Surviving the smartphone switch: Japan’s Pictlink has 7M users



Japan is often considered ahead of its time in the mobile sector. There was particularly early development of advanced mobile features in its so-called ‘galapagos era’ when feature phones ruled the country. These phones had many services built in, with the most notable among them being i-mode’, provided by leading carrier NTT Docomo. But after Softbank first began selling the iPhone back in 2008, many feature phone services have been forced to switch to adapt.

Back in July, we wrote about a Japanese company called Furyu which has been an important player in Japan’s ‘kawaii’ culture. Furyu is behind many interesting mobile services, as well as ‘purikura’ machines or photo booths. In 2003, the company released ‘Rakupuri Shot’ (roughly translated as ‘easy printing shots’), enabling users to save photos that have been taken in photo booths. At the time, this free service allowed users to download only one photo, and it still had over three million users. According to the company, 90% of girls in both middle school and high school have used the service at least once.

Skip ahead to December of 2011 when Furyu released a smartphone app called Pictlink, a sort of an upgraded version of its photo-saving service previously offered on feature phones. The app was sort of a social network where girls could download photos taken at photo booths, but they could also upload and share photos taken on their mobiles. The company recently announced that this service’s registered users have surpassed the seven million mark, which is a very impressive total.

In a recent update Pictlink added a new sorting feature, as well as resizable screen. Users can also learn about new photo booths available to try out. To save all photos on their phone, the app requires users to pay a monthly fee of 315 yen (or about $3.30). This may sound a bit costly, especially for younger kids. But typical photo booth users likely take many photos in the span of a month, and they are also comfortable with the concept of a monthly fee, having been introduced to paid downloads like ringtones and other digital contents since the times of feature phones.

Adapting from feature phones to smartphones is an obstacle that many mobile companies are facing these days, and so far it looks like Furyu is doing a good job. If you’d like to check out Pictlink, you can find it over on the App Store or on Google Play.