auKDDI have just announced that emails sent from AU handsets to @i.softbank.jp email addresses will now be automatically formatted so as to be readable by iPhones.

For those of us that don’t use the Softbank mail address (preferring, say, Gmail or Yahoo instead) this doesn’t apply – we still need to visit Gmail / Yahoo in Mobile Safari to figure out what cute pictures all the crosses were supposed to be.

When Apple announced the introduction of eMoji there was much rejoicing in Japan, as avid users would cease to be confronted by sceptics with the horrendous truth,

“…But it doesn’t have eMoji!”

eMoji on any iPhoneBut, in typical Apple style, the iPhone 2.2 software didn’t quite give us what we wanted – whilst the eMoji were in there, they were only accessible when sending SMS to other Softbank handsets, or when sending emails using an i.softbank email account.

For users such as myself this was pretty useless, as the majority of my friends and family are yet to see the iLight and remain on other networks. Also, I personally don’t use my i.softbank mail address for anything other than alerting me when emails are sent to my dedicated Gmail iPhone account (I have a Gmail filter that forwards a copy to i.softbank).

There was a brief flurry of excitement when, last November, a hack was released showing how eMoji could be enabled for all iPhones – but this required jailbreaking your phone or using an iTunes Backup Editor (which no-one seems to know anything about).

The Hack

However, a hack first published by ipodtouchlab requires nothing but the addition of a special eMojical group of contacts to your Address Book:

The emoji as they appear in the address book1) Download the eMoji Vcard here. It contains 28 contacts, each contact contains approximately 18 emoji in the family name field. They only take on their emoji appearance once on your iPhone.

2) Add the file it to your iPhone address book (either send it by email or on a Mac add it to your Address Book and sync)

3) Enable the Japanese QWERTY keyboard (Settings > Keyboard > Japanese Keyboard. You’re done.

Entering emoji

A single entry in the address bookWhilst the hack is incredibly simple and can be done in seconds (and I can confirm it works), the steps required for using the emoji are a bit long-winded:

In any app, choose the Japanese QWERTY Keyboard, then type “emojia”, “emojii” or “emojiu”. The suggestions pallet then pops up, included in which will be your new emoji.

The thing is of course, you can’t actually select individual emoji – you’re selecting 18 at a time (i.e. the number contained with the single ‘contact’ that you’re choosing). It’s then a case of deleting all but those that you want.

How to make the hack useable

Elephant emojiOf course, as such it’s pretty impractical. However, you can customise the hack to suit your purposes.

For example, I have a thing for elephants, so I’ve simply duplicated the vCard that contains the elephant, and then edited it, replacing えもじうは with ぞう (zou) so that when I type ‘zou’ (elephant) it comes up as a choice.

I’ve included my elephant in the eMoji Vcards set. above so you can see what I’ve done.

emojI in NotesI can’t see myself doing this for all of the emoji, but there’s a few that I can see myself frequently using, so each of these will soon be getting their own entry in my phone book. Of course somebody has probrably already re-done the whole lot giving each character it’s own vCard – if anyone comes across such a set do let us know.

N.b. Although it’s now possible to insert emoji in emails being sent from non-i.softbank. email addresses, there’s a possibility that they won’t display properly on the recipient’s screen.

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.

Following on the apparent sluggish sales, here’s one comment on the iPhone “demise”. The author points to the lack of emoji. I would also add another important factor, albeit to a lesser extent: a Yahoo! Keitai-type of web for the oh-so-many services not available for iPhone users.

Yes, emoji, and emoji alone. It’s missing a FeliCa RFID smart card, but most people use them embedded in credit cards, not phones; everyone talks about wanting One Seg but most people don’t actually watch television on their mobiles; there’s no QR code scanner but there’s a free App Store program to download for that; SD memory cards are popular add-ons, but the iPhone has lots of built-in storage; there’s no place to hang a strap, but an after-market slipcase can be decorated instead; there’s no emoji, yet having a lot of text emoticons and smilies in the dictionary does not paper over the chasm.

†┏┛墓┗┓† ←iPhone R.I.P. » 世論 What Japan Thinks.

It’s too soon to say if the iPhone is really a failure in Japan. The market for high-end handsets is shaking worldwide and the Japanese market will adapt in one way of another.

At the moment, it seems some people are buying the Apple phone while keeping their old handset at the same time. We’ll see if this pattern continues, especially with the possible introduction of emojiin the next firmware update.

According to MacRumors, the latest iPhone 2.2 firmware, just seeded to developpers, contains 461 emoji characters.

It is unclear if these will be made available on this firmware release or for a following one. It is also yet unknown if Softbank participated in the creation process, allowing the iPhone not only to send, but also receive emoji from other Japanese carriers on the i.softbank.jp e-mail address.

Currently, sending emoji through the iPhone is only possible through a webapp.

As reported many times, the lack of emojis is one reason for a kinda slow iPhone intrusion into the japanese market.

Someone clever created a little nifty gateway to allow for such a send on the japanese carrier networks.

Just point your iPhone to https://www.utilz.jp/x2/mail.jsp

The trick -and a potentially dangerous one- ? You need a Gmail account and the site wants both your userID and password.

As it’s a send-only tool, this won’t resolve the fact that the iPhone is unable to receive such emoji, transcoding them instead into strange ASCII characters.

For those who don’t speak a word of Japanese, Jared on theiphoneinjapan.com forums offers this translation:

送信先メールアドレス recipient address
件名 subject
本文 body
クリックで編集 click to edit
アカウント account
パスワード password

Have tons of fun and comment if you decide to try it.

[Original source: http://blogs.yahoo.co.jp/ryoji02260209/56693673.html]

[UPDATE: possible introduction of official emoji with next firmware update: read more]