SoftBank CEO Reveals How He Got The iPhone Into Japan


Three out of every four smartphones sold in Japan are reportedly iPhones, but how did the Apple devices get there to start with?

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son shed some light on that question during a television interview with Charlie Rose which aired earlier this week, in which he told the story of how he landed the iPhone back in 2008.

According to Son he had met with Steve Jobs two years before Apple launched its iPhone to discuss the subject of smartphones.

“I brought [a] little drawing [I had done] of an iPod with mobile capabilities,” he recalled. “I gave him my drawing, and Steve says, ‘Masa, don’t give me your drawing. I have my own.’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t need to give you my dirty paper, but once you have your own product, give me for Japan.’ And he said, ‘Masa, you are crazy.’”

At the time, Masayoshi Son didn’t control a wireless carrier and was just known as a savvy entrepreneur. Son claims that Jobs gave him the first shot at the iPhone because Son was the first person to come to him about the project. Son then asked that Jobs put the offer of Japanese exclusivity for the device in writing.

“No! Masa, I’m not going to sign for you because you don’t even own a mobile carrier yet,” Son recalled Jobs saying. “I said, ‘Well, look, Steve, you promised me. You gave me your word. I bring a carrier for Japan.’”

SoftBank then bought Vodafone Group’s Japanese unit in 2006 for around $15 billion, and from there the carrier inked a 2008 deal to carry the iPhone.

Masayoshi Son is  currently listed as the CEO of SoftBank and SoftBank Mobile, and also the chairman of Sprint — the third largest carrier in the U.S.

About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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