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Pantech ready to compete with Samsung and Apple: CEO

Models showcase Pantech’s Vega Racer 2, which is aimed at securing the No. 2 position in the nation’s long-term evolution smartphone market. (Yonhap News)
Models showcase Pantech’s Vega Racer 2, which is aimed at securing the No. 2 position in the nation’s long-term evolution smartphone market. (Yonhap News)
Pantech CEO Park Byeong-yeop said Thursday the company is ready to join the intense competition with Samsung Electronics and Apple, calling its new one-chip solution smartphone Vega Racer 2 the “world’s best.”

“Even though Samsung and Apple are powerful players, the product quality of the Vega Racer 2 is second-to-none,” Park told reporters after a launching event held at the company’s headquarters in northern Seoul. 
Pantech CEO Park Byeong-yeop
Pantech CEO Park Byeong-yeop

He was appearing in public for the first time since the nation’s third-largest handset maker graduated from a debt workout program late last year.

It was also the second time for him to introduce the company’s new product in front of reporters in two years, indicating the importance of the success of the new Vega phone.

“The dominance of Samsung and Apple in the mobile market is unprecedented. We are ready to compete directly with them,” he said.

Supporting the CEO’s ambition, the Vega Racer 2 boasts many “world’s best and first” features, according to the company.

The newest Vega series is the world’s first Long Term Evolution smartphone equipped with the “one-chip” solution Snapdragon S4 processors of Qualcomm.

The solution offers the best technologies on a single power-efficient chip, the company said, so that the stability of overall processing secured while electricity consumption minimized.

Enhanced battery life is also an important feature of the new phone picked by the CEO. Battery life has been boosted by up to 34 percent, which means more than 10 hours of phone calls.

Adding to the existing motion recognition feature of Vega LTE, the new Vega reacts to voice commands to activate key menus such as making a phone call, sending a text message and searching phone numbers.

Photos also can be taken by saying certain words like “cheese” and “smile” and they are shared via email, text messages or social networking services through words like “upload.”

The feature, a world first as well, is currently offered in Korean and its English and Japanese adoptions are awaiting overseas launch. The company said the Vega Racer 2 will be available in the U.S. as early as June.

Pantech sold some 1.6 million units of the previous model Vega Racer, becoming the nation’s second-largest LTE smartphone vendor next to Samsung.

With the Vega Racer 2, the company hopes to see bigger success, crucial for its survival in the heated industry.

Samsung was scheduled to launch the successor to the global hit phone Galaxy S II in London on Thursday, while Apple is also speculated to launch the long-awaited “iPhone 5” in the latter half of this year.

Despite the purported technical superiority of the new Vega phone, industry sources agreed that the real game will begin when its rival companies unveil new phones in May and the coming months.

Another obstacle facing Pantech is its key chip provider Qualcomm, which is currently struggling to meet the soaring demand for its high-end chipsets.

Qualcomm, which is also the Korean company’s third-largest shareholder with a 10.7 percent stake, is seeing its chips in the short supply due to a lack of manufacturing capacity.

In 2009, the U.S. chipmaker agreed to convert Pantech’s royalty debts into equity in 2009.

“Yes, the supply is not enough. If we had been provided with enough chipsets, we could have gained more momentum to lead the LTE phone market now,” said a Pantech executive.

“Due to the lack of chip supply, we had to lower the sales goal for the new phone. For now, we aim to secure a similar level of market share to our hit phone Vega Racer.”

The Vega Racer 2 will be launched next week through the nation's three mobile carriers ― SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus. The 4.8-inch phone, which is 9.35 millimeters thick and 133 grams, is the slightest and slimmest LTE phone for now.

By Lee Ji-yoon (
Korea Herald Youtube