updated 07:45 pm EDT, Fri May 12, 2006
iPhone in Japan
Apple is planning on launching its much-rumored Apple-branded iPhone in Japan, according to a published report. Softbank Corp and Apple are said to be planning to jointly develop cellular phone handsets that have built-in iPod-like functionality and can download songs directly from Apple's iTunes Music Store. The Nihon Keizai Shimbun reports that Softbank President Masayoshi Son and Apple Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs met and reached a basic agreement on this partnership in cell phone handset operations. The companies are planning to first develop a 3G cell phone handset that incorporates the functions of Apple's popular iPod, eliminating the need for consumers to carry two separate devices. The news comes after recent speculation about an Apple iPhone by industry guru Walt Mossberg and a report suggesting Apple was searching for cell phone suppliers.
According to the report, the handsets will to be released in Japan sometime this year, at the earliest. Softbank is expected to sell the new mobile phones at its recently acquired Vodaphone shops as well as volume retailers and will also Apple products at its cell phone shops.
"Apple, which will be selling cell phone handsets under its own brand for the first time, is expected to outsource production," the report said. "The company is believed to have chosen Softbank as its partner because Softbank plans to offer high-speed Internet access for cell phones, with a focus on improving convenience for consumers."
The first generation of handsets will require a computer to purchase and sync songs, while future devices -- expected as early as next year -- will be able download songs directly from the iTunes Music Store (for an uspecified fee). According to the report, downloading songs directly to cell phones is more common in Japan.