Apple (AAPL) fans … I’ve got some good news and some bad news … Which do you want first?
Okay, the bad news …
Apple has agreed to recall a number of iPod Nanos it sold in South Korea last year. While Apple had been swapping out defective (overheating) batteries in units, they have now agreed to replace any of the affected iPod Nanos.
Now for the good news …
Apple’s agreement to replace the iPod Nanos may signal movement on the iPhone to S. Korea front.
How does an iPod recall relate to iPhone? It could be just a coincidence, but the same tight knit group of bureaucrats who regulate gizmos in S. Korea, are also involved in the iPhone approval process. That process appears to have accelerated in recent months. Apple’s recall is a show of goodwill and it may (pure speculation) also be a a quid-pro-quo (i.e. “Recall the iPods and we won’t roadblock the iPhone network license”) and remove hurdles in the iPhone approval process.
One early obstacle for Apple was S. Korea’s mandatory WiPi protocol*, which caused many OEMs to forego the Korea market. Many speculated that Apple WiPi would be a non-starter for Apple. That was then … this is now. S. Korea telecom regulators have now agreed that WiPi will no longer be mandatory.
With the WiPi obstacle removed, Apple now appears to be moving forward with iPhone in South Korea. Apple’s iPhone very recently received a regulatory approval from the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) Radio Research Laboratory. This is not a final approval, as more tests/approvals are necessary, but it is a key step.
Korea Times reports that “industry sources believe that the phones will be on the shelves by the end of the year, with an August release being a remote possibility.”
Who gets the iPhone in S. Korea deal? Two carriers appear to be in the running – Korea Telecom and SK Telecom. This may not necessarily be an “exclusive” and both carriers might eventually wind up selling iPhone.
*WiPi “Wireless Internet Platform for Interoperability,” is a software standard that the S. Korea mandated in 2005 for all mobile-phone makers planning to deliver Internet access on handsets. WiPi was a gating factor for many non-Korean handsets and in 2009 S. Korea made WiPi “optional.”