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Delayed iPhone 4 Launch in Korea Drawing Suspicion

Posted July. 19, 2010 11:20,   


Korean fans and online users of Apple who watched the Friday news conference of Apple CEO Steve Jobs at his company’s headquarters in Cupertino, California, showed utter disappointment.

Many of them called the iPhone 4 the “next-month phone,” meaning its launch has been delayed to next month. This is because Jobs said the company will bring the iPhone to 17 more countries July 30, with the exception of South Korea.

On the reason for the delay in Korea, he simply said getting government approval takes time.

Since iPhone 4’s flawed reception is a major issue in Korea, many Koreans watched the news conference in real time on the Web and gave feedback though it began at 2 a.m. Saturday Korean Standard Time. The Korea Communications Commission and KT hurriedly denied that government approval caused the delay.

Consumers who postponed their smartphone purchases in anticipation of the iPhone 4 began complaining. Certain online users even went as far as raising groundless doubts, with one saying, “The government is intentionally postponing the launch of the iPhone 4 to protect domestic smartphone manufacturers.”

Others even suggested that Korean service operators and manufacturers are lobbying the government.

To alleviate the public’s anger, KT CEO Pyo Hyun-myung wrote on Twitter Saturday morning, “I believe many of you were baffled by the delayed launch of the iPhone 4, but it will take place no matter what.”

In a news release Sunday, KT said, “Though the original launch was scheduled for July, it has been delayed since the process for acquiring regulatory approval is taking more time than expected. We will launch the iPhone 4 within one or two months.”

The commission said, “Apple has not applied for Korean government certification as of Sunday. Apple’s decision to delay the iPhone 4’s launch in Korea has nothing to do with government approval.”

KT said that with its internal “quality test” taking longer than expected, it did not apply for the commission’s broadcasting and communication device certification (radiowave certification) yet.

A KT source said, “Reception issues have been raised over the iPhone 4, a strategic product, so we are looking more cautiously into whether it operates well on KT’s wireless network.”

Others raised doubts, however, that because the July launch had been announced June 8, how Korea was the only country excluded due to a longer testing period is hard to fathom.

On the iPhone 4’s reception problems, Jobs said reception issues are not limited to Apple and common phenomenon has been seen in other smartphones such those of Nokia, Blackberry and Samsung.

Certain voices in the IT industry criticized his comment, however, as an attempt to bring everyone else down. Blackberry manufacturer Research In Motion (RIM) said, “Apple`s attempt to draw us into its self-made debacle is unacceptable.”

Motorola also said that according to an independent survey, Droid X has better reception than iPhone 4 when users hold it in a grip.

Jobs also announced in the news conference that Apple will offer a free “bumper case” worth 29 dollars that can enhance reception until September 30. He also pledged to fully refund customers who are unsatisfied with the bumper case’s performance within 30 days of purchase.

Nevertheless, he admitted to problems with reception but said, “The data doesn’t support your perception.”

sukim@donga.com higgledy@donga.com