The highly fabled Apple iPhone is no longer a far fetched idea for the drawing boards.
Softbank, a Japanese Internet service company, and Apple are planning to jointly develop mobile phones that have built-in iPod digital music players and can download songs directly from Apple’s iTunes Music Store.
The duo expects to launch handsets with the iPod functions as early as this year in Japan.
The two companies also plan to develop a phone that can download songs using Softbank’s wireless communication network next year.
Softbank entered the mobile phone business in April after it acquired British mobile phone company Vodafone’s struggling Japan unit. The acquisition allowed Softbank to take over the more than 15 million Japanese users who have signed on to the carrier, as well as its mobile network, instead of building it from scratch.
The reported plan comes amid intensifying competition in the mobile phone business.
On Thursday, NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s biggest mobile carrier, and Microsoft announced to jointly provide music services for mobile phones this summer. The second largest mobile phone company KDDI has drawn users through its music download feature.