On Apple Maps update of South Korea region

Apple Maps showing Naju Bitgaram City area - 2014, 2015, and 2017 edition (left to right, click to enlarge)

One of the sore spots in using an Apple device (iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch in particular) in Korea was the Apple Maps. Sure, you could use the natively developed map apps from the likes of Kakao or Naver, but regular apps using map function generally resort to the default Apple Maps data, leading to sub-par experience.

This had largely to do with the lack of map updates. When Apple Maps initially launched in September 2012, map data for Korea was sparse at best. It then received a major update in March 2014 that looked more complete at a first glance. However, delving into details revealed that the actual map data was from around latter half of 2012. This was clearly evident for Bitgaram City as you can see above. Roads weren't completed until 2013, and Apple Maps had much of the major roads missing.

Apple Maps showing Gwangju's Juwol-dong area - 2014, 2015, and 2017 edition (left to right, click to enlarge)

Interestingly, there was another map update for Korea in April 2015. It showed all the major roads in Bitgaram City, as well the street of Juwol-ro in Gwangju that was completed in early 2015. This meant that the map was quite up to date at the time, but you could see it only if you were outside South Korea. The Korean server for the iOS Apple Maps that sends the data to users within the borders never received the update, leaving the Korean users with severely outdated map for several years. The screen caps shown here were made while I was on a trip to Mongolia a few months ago.

I actually asked Apple's technical support about this issue back in June. Sadly, no resolutions came out of this even though the staff did acknowledge the problem. Then, out of the blue, Apple Maps received yet another major update for South Korea yesterday afternoon. The new map data was fairly recent - judging from the building data, it seemed to be from early to mid 2017.

3D Map-enabled view of the eastern Bitgaram City

Speaking of which, yes, there were now outlines of most of the buildings. This didn't exist for South Korea before this update. The building data also contain height information, which enabled this nice flyover-style view of the map in 3D. With the updated road and building information, I felt that it finally became good enough for in-app uses, such as location-based arrangement of photos in the Photos app. With a few more feature additions and beefing up of POI data, it should be good enough for stand-alone uses as well.
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Piecing back shredded documents as a play

Something to be shredded - Celine's drawing

Paper shredders have been used to get rid of sensitive documents for quite some time, but simple ones are barely better than ripping papers by hand. This was clearly proven a couple of months ago when the Korean cable TV channel JTBC's news team was able to recover crucial evidence relating to the ongoing Park Geun-hye - Choi Soon-sil Scandal that's rocking the nation from bags of shredded documents (news in Korean).

Celine shreds her work by herself with the shredder

Since I have a hand-operated paper shredder at home, I decided to have a bit of fun by re-enacting this process with my daughter Celine. We call it the "JTBC play". After Celine created a "document" to shred, she put it into the paper shredder. I think she likes the feel of the paper being cut up by turning the handle.
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On water resistance of (smart) watches

Testing water resistance of Oband T2 smartwatch

With the Apple Watch going on sale next month, interest in smart watches should spark in 2015. Being wearable, water resistance of these sort of devices is one of the aspects that's getting attention. Usually, the IP (International Protection) rating, an IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) 60529 standard, is used because they're electronic devices. This rating certifies resistance to solids and liquids.

Lots of good quality smart watches and water resistant smartphones are rated as IP67, including Samsung's Gear 2 and Gear Fit. Apple Watch has an IPX7 rating, which has the same water resistance rating, but without dust resistance certification. The last digit, 7, indicates that the device can withstand submerging at a depth of 1 meter for at least 30 minutes.

Information on IEC 60529 Standard: [1], [2]

Meanwhile, traditional watches often sport "water resistant to X meters" or similar indication instead. The problem is that the IP rating seem very underwhelming in comparison on the surface. Casual water resistant watches often have a 30-meter mark, which seems to be much better than the 1-meter rating for IPX7.

But if you delve in deeper, you'll find that the 30-meter mark is only good for splashes and short immersion in water. The watch cannot be expected to withstand dives to a few meters, let alone 30. This is because the mark merely indicates momentary resistance to static pressure of 3 ATM, which is what water exerts at a depth of 30 meters.

[Information on water resistance ratings for watches]

10-meter (1 ATM) water resistance is only good for accidental splashes, which seems analogous to an IPX4 rating at best. A 30-meter (3 ATM) mark is good for general splashes and short immersion. An old standard quoted in a FAQ of a watch company says that the 3 ATM watches "must be able to survive 30 minutes under water at a depth of 1m (3 feet) followed by 90 seconds under a pressure corresponding to 30 meters." So a 30-meter water resistance is more or less like an IPX7 rating. If you're to go swimming, a minimum of 100-meter mark or a IPX6+IPX8 rating seem necessary.

So the current crop of smart watches have a useful water resistance not unlike many casual watches, and shouldn't been seen as too inadequate. Still, as the competition heats up, we might eventually have proper swim-proof versions. I see so much potential there.
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Apple Korea's iPhone 6 price is ridiculous

Apple Korea's prices for unlocked iPhone 6 Plus

Today, just one week before official Korean launch, Apple Korea has begun accepting orders for unlocked iPhone 6 series. The price (including VAT, in KRW) goes like this:

iPhone 6: 16GB 850,000 / 64GB 980,000 / 128GB 1,110,000
iPhone 6 Plus: 16GB 980,000 / 64GB 1,110,000 / 128GB 1,240,000

The nominal exchange rate is about KRW 1060 / US$ as of this writing, so the 6 Plus 128GB is about $1170 after taxes (or $1060 before). That's quite more expensive than the USA, where it's $949 before taxes. It turns out that Apple Korea is applying an exchange rate of KRW 1190 / US$, or KRW 130 (12.3%) more every dollar.

$649 x 1190 x 1.1 ~= KRW 849,500 (actual: 850,000)
$949 x 1190 x 1.1 ~= KRW 1,242,000 (actual: 1,240,000)

The baseline price that the mobile carriers have decided upon for selling the devices by themselves is only slightly cheaper by about KRW 30,000 50,000 to 60,000 (updated, see below). Yes, in Korea, even if you're entering a 2-year contract, the most expensive iPhone 6 Plus is more than twice as expensive as the US$499 that the people in the US is supposed to pay. Cheapest iPhone 6 should be about four times as expensive.

Apple Japan's prices for unlocked iPhone 6 Plus

To see how ridiculous this is, let's look at the next-door country, Japan. Apple Japan's prices (excluding tax, in JPY) are:

iPhone 6: 16GB 67,800 / 64GB 79,800 / 128GB 89,800
iPhone 6 Plus: 16GB 79,800 / 64GB 89,800 / 128GB 99,800

The applied exchange rate is about JPY 105 / US$, even though the nominal rate is higher at JPY 108 / US$. This means that Apple Japan is actually selling the iPhone 6 cheaper than compared to Apple USA.

$649 x 105 ~= JPY 68,100 (actual: 67,800)
$949 x 105 ~= JPY 99,600 (actual: 99,800)

To put this in context, let's say a Korean tourist decides to buy an iPhone 6 Plus 128GB or an iPhone 6 16GB in Japan and bring it back home. The person buying it in cash or credit card will have an exchange rate of KRW 9.98 / JPY as of this writing. Therefore:

JPY 99,800 x 9.98 ~= KRW 996,000
JPY 67,800 x 9.98 ~= KRW 676,000

That is considerably cheaper. Plus, the 8% sales tax is waived because of the tourist status, so the person doesn't pay more at the store. Once the person returns to Korea, the customs will impose the 10% VAT on the device for values exceeding US$600.

((99,800 / 108) - US$600) x 0.1 = US$32.40 = KRW 35,000
((67,800 / 108) - US$600) x 0.1 = US$2.78 = KRW 3,000

So how much cheaper would it be in the end?

iPhone 6 Plus 128GB: 1,240,000 - 996,000 - 35,000 = KRW 209,000
iPhone 6 16GB: 850,000 - 676,000 - 3,000 = KRW 171,000

Given that low-cost airline fares for a round trip between Korea and Japan costs around KRW 200,000 or less, the person buying an iPhone 6 (Plus) in Japan will essentially be getting a free trip to Japan for the cost of buying one in Korea. The only major issue with this is that the device will not be eligible for official repairs or refurbishments within Korea.

So if you're a Korean who likes traveling and wants to buy an iPhone, and don't mind going to 3rd party repair shops, then reserve a phone at an Apple Store in Japan and book your flight to pick it up. All this thanks to the outrageous price-gouging by Apple Korea.

Update (16:30): I've taken a look at the prices for LGU+ (3rd largest mobile carrier in Korea) and this is how it goes:

iPhone 6: 16GB 799,000 / 64GB 920,000 / 128GB 1,041,000
iPhone 6 Plus: 16GB 920,000 / 64GB 1,041,000 / 128GB 1,162,000

It's slightly cheaper than what the iPhones traditionally cost from mobile carriers in Korea. It might be because this is the first time LGU+ is able to sell iPhones and it wanted a bit of price advantage.

Update (2014-10-31 10:20): There have been some adjustments and the three carriers have finalized the prices as follows:

iPhone 6: 16GB 789,800 / 64GB 924,000 / 128GB 1,056,000
iPhone 6 Plus: 16GB 924,000 / 64GB 1,056,000 / 128GB 1,188,000

It seems the carriers are trying to boost the total iPhone 6 sales overall by making the cheapest look cheaper. But the other models have increased in price to be just about KRW 50,000 less expensive than the Apple Store price across the board. But since the carriers will charge interest for the monthly installments during the contract period of two years, the total cost should be about the same in the end.
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New EMS now online at KPX Naju HQ

Posing in front of the commemorative plaque for the New EMS

The New EMS (Energy Management System), based on the Korean EMS Development Project (developed in 2005 - 2010), became online as the main unit at KPX's new Naju headquarters as of 3PM, October 6, 2014. This marks the first time that the entire Korean power grid was controlled by a system entirely based on the Korean technologies.

I've participated in the Korean EMS project and the succeeding New Power IT project that included the New EMS from 2006 to 2013. So this event is momentous both on national and personal levels. My name is listed as one of the developers on the commemorative plaque.

KPX executives and external dignitaries pose for the celebratory photo

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