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Apple SIM-Locking Japanese iPads

As promised, Apple has opened up pre-orders for its iPad tablet devices in selected international market, in the process revealing pricing information and the company’s partners for 3G connectivity. Overall, the deals offer few surprises, but there is one apparent reversal-of-policy: in Japan, 3G iPads will be SIM-locked to Apple’s carrier partner, Softbank Mobile, rather than being cable of being used with different compatible mobile carriers.

The decision to SIM-lock Japanese iPads contradicts Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ initial statements when the iPad was announced in January, in which he said all iPad models would be unlocked.

Softbank Mobile has been criticized by Japanese iPhone users for the quality of its 3G service, as well as for failing to support iPhone tethering, which would enable iPhone owners to use their phone’s 3G connectivity to enable notebooks and other nearby Wi-Fi devices to connect to the Internet via 3G. However, SIM-locking is a common practice in the Japanese mobile market, although government regulators have recently discussed banning the practice.

In other markets, the iPad’s 3G plans aren’t raising too many eyebrows: Rogers will be handling the iPad’s 3G service in Canada (with a top tier of 5 GB of data transfer per month). O2, Orange, and Vodafone are offering service in the UK (with Vodafone by far the priciest of the bunch), and Vodafone and O2 offering iPad plans in Germany, although there is some contradictory information about whether some of the plans are unlimited or have monthly caps.

The iPad goes on sale in nine international markets on May 28.

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