Samsung’s Galaxy S8 flagship is selling for prices as low as around $177 in South Korea due to recently unchecked carriers engaging in illegal subsidizing to drive subscriber growth. Normally, regulators keep carriers in check by investigating user growth over 24,000 subscribers in one day, among other protections, but that regulation lapsed on April 30. In the interim, carriers were able to grow unchecked, and used device subsidies far beyond the legal limit to attract customers. The Korea Communications Commission is currently in sub-optimal condition due to their chairman stepping down, and likely won’t get another one until after the country’s Presidential election has concluded. Nonetheless, they have threatened to open investigations if carriers don’t clean up their act.
For reference, the legal limit for the price a base Galaxy S8 unit could be dropped to in South Korea is 753,000 won, or about $661. The illegal price dropping to spur subscriber growth is defined as “overheating the market”, but the KCC wouldn’t be able to actually open up a probe into the behavior and possibly lay down the law until they have a new chairman. The KCC did discuss possible countermeasures with the major carriers in South Korea doling out the illegal device subsidies, but without any power to regulate for the time being, it’s unlikely that the carriers will change their ways until a new chairman is poised to take office.
Taking advantage of a legislative lapse to artificially inflate the smartphone market may be frowned upon, but the carriers certainly chose an attractive device to use for that purpose. Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus flagships, internationally, carry Samsung’s powerful Exynos 8895 processor, which has been found to outperform the US-bound Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 variant in some tests. The beautiful design is framed around the extra-tall infinity display, which is being widely hailed as the best display in the smartphone world right now, bar none. The user interface, commonly panned in older Samsung devices, has been completely revamped to be cleaner, prettier, and more intuitive. The devices have been the subject of glowing reviews worldwide and it’s not hard to see why, so using such a device as a growth driver during an opportune legislative gap, while not lawfully or morally correct, could easily be viewed as a smart move.