Samsung's new Galaxy S5 smartphone went on sale in South Korea today, more than two weeks before its planned global release date, despite attempts by Samsung to delay the phone's arrival in stores. Samsung says it planned to release the phone in its home market on April 11th, but South Korean carriers moved the date forward to avoid government sanctions that prevent them from obtaining new customers during April.
In a statement, Samsung said it was "very puzzled" about South Korean carriers' decision and was "deciding how to respond" to the early sale. "SK Telecom [South Korea's largest carrier] strongly asked for an earlier release of the product but we delivered our stance that the global release date of April 11 remains unchanged."
South Korean carriers moved the date forward to avoid upcoming government sanctions
SK Telecom — and carrier competitors KT and LG U+ — were keen to secure an earlier release date because they are subject to state-imposed restrictions that prohibit them from acquiring new customers during most of April. Samsung's April 11th release date was laid out before the South Korean government detailed the rulings, which were imposed when the carriers were found to be offering illegal subsidies.
In a statement to Bloomberg, SK Telecom said it decided to release the Galaxy S5 "for a wider consumer choice of handsets before our operation suspension begins on April 5." J. K. Shin, Samsung's mobile chief, responded to journalists' questions yesterday, answering "no" when asked if the phone would go on sale early in South Korea. This appeared to contradict Samsung's own stores — Hankyung reported on the 25th that Samsung-run stores in Seoul told pre-ordering customers that they would receive their new phones on the 27th.
We've reached out to Samsung for more details, and will update with any response.
Update: Samsung has provided The Verge with the following statement:
"The official global launch date of the Galaxy S5 is April 11, as previously announced. Samsung has provided mobile carriers with a limited number of units for marketing and pre-sales activities, however the decision to release the device early in the Korean market was made by the mobile carrier itself, independently of Samsung. We express our regret at this decision and we are working to verify all the facts."
Hyunhu Jang contributed to this report.