Seoul: Tech-savvy South Koreans began getting their coveted iPhones on Saturday amid fanfare and expectations they will shake up a local market dominated by domestic giants Samsung and LG.
Hundreds of iPhone fans lined up to get the phones at an official launch event in Seoul, some waiting overnight.
A 25-year-old university student was the first to get one, as music blared and strobe lights flashed.
"I'm so happy," said Huh Jin-seok, the first recipient, who waited in line more than 26 hours and admitted to being "a little bit tired."
A band played loud rockabilly music outside the venue near a clock that counted down the time until the launch. Those receiving their phones were among about 60,000 people who have placed orders since Sunday.
South Korean mobile carrier KT Corp., Apple Inc.'s local partner, said up to 1,000 people would receive iPhones at the event. Others will begin receiving them via delivery at their homes or offices.
"We're hoping that this iPhone will be a trigger point for the smartphone market in Korea," said Yang Hyun-mi, KT's chief strategy officer, who said smartphones now make up just 1 percent of all cell phones in the country.
Smartphones are advanced cell phones with computer-like capabilities.
The iPhone's arrival after a long delay has generated excitement among South Korean consumers and industry analysts, who say it is likely to expand the domestic smartphone market and pose a challenge to local manufacturers Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc.
The iPhone is already available in many other Asian countries including Japan, where it launched last year. It made its official debut in China last month.
Regulatory hurdles had delayed its arrival in South Korea. Final approval by the Korea Communications Commission came earlier this month with the granting of a license to Apple to offer so-called location-based services. They include functions such as maps and direction finders that are included on the iPhone. South Korean law requires companies that provide such applications to obtain government permission.
The commission earlier this year also abolished a rule that required all mobile devices to carry special software adapted to South Korea's wireless Internet platform, which was an added cost for foreign manufacturers and viewed as a trade barrier.
Samsung and LG dominate the local market for cell phones. They are also major players globally, ranking No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, behind Finland's Nokia Corp.