The Japanese mobile carrier Softbank has announced that it has signed a deal with Apple to bring the iPhone to Japan later this year.
There was no details on pricing, availability or whether the deal was exclusive for the country.
Softbank has about 19 million subscribers in Japan but still lags decently far behind NTT DoCoMo and KDDI in market share.
Although the Japanese are a huge market for the iPod line of media devices, the iPhone may not be so impressive to a country whose cell phones are years ahead technologically then ours.
Regardless, rival NTT DoCoMo spokesman Shinjiro Minami added that his company was unhappy at the turn of events as DoCoMo had been trying to ink a similar deal for months.
“The user interface is very attractive and it’s a product that’s likely to draw Apple fans in Japan,” he added.
So far this year Apple has struck deals to sell the iPhone in over 20 new countries, including markets in Asia, Australia, Europe and South America.
Result for: softbank
According to a new iSHARE study, the 3G iPhone should have a hard time getting footing in Japan, the country where technology is light years ahead of the rest of the world.
91 percent of Japanese adults polled said they have no plans to buy the phone, at least not in the near future. The other 9 percent all planned to buy the device and many are SoftBank users, the carrier brining the iPhone at launch.
The same survey was done in July of 2007 and at that time almost 10 percent of those polled said they would buy the phone if their carrier made it available so it appears demand is somewhat down.
iSHARE did not have exact reasons for the low demand but did note that SoftBank is third in subscriber base and only 23 percent of those polled were current SoftBank users. NTT DoCoMo is the clear leader at almost 40 percent, but they do not hold an iPhone distribution contract.
77 percent also noted that they prefer a removable battery, something Apple refuses to do with their media devices. The largest hurdle will most likely be that the iPhone does not bring anything the Japanese have not seen already. 3G is standard on Japanese networks for both calls and data services and most new phones have Japan-only 1Seg digital TV and high resolutions such as 800×480. The iPhone will have neither when it launches.
Result for: softbank
Softbank has announced that it will offer the iPhone 3G in Japan for the equivalent of $215 USD, a price comparable to North American pricing.
The phone is set to hit the region on July 11th, around the time when the phone hits over 20 countries around the world.
The price is of course contingent on a 2-year contract, and the $215 is for the 8GB model. The larger capacity 16GB model will cost the equivalent of $320 USD.
In comparison, Apple and AT&T will be selling the 8GB and 16GB models in the United States for $199 and $299 USD respectively with two year contract and data plan.