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Apple's new iPhone 12 heats up 5G competition in S. Korea

Apple Inc. launched its new iPhone 12 in South Korea on Friday, joining the fierce competition for the local 5G phone market.

The country's 5G phone market has so far been dominated by local tech giants, such as Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc., but the newest iPhone models -- Apple's first smartphones to support the high-speed network -- are expected to heat up competition.

South Korea commercialized the 5G network in April last year as the first in the world.

Local telecom operators have aggressively promoted Apple's devices since the iPhone 12 and its high-end Pro model became available for preorder on Oct. 23 here.

SK Telecom Co., the country's largest wireless provider, started delivering preorders for the new iPhone to 3,500 buyers.

The carrier plans to hold a launch event for the new iPhone later in the day at its new flagship store in the trendy neighborhood of Hongik University, western Seoul.

Another telecom giant, KT Corp., also held an online launch event on Thursday night, featuring popular local YouTubers. The carrier has partnered with Netflix Inc. to release a new payment plan that bundles the popular video streaming service in line with the launch of the new iPhone.

Rival carrier LG Uplus Corp. also held a launch event at its flagship store in southern Seoul on Thursday night.

Analysts expect migration to 5G in the local market to pick up with the release of the new iPhone, considering Apple's popularity in South Korea.

"With the launch of strategic 5G phones, monthly user growth in the network is expected to reach 1 million," Hana Investment analyst Kim Hong-sik said in a report.

There were 8.7 million 5G mobile accounts in the country as of August, up 800,000 from the previous month, which accounted for 12.4 percent of South Korea's total 70 million mobile subscriptions.

Apple held the second spot in the local smartphone market in the second quarter of the year with a 19 percent share, behind Samsung at 67 percent, according to industry tracker Counterpoint Research.

The US tech giant's new iPhone 12 mini and the Pro Max models, also announced during its product unveil event earlier this month, is expected to be available for preorders later this year in the local market. (Yonhap)