Softbank to launch iPhone in Japan July 11
Softbank Mobile announced on Tuesday it will introduce a new version of Apple’s iPhone on July 11. Earlier this month, Apple signed a deal with Softbank Corp’s mobile unit to bring the iPhone to Japan, one of the most competitive mobile markets in the world. Speculation has swirled since then on when exactly the highly anticipated iPhone would hit stores.
“I am delighted at this opportunity to partner with Apple,” said Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son in a joint statement with Apple. “iPhone has been enthusiastically received around the world, and we think it will be popular in Japan as well.”
Apple unveiled an upgraded iPhone Monday priced $200 lower than current models, but with more expensive service. Analysts have said Apple needed to slash the multimedia gadget’s price and upgrade it to work over 3G wireless networks to hit the company’s target of selling 10 million iPhones by the end of 2008.
An 8 gigabyte model is to sell in the United States for $199 starting July 11. A 16 gigabyte model will cost $299. The devices are to roll out initially in 22 countries.
Apple and Softbank have not said how much the iPhone will cost in Japan.
Tokyo-based Softbank has 18.77 million subscribers in Japan, and is still lagging in third place behind mobile service providers NTT DoCoMo and KDDI Corp. In recent years, it has been aggressively expanding by offering cheaper services and running catchy TV ads featuring actress Cameron Diaz.
Softbank Mobile hopes that the launch of the iPhone here will further boost its efforts to woo subscribers away from larger rivals NTT DoCoMo and KDDI.
Meanwhile, NTT president Masao Nakamura said Tuesday that his company had no plans for now to offer the iPhone to its customers.
A DoCoMo spokesman had said last week after Softbank first announced a deal with Apple that his firm would continue to study the possibility of offering the iPhone to its own subscribers.
Holding an iPhone handed to him by a television reporter, Nakamura said the model was “a little bit heavy.”
“Models in Japan are now very light,” he said.
Handsets designed by foreign manufacturers have traditionally been unpopular among Japan’s notoriously finicky consumers. But Apple enjoys a high brand profile here thanks to the popularity of its iPod digital music player.