Pantech has bounced back from bankruptcy under new ownership to unveil a brand-new smartphone.
The company in a press conference in Seoul on Wednesday unveiled the IM-100, which celebrates its 13th-hour rescue because the name sounds like “I’m back” when read in Korean.
It is Pantech’s first new smartphone in 19 months and the first since the Solid-Optis consortium acquired the manufacturer in October last year.
Pantech was once Korea’s No. 2 smartphone maker, but its focus on premium models proved disastrous, so the IM-100 shifts strategy to more affordable models.
It costs W449,000, dropping to around W300,000 with packages offered by mobile providers (US$1=W1,155). It has a 5.15-inch screen and 32 GB memory.
Pantech also showcased what it calls the “Stone” as a companion device — a wireless charger and 2.1-channel Bluetooth speaker in one. For cutting-edge simplicity of design, the IM-100 bears no logo. It will go on sale through KT and SK Telecom next week.
The Solid-Optis consortium bought Pantech when creditors had almost given up. It has since laid off hundreds of staff, and the future of the company hinges on whether the IM-100 sells or not.
Head of product development Kim Tae-hyup said, “Rather than compete with cheap models from other manufacturers, we positioned the IM-100 in the mid-range segment. We plan to roll out new models every six months and are in talks over exports to the U.S., Japan and Indonesia.”
But the road ahead is tough. Sales of cheap phones have been soaring around the world since last year now that the technology is mature and differences between models become negligible.
Pantech also needs to compete in advertising with industry heavyweights who have more cash to spend, but the company believes there are dedicated fans out there and hopes it can appeal to younger, style-conscious consumers.
Park Sa-lim, Seoul