Three Of Japan’s Top Telcos Standardize Display Of Email Emoticons

Three of Japan’s four biggest mobile carriers, namely NTT Docomo, KDDI au, and eAccess, are about to make it easier for their combined subscriber base of roughly 90 million people to exchange emails with other.

The plan is to standardize the display of emoticons, or emoji in Japanese, across handsets offered by the three networks.

As of now, certain emoji aren’t correctly displayed when sent from the cell phone of a Docomo user to that of a KDDI user, for example. I am not a big emoji fan, but The Nikkei says that if a Docomo subscriber sends an emoji showing i.e. Taurus the Bull to somebody using a KDDI phone, a cow is displayed.

What may sound trivial is actually quite a big deal in Japan, where emoji have been in use since 1999 and emails have been the most popular way to communicate between mobile phone users since.

It’s especially young people who use emoji excessively. Around 2008, the lack of emoji support was blamed as one of the factors leading to the (initially) sluggish sales of the iPhone in Japan. In the same year, it was Google Japan’s local team that made it possible for Gmail users worldwide to use emoji in their messages.

KDDI an eAccess are also in the process of creating around 200 new emoji that fit NTT Docomo’s most popular ones. The standardization will kick off with new handsets released this summer.

SoftBank Mobile, Japan’s No. 3 carrier, isn’t part of the agreement: the company says it simply doesn’t display problematic emoji sent from handsets offered by other carriers on its handsets.


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Dr. Serkan Toto is a German based in Tokyo. Like us, he is passionate about introducing Japanese IT to the rest of the world. Full-time, Serkan works as an independent web industry consultant for hedge funds, venture capital companies and start-ups worldwide. He is also a writer for mega tech blog network TechCrunch, covering Japan-related technology and web trends. This is Serkan's website. Follow Serkan on Twitter here.