Actually seven... I rented a hotspot so that we could continue using our phones past the five-day promo period.
What promo period am I talking about? Why, Enjoy Mobile Korea
, of course— the joint venture by the Korean Tourism Office, Samsung and SK Telecom to attract visitors South Korea. I had entered my girlfriend and I into the contest a couple of times before our lucky numbers came up. Here's my experience using one of the phones (the black one) on a South Korean carrier.
Getting the phones was easy; there are two SK Telecom desks in the arrivals hall of Incheon Airport. After providing our paperwork, passports and a credit card for deposit we were on our way into town with a pair of what seemed like brand-new Samsung phablets—each with a screen protector and TPU case. The stylish case you see above held the charging cables and paperwork.
Here's how my home screen looked by the end of the trip. I didn't end up minding TouchWiz nearly as much as I thought I would, but neither of us ended up using the Note's built-in stylus very much, either.
These particular Notes came preloaded with helpful software for tourists. Far and away the most helpful of them all was the Korea Subway app
, indispensable for navigating transfers across the many and confusing lines of Seoul's subway system.
Sadly, our Notes were also burdened with plenty of bloatware from SK Telecom, all of it in Korean. You think your carrier is bad? How about ads in your notification bar?
No complaints about the speed, though, as you can see for yourself here. In addition to a very fast LTE network SK Telecom also offers slower, but free WiFi access to its subscribers where available.
The Note 5's camera was definitely a high point; just like an iPhone it seems incapable of taking a bad photo. Here's a new boutique for South Korea's most popular chat app
, set to open this summer in Seoul's fashionable Gangnam district.
On the day of our fifth and final free gigabyte of data we headed to Yongsan for more—the building housing the famous Yongsan Electronics Market is currently being refurbished; lucky for us there also happens to be eight floors of electronics at the nearby Hyundai I'PARK Mall. I reserved a MiFi at the SK Telecom store here and was presented with this HANBIT Electronics SKL321R
With two phones connected the small 2,100 mAh battery couldn't quite make it through an entire day. No complaints about the speed, though, or the price—data use was calculated when we returned the unit, and the charge for the two extra days wound up being the equivalent of about $20 CAD.
Returning the gear was even easier than getting it. I chose to drop everything off back in the arrivals hall at Incheon Airport; only after we checked in for our flight did I realize that there were SK Telecom desks on the departures level as well.
Enjoy Mobile Korea
runs until the end of 2016. It's not reason enough to visit South Korea on its own, but is certainly an added bonus if you do!