On Apple, Unicode, and why there's a love hotel emoji on your smartphone
Shigetaka Kurita is regarded as the creator of emoji (from Japanese: "picture" (e) + "character" (moji)) as we know them today. At some point in the late '90s, he designed a set of 172 emoticons, which were meant to be used in a mobile messaging service by Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo. Eventually, other carriers picked up the idea and developed their own emoticons. The problem, however, was that these sets of emoji were not compatible, so if you were to send an emoticon from one network to a buddy who was on another network, it was not guaranteed that the right emoticon would appear on their device.
So, what does Apple have to do with all of this? Well, the company is responsible for emoji becoming universal across phones outside of Japan. When the very first iPhone came out, it did not include emoji, and as you can probably guess, Japanese folks weren't happy about that. The issue was resolved in the second release of the iPhone operating system, which brought emoji support, but their use was allowed only when a Japanese SIM card was detected. Eventually, emojis were unlocked for all iPhone users with the launch of iOS 4 – to use them, one simply had to enable them from the settings menu. Their rise in popularity was noticed by both Google and Microsoft, both of which later added emoji support to their operating systems, namely Android and Windows Phone. The emoji related to Japan were never removed even though not all westerners would understand them.
So that's the story of the emoji we have and use on our smartphones. Do you have a favorite? Or do you favor stickers instead? Let us know in the comments!