Apple's App Store is attracting a wave of innovative apps from Japanese developers thanks to the success of the iPhone 3GS, which launched in June. Apple had previously failed to make a dent in the Japanese smartphone market, in part due to Japan’s history of producing some of the most advanced phones in the world. Almost all devices sold in the country come with at least a three-megapixel camera and TV tuner. Japanese phones can be used to board trains, buy drinks and shop due to the integrated Felica electronic wallet system.
However, the iPhone 3GS became the top-selling device in the country in its first week on sale despite the stiff competition. Analyst estimates put sales at well over 1m units in its first three months on sale.
The local developer community has noticed the iPhone’s popularity and is now producing a swathe of apps aimed at the local and global markets. Many of these take advantage of both the functionality of the iPhone and the advanced technology available in Japan. Gaming has been one of the first to follow the craze, with new apps including Gang Street Wars, Samurai Chess and Miruko, where users attach a robotic eye to their wrist and have to hunt for invisible 'monsters'. The 'eye' uses Wi-Fi and the camera to search the surroundings for virtual enemies, which the wearer must then follow and photograph.
The new Japanese apps also include tools. TapNext is an app which turns an iPhone into a remote control for presentations and claims to be the only software of its kind that works with PowerPoint, Keynote and OpenOffice Impress. ZeptoPad 3.0 allows users to stream what they are doing on their iPhone to a computer screen, while ServersMan, which remains one of the most popular apps in the Japanese store, turns an iPhone into a personal web server.