Japan’s love affair with photo apps

Japan’s love affair with photo apps

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This morning I met with Canadian research student Laurel Hart who is currently in Tokyo studying mobile photography communities in Japan. Even though we’ve written about mobile photo apps significantly on this site (which is how she found me), I needed to take some time to think about what information I might be able to offer her. I thought I’d share some of those thoughts here, just in case it might be of interest to readers as well.

While there has been some indication that Japanese mobile users love photo apps more than other regional markets (see this chart from Flurry Analytics) [1], it’s a little bit more difficult to identify what kinds of things they are doing and what sorts of photos they are taking.

In a purely non-scientific exercise, I thought I’d review a few of the kinds of apps we see trending here in Japan, in an effort to dive deeper this area. Here a few genres of photo apps (and photo-related apps [2]), in no particular order:

These represent just a few of the more popular clusters of photos apps that we have seen here in Japan. Of course, everyone makes use of their mobile camera for different reasons, so we cannot claim that there is any sort of trend among consumers here. But perhaps we can assume that the apps that Japanese developers produce are at least partially indicative of the market’s demands.

As for mobile photography communities, I confess I’ve never seen such groups gathering offline [4]. But we often see people come together online around common ideas or themes. For example, the Nailbook app mentioned above is an intriguing community where people exchange pictures of nail art. And then their are mobile photographers who share photos around a suddenly viral meme, such as the ‘Cups Fuchiko-san’ meme where a tiny figure is posed on cups or glasses in strange ways, or the Makankosappo (literally translated as “Magic Penetrating Killing Ray”) meme, upon which the Kame-Camera app is based.

The world of smartphone photography obviously runs far deeper than what I’ve outlined above. If you there’s something that we’ve overlooked, don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments.


  1. This chart doesn’t seem to be on Flurry’s site any longer. But thankfully, we still have a version here.  ↩

  2. I say photo-related, because some photo apps might technically be classified by an App Store as a photography app, but it might have a different primary purpose. The mobile flea market app Fril is an example of this.  ↩

  3. These are interesting considering the aging demographic in Japan, giving you the ability to send prints to older folks who may not use smartphones.  ↩

  4. It seems rather silly to me to define a photography community by device.  ↩