Samsung has been retaliating against Korean cell carrier KT for its success with the iPhone, the provider's chairman Lee Suk-chae said today. Following the popularity of Apple's phone at KT, Samsung has allegedly been diverting most of its best phones to SK Telecom and deliberately offering slack support for the few phones that do reach the number two carrier. Lee went so far as to accuse Samsung and other phone makers of collaborating on an anti-iPhone strategy that uses SK Telecom as its front.
The executive cited KT's version of the Omnia II as an example of active discrimination: Samsung banned KT from referring to its model as part of the Omnia II family and has been software updates for the Windows Mobile phone where SK Telecom has been kept up to date. The KT version, the Show Omnia, is an "illegitimate son" in Samsung's eyes, Lee said.
Much of the supposed hostility stems from Samsung's embarrassment at its relatively poor performance. KT is now believed to have sold 500,000 iPhones in Korea since its late November launch, or 30,000 more than the Omnia II despite launching later and on only one carrier. The damage to Samsung is believed bad enough that the copmany may have actually lost money on phone sales in its home market, where it and LG have had a virtual stranglehold until last year.
Samsung's fight to get credibility in smartphones has been attributed in part to its near-exclusive dependence on Windows Mobile until last year. It began getting traction with the launch of its first Android phones in the second half of 2009 and, in 2010, is now avoiding Windows Mobile on its flagship phones. The Galaxy S and Wave run Android and Bada respectively, and Samsung's only major Microsoft-based phone known so far won't arrive until Windows Phone 7 is ready in the fall.