthly payment plan of over 64,000 won for two years, they will get an additional 40,000 won off the Galaxy S2 HD LTE and Galaxy Note LTE, according to KT officials. For the Vega LTE M, a total of 90,000 won will be discounted during the period.

KT, however, is still in a legal battle over shutting down services for its feature phone subscribers before going ahead with its 4G LTE services. A court appeal hearing for KT is scheduled for Friday after a Seoul court put a stop to KT’s plan to introduce the new 4G network earlier this month due to a class action suit filed by about 900 2G phone users.

By Cho Ji-hyun (