UPDATE : 2019.7.19 FRI 10:26
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BlackBerry seeks to win back S. Korean consumers with new phone

The president of BlackBerry Mobile expressed confidence on Friday that his company can grab South Korean consumers with the BlackBerry KEYOne Black Edition, but it remains unclear whether the entry-level premium smartphone can make a dent in a country dominated by Samsung Electronics and Apple Inc.

Alain Lejeune said South Korea is "a demanding and competitive market," but he said the BlackBerry KEYOne Black Edition will be a successful product in South Korea.

"This is an opportunity as we are bringing a product, which is well-accepted by consumers," Lejeune said in a news conference in central Seoul.

He said he does not consider Samsung's Galaxy Note 8 and Apple's iPhone X as rivals, noting KEYOne's strong batteries and tangible keyboards make the device stand out from other products.

The built-in battery capacity stands at 3,505 mAh, which the company says is enough for the device to run up to 26 hours, although actual life may vary depending on conditions.

Lejeune added the KEYOne smartphone will provide answers to what he calls "consumer fatigue" sparked by the market being filled with similar products with less innovation.

The Android-powered KEYOne model marks the first BlackBerry smartphone released in the market after the brand was purchased by China-based TCL Communication Technology last year.

Alain Lejeune (R), president of BlackBerry Mobile, and Shin Jai-sik, head of the firm's South Korean arm, pose for a photo with the BlackBerry KEYone Black Edition during a press conference in Seoul on Dec. 22, 2017. (Yonhap)

Some consumers expressed concern over the future of the BlackBerry lineup after the purchase, but Lejeune said the partnership with TCL is an asset as it can improve competitiveness in the market.

The BlackBerry KEYOne Black Edition comes with a 4.5-inch display with a physical QWERTY keyboard, which is the key feature of the firm's smartphones. It is also the first BlackBerry device to be printed with the Korean alphabet.

"We provide the best typing experience for hangeul," Lejeune said.

The device is currently provided through CJ Hello Co., a local budget operator that borrows networks from mobile carriers. The factory price stands at 583,000 won (US$539), while discounts up to 250,000 won are provided depending on monthly plans.

The price set for the 64 gigabyte (GB) BlackBerry KEYOne is significantly lower compared to other rivals in the market. The price tag on Samsung Electronics' Galaxy Note 8 of the same capacity stood at 1.09 million won upon its release in September, and Apple's iPhone X also arrived here in November at 1.36 million won.

Lejuene said South Korea holds a strong community of BlackBerry fans, and that the company will continue to release more products in one of Asia's biggest smartphone markets.

There is no data on how many people use BlackBerry phones in South Korea. (Yonhap)

Officials from BlackBerry Mobile hold up the BlackBerry KEYone Black Edition during a press conference held in Seoul on Dec. 22, 2017. (Yonhap)

Kim Sua  edt@koeapost.com

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