Japan's SoftBank Offers Free 16GB iPad With 2-Year Contract

A free iPad, how does that sound to you? You can get one, but you need to live in Japan and sign a two-year contract with SoftBank, the exclusive iPad provider in this country. The telecom behemoth announced a new pricing plan [JP] under which they fully subsidize a 16GB iPad (the Wi-Fi+3G model).

Dubbed “iPad for Everybody”, the plan requires you to sign up to a 24-month contract and pay $56 per month for a 3G data flat fee. Pay $5 or $10 per month more, and you’ll get the 32GB and the 64GB, respectively. Free usage of all SoftBank Wi-Fi spots in Japan is included in the pricing, too.

The promotion starts this Friday and runs though February 28, 2011.

There are some points to note here.

First, the iPad is said to be very successful in Japan – but sales have apparently been going south recently. According to a recent report in The Nikkei (Japan’s biggest business daily), Tokyo-based research company BCN [JP] found out the amount of iPads sold in October was roughly half that of June (right after the iPad launched). In October, the same newspaper reported that 400,000 iPads were sold in Japan, again citing BCN.

Second, SoftBank is ready to widen the number of its mobile stores that offer the iPad in Japan. The Nikkei recently wrote the company plans to quickly increase the number of  stores stocking the iPad from over 100 to about 2,000 by year’s end.

Third, SoftBank has a history of offering Apple products at a discount once the initial buzz has worn off. In fact, with their “iPad for Everybody” program, they are basically replicating a promotion they ran in February 2009 for the iPhone.

In any case, they are offering a great deal.