Apple iPhone sales are so poor, the handset is to be given away.

The Apple iPhone may be the handset to be seen with, but Softbank, which is the exclusive mobile carrier for the iPhone in Japan, finds itself left with a bit of a white elephant.

When the Apple iPhone launched in Japan, there was a clamour to get hold of one - a situation replicated in all territories in which the handset has gone onsale. Now, however, demand in Japan and elsewhere has tailed off and the device is being seen as just too expensive. The situation hasn't been helped by the current economic climate and, in Japan, the expense of internet access.

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The hefty and relatively large iPhone is no longer selling in volume. As a result, the 8GB model is to be given away for free to punters signing up to a two-year contract.

The Japan Times reports that the deal will run until the end of May. It also says Softbank has been forced to cut the price of the 16GB iPhone model to a third of its original price (¥11,520 rather than ¥34,560).

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iPhone sales in the UK are also soft, reports blog site Pocket-lint, with 02 admitting that has taken 16 months for combined sales of the original and 3G iPhone to reach a million.