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Apple partners with Softbank for iPhone

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.

by MacNN Staff




  1. chadpengar

    Joined: Dec 1969



    My SIL lives in Japan... Maybe she could get me one. I already have a 3G SE anyway for when I go there... (Most 3G phones are combined 3G/GSM)...

  1. dashiel

    Joined: Dec 1969



    i have a hard time believing that a product would launch outside of america in this second-era steve version of apple.

  1. Peter Bonte

    Joined: Dec 1969


    cell phone suppliers.

    Maybe he can't find a good supplier in the US that will offer good broadband and doesn't want 3 dollar per song that travels over it network. Japan is a good test area with lots of early adopters.

  1. dimplemonkey

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Good point, Peter

    It's obvious that the best place to test this will be in Japan. They're also the most leery when it comes to American electronic (unless it's from Apple). Hopefully, they'll provide the best constructive criticism so that rev. b will make it to the states.

  1. rok

    Joined: Dec 1969


    re: availability

    "the handsets will to be released in Japan sometime this year, at the earliest"

    think about that. OF COURSE the "earliest" it could be released is sometime this year. any earlier, and it would be, um, well, last year?

  1. OtisWild

    Joined: Dec 1969



    So my question is, will it be fully-functional like a P-series unlocked SonyEricsson (that is, transfer files via Bluetooth, full Bluetooth handsfree/headset functionality, ability to run 3rd party apps, etc) or will it be castrated like how Verizon has castrated its bluetooth fones?

    IOW, Will it be insanely great or just insanely suck?

  1. alex_kac

    Joined: Dec 1969



    This quote: 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

    Makes it seem like the first version will be like the ROKR in its functionality, while only the true "iPhone" will be available next year.

  1. dimplemonkey

    Joined: Dec 1969


    No, not iPhone

    iPhone is too obvious a name. He's gonna call it something else.

    Fortunately, Vingle is already spoken for... ;-)

  1. LouZer

    Joined: Dec 1969



    It'll be castrated if its offered by the networks. They're the ones who chop up the features. But, like the ROKR, no decent carreir will carry this phone unaltered (sorry, Cingular doesn't count), because of how they subsidize the phone's cost (what, you think a phone actually costs just $50?).

    Now, you could buy one, full price, and take it with you to whatever carrier you want (you are allowed to 'bring your own phone'), but it'll cost you a lot more in money.

    So, the question arises, is it worth the $$$ to have an uncrippled phone, knowing that once you buy it, you're stuck with it for a while, or do you just go cheap, get a crippled phone you can replace every year or two, and carry other devices around, not caring about the extra baggage.

    So, it comes down to whether all the features the phone has (bluetooth support, iTunes support, whatever else) is worth the extra cost. For me, the answer's no. For some people, who live and die by their cell phones, I'm sure its a yes (although they might also wonder whether they should be worried about that - but, hey, as long as they're not those Blackberry addicts, they're probably OK).

    And let's not forget that if its an Apple phone, they'll be a lot of apple-idiots who'll buy it, regardless of price, because they have somehow been brainwashed into thinking that if apple comes out with any product, they must buy one. (Steve's done a good job with his whole RDF-hypnosis thing, hasn't he?).

  1. ibugv4

    Joined: Dec 1969


    america fscking sucks

    We rape communications on a daily basis, especally the mobile market. I only buy unlocks phones from other countries and use them in America, I'd NEVER buy a phone from SunCom or Cingular. IF it's not GSM it's also not on my list, that means you Sprint, AllTell and Verizon. Nextel is a GSM-like carrier; but they're the equivellant of Hugh's Network's satellite internet DirecWAY: A business tool and not designed for regular people, but fits some folks needs. I don't care if it's a $500 phone, if it's got the functionality of a Newton and the capabilities of an iPod with a min 4 days talk time, I'll glady give $600 for it. Apple actually makes soemting that doens't break apart in 12 months, they just highly promote the new in hopes you upgrade. I can't wait to see how this works out; I think Apple could sell the phones unlocked in America and start a new trend. THat would signifigantly hurt the non-GSM carriers; and anger the GSM carriers. Either way, it would bring about much needed change in how American's talk on their precious phones.

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