As the year 2013 winds to a close, I thought I’d take a look back on some of the mobile apps and services that have really stood out. As a new parent, many of my favorite apps this year have been related to managing baby pictures. And here in Japan, Nohana is a must-have for any parent, letting them use pictures taken on their smartphones to create and print small photobooks, which are then delivered by mail. Users can order one free book per month, paying only a 90 yen shipping fee (or about $1). Additional books cost
What’s perhaps most interesting about Nohana to me is how it can bridge the digital divide in families. It provides an option to send a second copy of your photo book to another address, which could be grandparents, or other relatives who might not be very adept with smartphone communication .
At the end of this year we saw Nohana roll out a Nengajo (or Japanese New Year’s card) creation app, representing another means of monetizing for the company. And I expect that it’s a far more lucrative stream than the regular Nohana photo service. Each new year card costs 88 yen, with a minimum base fee of 1480 yen and then 525 yen for shipping.
It will be interesting to see if the company publishes other occasion specific apps in the coming year. I’m not sure if the folks at Nohana have any ambition to expand beyond Japan, but a Christmas card service would certainly come in handy in many countries.
In addition to Nohana, 2013 was a year that saw lots of fun photo apps emerge in Japan. This is proving to be an area of expertise for the country, with many startups innovating to compete for the country’s mobile photo market, and opportunities beyond.