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Smartphones, apps create a new Korean wave

Thanks to the latest smartphone boom in popularity, Korea now ranks as one of the world's top ten smartphone markets, creating a new "IT Hallyu," or Korean wave.

According to the recent market survey by Canalys, Google's Android platform became the world leader in the fourth quarter of 2010, selling nearly 33 million handsets and surpassing Nokia's Symbian, which sold 31 million handsets.

Android grew more than 600 percent, drastically increasing from its 8.7 percent market share in the fourth quarter of 2009. Two leading Android handset makers, Korea's Samsung and Taiwan's HTC, account for 45 percent of the total sales of Android smartphones.

In terms of regions, Europe was the largest smartphone market in the world, followed by the Middle East and Africa. However, the United States was the largest single-country smartphone market, and Android was their top choice for operating system in the fourth quarter last year. 
The survey also showed growth in the Korean smartphone market. In the fourth quarter of 2009, 0.7 million smartphones were sold. The number surged to 3.4 million in the last quarter of 2010, making Korea one of the top ten smartphone markets in the world.

Left: Galaxy S, Samsung smartphones // Right: LG's Optimus Mach smartphone

Samsung recently announced that it sold 280 million mobile handsets last year. The firm said an increase in smartphone sales led the growth, and that it sold more than 80 million in the last quarter of 2010.

In the third quarter of 2010, Korean electronics makers Samsung and LG accounted for the largest share of the U.S. mobile handset market, recording 31.4 percent and 17.2 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, many Korean applications have received very favorable responses in the international application market. Commonly called "apps," these smartphone programs are available online through sites like the Apple Store and Android Market.

One of the most well-known examples of a Korean-made app is Kakao Talk. In Korea alone, more than 6 million people out of 7.5 million smartphone users have downloaded the free messenger service. It is also one of the top four apps in the Middle East and Hong Kong app markets.

Kakao Talk (from Kakao homepage)

According to Kakao, Kakao Talk was the top-ranked social network app in the Apple Store in Hong Kong and Macao from January 18 to 22. Two weeks ago, it was also the most downloaded free app in Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Other Korean-made apps like "Slice-it," "PhotoShake," "Homerun Battle 3D," "Baseball Superstars" and "Zennonia" have won popularity among international smartphone users, helping to create a new form of Korean wave.

Homerun Battle 3D by Korea's Com2us (from Com2us homepage)

"Homerun Battle 3D" by Korea's Com2us was one of the top 50 apps selected by Apple late last year. In November 2010, Apple opened an "Essentials Hall of Fame" section for their store and revealed a list of the top 50 apps most downloaded by iPhone users over the last two years. "Homerun Battle 3D" was the only Korea-made app in the top 50, which included world-famous apps like "Angry Birds" and "Facebook."

By Yoon Sojung Staff Writer

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