Apple planning phones with iPod features

Apple Computer and Japanese wireless carrier Softbank 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, an Associated Press report said.

The two firms were expected to launch the handsets as early as this year in Japan, Japanese business daily Nihon Keizai reported, citing unnamed sources.

The two companies also planned to develop a phone that could download songs using Softbank's wireless communication network next year, the paper said.

Officials of the two companies were not available for comment, the report said.

Softbank entered the mobile phone business in April after it acquired British mobile phone company Vodafone's struggling Japan unit, the report further said.