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Can you hear the angels singing? Been wondering why 0.0001% of the Japanese population is going round with huge grins on their faces?

Oh yes, Friday 21st November 2008 was the day that eMoji came to the iPhone in Japan.

Well, sort of.

It turns out that emoji support is only available for a) sms sent to other Softbank users (whom I know very few of and b) emails sent from a softbank email address to another softbank email address.

According to Apple:

  • If another [non-softbank] email account is used to view a message that contains Emoji, you may see “=” instead of Emoji characters.
  • If iPhone OS 2.1 or earlier is used to view a message that contains Emoji, you may see squares instead of Emoji characters.
  • The ability to send or receive Emoji is server dependent and could be inactive at different times due to the need to update the SoftBank and other service provider’s servers simultaneously.

As the emoji keyboard only appears when you compose a message with the outgoing server set to softbank

So basically, it’s a bit pants. I don’t use a softbank email address, instead preferring to use Gmail with its superb spam filter, web access, bells and whistles. (I do however have a copy of every mail sent to my mobile Gmail address forwarded to my softbank account in order to get a silent alert that I have email) (the incredibly non-useful silent email alert being something else I was hoping would have been addressed in this update).

I have actually found a way to send emoji from a non-softbank address, but it’s not really worth the trouble. In order to do this, first compose an email (including your cutey little emojis) using your softbank account, then change the server before sending. Whether it displays ok or not on the recipients phone is another matter…

I find it odd that with such advanced phones in Japan, simple services such as cross-provider SMS are not available. If we have that, I’d be going emoji crazy. As it is, the only chance I’m going to get to use them is when bugging my iPhone-enabled friend in Osaka. Poor chap.

Let’s hope that the next update to iPhone sees some of these limitations lifted. I have to remember, it’s still early days here in Japan.


The only other significant update was to Google Maps, with the introduction of StreetView. Now that, I must say, is mightily sexy, and I can see it being a fantastic tool in the ‘convert your friends to the iPhone’ toolkit. It is so smooth, just incredible.

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