In a recent interview with SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son earlier this week, Son revealed that he scored exclusive Japanese right to sell the first iPhone after pitching a crude drawing of an imagined iPod-cellphone hybrid to Steve Jobs. At the time, Son didnít own a mobile carrier and the already-in-development iPhone was still two years out.
According to Son, the meeting with Jobs came as he was planning to enter the mobile phone business. Before he jumped in, he wanted his first weapon to wield again Japanís undisputed No. 1 carrier, NTT DoCoMo and went to Apple with an idea for a handset.
Son recalled the following from his meeting with Jobs:
"I brought my little drawing of [an] iPod with mobile capabilities," Son said. "I gave [Jobs] my drawing, and Steve says, 'Masa, you don't give me your drawing. I have my own," Son said. "I said, 'Well, I don't need to give you my dirty paper, but once you have your product, give me for Japan.' He said, 'Well, Masa, you are crazy. We have not talked to anybody, but you came to see me as the first guy. I give to you.'"
"I said, 'Look, Steve, you gave me your word, I bring a carrier for Japan.' And I did.Ē
As for Appleís iPhone, the handset has went on to become one of Japanís top-selling mobile devices. In October of 2013, one study found 66% of former NTT DoCoMo subscribers jumped ship to a carrier that sold Appleís device. Even after the countryís largest operator was granted access to the device, SoftBank blamed its worst-ever quarterly subscriber loss to limited iPhone stock.
Son is currently in the US to meet with the Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. to discuss the importance of next-generation mobile Internet trends. Itís also likely that there will be discussions regarding his interest in a T-Mobile takeover by Sprint, which would give him a controlling interest of two of the top-four wireless carriers in America. Weíll have to wait and see what happens.