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News  27, Jun 2014

Japan can now sing “But first, let me take a selfie”

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Selfie messenger React launches beta in Japan. How will this app do in a country, where stickers, emoticons and messaging is celebrated?

Photographs — no, selfies — are taking over the world. Oh, and by the way, with this app, you can’t type ‘LOL’ with a straight face anymore.

US-based selfie messenger app React, which is still in open beta, today launched its offerings in Japan, a country which led the world in various trends in self-portraiture, including this recent shaking head fad.

‘Selfies’, however, is not a passing fad, said Pedro Wunderlich, Co-founder, React. He explained, “Selfies aren’t new. They’ve been around ever since cameras existed. ‘Selfie’ is just a marketing term that caught fire recently. And for us, it’s easier to explain to someone that we’re a “selfie messenger” than a “chat with real-time facial expressions”.

He also explained the idea of a real-time facial expression-based chat, “Nothing transmits emotion like your eyes, and your facial expression around them. That’s why expressing yourself with a selfie is so natural (albeit, awkward sometimes). The most intimate, most effective way to communicate is face-to-face. This isn’t a fad nor something people get bored with—it’s how we’re wired to communicate.”

Also Read: BeamIt shines a light on visually rich chats

Wunderlich first started work on React in November 2012. The app was then launched in December 2013. To date, it has 200,000 beta users, and has a retention rate of 15 per cent to 20 per cent. In addition, it has seen 70 per cent of its total user base come from Indonesia, followed by Brazil and the US.

He shared, “Indonesia has been a great market for learning, but unfortunately, (it is) a very Android-dominated market.” Currently, the app is only available on iOS, even though an Android version is well under way. “So for now, our growth potential is extremely limited,” he said.

Japan, however, has experienced what Wunderlich termed as an “iPhone boom”. In fact, according to the national carrier NTT DOCOMO, Apple’s mobile phone market share in the country has increased to 36.6 per cent in Q1 2014. Other smartphone manufacturers, Sharp and Sony, followed behind with 13 per cent and 12.3 per cent respectively, according to MacRumours.

He also believes that Japan is a “perfect market” for an app like React, given the youths’ obsession with selfies, emoticons and stickers.

Elaine Huang

Elaine Huang

Elaine is a fervent believer that if there ever is a zombie apocalypse, we will all be snapping away at them with our phones and posting them onto Instagram. A Mass Communication graduate of Ngee Ann Polytechnic's School of Film and Media Studies, she enjoys writing about technology and entrepreneurs. When not hashtagging her way through all sorts of trouble, Elaine is probably contemplating how to write in the third person.

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