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Apple said to be working with Softbank on "co-branded" handset

Japanese news agency Nikkei is reporting that Apple and new Vodafone Japan owner Softbank are working together to develop cellphones capable of downloading and playing music from the iTunes store. Details are, of course, very slim at this point, as we don't even know whether to characterize this as a "true" iPhone, or simply a ROKR-like model featuring only software from the iPod manufacturer powering a non-Apple handset. However, Nikkei is quoting sources that say the phone, which may be released as early as this year (and which is definitely NOT pictured alongside this post), is expected to sport both Softbank and Apple branding, which may indicate that Cupertino will have a hand in developing the hardware as well. Whatever they're working on, we wanna know about it, and we won't rest until we have a ton of specs and pics for you.