Apple’s latest deal to sell the iPhone abroad: In Japan, via mobile carrier Softbank, announced today. It’s no surprise that Apple (AAPL) wants to sell its phone in Japan, but No. 3 Japanese carrier Softbank wasn’t the first partner we expected: Most assumed Apple would pair with No. 1 NTT DoCoMo. (They still could.)
Either way, selling the iPhone in Japan could be big for Apple: It’s a huge mobile market where gadget quality is important, and Apple’s high-quality phone should impress people. It’s also a place where high-end phone buyers probably won’t whine about a missing QWERTY keypad like RIM (RIMM) BlackBerry addicts do here; the iPhone’s big, multi-touch screen might be better for typing in Japanese characters, anyway.
Three potential hurdles: Because of its big screen, Apple’s phone is physically wider than most Japanese phones, which tend to be narrower, and have flip-down or slide-out keyboards — convenient for holding in a smaller hand. The iPhone also might not be compatible with Japan’s popular mobile TV services, or the popular Suica service that lets you use your mobile phone to pay for your subway ride, can of Coke, etc.
Photo: Dan Frommer