Samsung Galaxy S5 on sale early, but don't tell Samsung

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is on sale in Korea ahead of its official release date, and no one's more surprised than Samsung.

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The Samsung Galaxy S5 Android smart phone. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is on sale now in South Korea, two weeks early -- much to Samsung's surprise.

The S5 is set to go on sale around the world on 11 April, hitting shop shelves in 150 countries before the month is out. But the wait is too long for impatient South Korean carrier SK Telecom, which has made the phone available today for around 866,800 won.

Korean networks were keen to get the S5 into the hands of phone fans early because they're not allowed to sign up new customers in parts of April and May, as punishment from the government for illegally subsidising new customers. The sanctions mean SK Telecom, KT Corp and LG Uplus Crop would have had to sit on their hands as the S5's official release date came and went.

So SK Telecom has defied Samsung and started shifting the S5 early. "We just wanted to provide the device to local users as soon as possible. It is for the good of our subscribers," an official from SK Telecom told Korea Herald.

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Samsung boss JK Shin said yesterday that the S5 would not go on sale early, but it appears SK has gone ahead anyway.

Update, 3:30 a.m. PT: Samsung told CNET today that it has "provided mobile carriers with a limited number of units for marketing and pre-sales activities, but the decision to release the device early in the Korean market was made by the mobile carrier itself, independently of Samsung. We express our regret at this decision and we are working to verify all the facts."

It's a heck of an audacious move for a mobile carrier to risk its relationship with the world's biggest mobile phone manufacturer on its own turf -- and it sets a heck of a precedent; I imagine networks and carriers around the world are very curious indeed to see what happens next. I know I am.

We're used to waiting a while for a cool new device after the fanfare of the big unveiling. The S5 was revealed way back in February, so no wonder everyone's getting antsy. By contrast, the HTC One M8 has already stolen a march on the S5 by landing in shops the same day as it was announced this week.

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