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Puzzling Samsung Galaxy S5 early launch in South Korea

The global launch date for Samsung's new flagship smartphone is 11 April – a fortnight today – yet the Galaxy S5 has already gone on sale in its home turf of South Korea.

The country's foremost network operator, SK Telecoms, made the S5 available yesterday, apparently without asking Samsung if the device could go on shelves. It has been priced at around 870,000 won (£480), but long-term customers can pick it up discounted as low as around 660,000 won (£370 – we can but dream of that sort of launch price for a high-end smartphone).

This is according to ZDNet, who got word from Samsung's mouth that while it was asked, the company didn't give SK Telecoms the go-ahead to begin selling the handset early. A Samsung spokesperson said: "We are extremely puzzled about SK Telecom's launch of the Galaxy S5. Although SK Telecom had asked for permission to start the sales of the model this month, we have consistently neglected the request."

Samsung dodged the issue of whether it was going to press litigation against the mobile operator for its actions, and merely said that it was talking to the carrier to ascertain what exactly the firm is up to.

As for SK Telecoms, it said that the reason for the move was that its customers were very keen to get the device, so it wanted to oblige (a watertight defence, we'd say). No doubt the company has sold a shedload of S5s and then some – the South Koreans being extremely keen on their smartphones and the latest tech, of course.

Coincidentally (ahem), this early sales spree comes ahead of a ban on sales for SK Telecoms which starts on 5 April, and will temporarily stop the mobile network from taking on new customers until mid-May (a suspension imposed due to the firm offering illegal and too far-reaching subsidies on handsets).

Several other South Korean carriers are reportedly selling the S5 ahead of their own sales bans, too – namely rivals KT and LG Uplus. Imagine the likes of Vodafone and O2 getting up to these sort of tricks...

To say the Galaxy S5 is hugely anticipated is, of course, an understatement. However, it is facing some competition – at least in terms of early critical acclaim – from the freshly released HTC One M8. Whether the M8 can manage to pull more weight of numbers in terms of sales than its predecessor managed, however, is a big question mark to say the least.

Check out our Samsung Galaxy S5 versus HTC One M8 spec comparison for more details on that particular battle.