Monday, September 27, 2010

The Rapid Diffusion of Smartphones in Korea

The Joongang Daily carried two articles today that underscore important aspects of the transformation taking place in mobile communication, here in Korea as well as globally.  The first article noted that the recent Chuseok holiday led to a surge in the downloading of smartphone applications. Applications for road navigation, expressway traffic congestion and charye, the Korean ancestor veneration ritual, topped the popular application list during the holiday period. The same article noted that smartphone users in Korea currently number three million, a figure that is expected to double by year's end. I expect that may be a conservative estimate. Just think of how many family members and relatives had a chance to see the iPhone or Android phones in operation over the Chuseok holiday! That sort of exposure probably represents the most powerful form of sales promotion for these devices here in Korea.
A second article described the parts bottleneck that is being faced by the manufacturers of smart phones. As shown in the accompanying graphic (click to see a larger version), industry forecasts in the spring of 2009 significantly underestimated the worldwide growth of demand for smart phones.  Consequently, such parts as the organic light emitting diode (OLED) screens are in short supply.  The manufacturing process for such parts bears many similarities to that for semiconductors and requires long lead times to build fabs and ensure adequate capacity.

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