Japan Tech

I enjoy seeing how people use their phones. Especially non technical people. What apps are on their home screen? How do they interact it? All sorts of weird goodness. My recent trip to Japan was no different. Watching another culture using their phones was truly fascinating.

Messaging / Twitter

If it's not a messaging app open - Line - its twitter open. Seriously. Twitter is everywhere amongst the younger generation of Japanese people. It feels like if the person was within the age of 18-30 it was likely that they had twitter open. Which is not the case outside tech in Australia, from what I have seen. It wasn’t gender specific either. Both men and women would be on twitter refreshing that feed like they were going to miss out on something important. Sure I did see some Facebook but I don’t remember seeing Instagram.

Facebook dominates western app stores, with Messenger, Instagram and Facebook regularly all in the top five. In Japan (as of 29/12/15) Instagram comes in at 23, Facebook at 41 and Messenger at 65. Line is at 6 and and Twitter at 36. Those products in the Australian store are ranked at 138 and 74 respectively (as of 29/12/15).

From what I saw this makes sense, both Line and twitter seems to be used a lot more outside the tech community. Perhaps Instagram is more of an at home app than an on the train app, which is perhaps why I don’t remember seeing it.


My next observation was that when I saw an app open, the UI/UX was not at all optimised for Japanese characters. Specifically the spacing and amount of characters you can put on a screen. What looks brilliant for the English language can appear cluttered and overwhelming in Japanese. Note I cannot read Japanese so I am purely looking at it from a UI/UX perspective. Perhaps Japanese people like all the characters to be on the screen at once (I highly doubt it). Pure speculation on my part but perhaps that this is why some of the other western apps haven’t caught on in that region. Then again snapchat doesn’t even register on the top free apps, so perhaps it is a cultural thing.

In software it is super easy to just think about one language and one UX flow. But as a product grows it becomes really apparent that perhaps even different UI/UX is needed for countries outside of the western world. When next localising, spare a thought.

iPhone home button

The last thing I noticed is that a lot, and I mean a lot, have the accessibility home button on their screen. Users of older iPhones will know what I am talking about. The little rounded edged square with two circles inside. It gives you quick access to lock, the camera and a bunch of other functions. What was weird was it was on new iPhone’s and I never saw anyone use it, in spite of it being right their on the screen. Why was it there, was it on a TV show once and it just caught on, is it used like an android on screen button? Very perplexing and I still don’t know why it was so prevalent.