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Thursday, March 27, 2014, 07:50 am PT (10:50 am ET)

Samsung 'puzzled' as South Korean carriers upstage Galaxy S5 launch with early sales

Apple's chief rival Samsung had big plans for the debut of its flagship Galaxy S5 smartphone on April 11, but carriers in its native country of South Korea have opted to upstage that launch date by releasing the new handset early.

Samsung


SK Telecom, the largest mobile provider in South Korea, is set to release the Galaxy S5 on Thursday, two weeks before the actual scheduled launch. The move has prompted other carriers in the country — KT Corp. and LG Uplus Corp. — to also release the device early.

In response, Samsung issued a statement, according to the Associated Press, saying that the company is "very puzzled" by the decision. Carriers were provided with handsets ahead of time to ensure they could fulfill preorders.

The move may be driven in part by a looming suspension set to hit SK Telecom on April 5. The carrier is reportedly barred from accepting new customers for a 45-day period because they provided illegal phone subsidies. Selling the Galaxy S5 early would allow them to lock in new customers ahead of that suspension, which will be in effect when Samsung's handset officially launches.

Samsung's apparent difficulties in coordinating the launch of the Galaxy S5 stand in contrast to Apple's debut of both the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c in 11 countries and territories last October. Another 24 countries were added a month later, with a total of more than 100 countries carrying Apple's latest handsets by the end of 2013.

Samsung has said the Galaxy S5 will be available in more than 100 countries on a single day, April 11. But with early sales by South Korean carriers, some customers will be get their hands on the next-generation device well ahead of the date Samsung intended.

The next flagship handset from Samsung was announced in February at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona. It packs a 5.1-inch display, fingerprint sensor, and a heart rate monitor on the rear of device, located next to the camera.