Softbank Joins Free iPhone Bandwagon

Japanese Telecommunications company Softbank has joined the growing rank of mobile networks that are giving away Apple's iPhone for free provided on long term contracts.

Poor sales in Japan seems to have convinced the company to forgo the $236 it was charging for the 8GB iPhone 3G while the 16GB version still commands a hefty $118.

In addition, Softbank reduced the entry level data plan from $62 to only $45.60, both for existing and new subscribers, substantially cheaper than in UK or US.

The catch though is that the offer is only valid from the 1st of April until the end of May after which it will revert to its original price (except for those who have switched in time)

Only the US seems to be bucking the trend with ATT selling the 8GB version for $199 and the 16GB version for $299, both requiring taking a two-year compulsory contract.

One of the reasons put forward for the lack of sales in Japan has to do with the fact that Japanese have been playing with touchscreens and other such devices for quite a few years.

There was therefore little novelty per se in Apple's grandiose display of technology. O2 UK announced yesterday that it managed to sell 1 million iPhones over the last 16 months.

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Our Comments

The iPhone carries a hefty premium and is seen by many as an upmarket phone. O2 mentions that the iPhone provided some of its middle users with an alternative route, essentially giving them enough incentives to upgrade. In Japan, the iPhone was likely to face even more competition. It started like as a 2G model while the country was about to leave 3G and the 3G version came as Japan is thinking of moving to 4G.

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