Google and Apple propose emoji for Unicode

While not directly browser-related, this news is Japan and Unicode-related, so is tangentially interesting.

Markus Scherer, Mark Davis, Kat Momoi, Darick Tong (Google Inc.) and Yasuo Kida, Peter Edberg (Apple Inc.) are proposing to add 674 characters to the Unicode standard in order to support emoji in Unicode.

As of December 2008, there are 110.4 million cell phone users in Japan (about 87% of the population), and about 90.6% of the cell phones are 3G-enabled for internet use. Emoji are widely used, especially by people under 30. However, a June 2007 survey of 13,000 users — 80% of whom were 30 or older — found that even among this older group, 78% “often” or “sometimes” used Emoji in emails. Respondents reported using a wide variety of Emoji, including Emoji for faces, emotions, weather, vehicles and buildings, food and drink, animals, etc. Especially among younger users, email is mostly or exclusively used on cell phones instead of computers. Among cell phone users, 90% use email primarily on cell phones, and 60% use email exclusively on cell phones. Emoji have been used on Japanese cell phones for 10 years, and there is no evidence that use of Emoji is decreasing.

Proposal for Encoding Emoji Symbols

I know this data to be true and yet it’s still a stunning fact: 60% of cell phone users in Japan use email EXCLUSIVELY on cell phones and 90% of cell phone users in Japan use email PRIMARILY on cell phones. This is a stunning fact, and the key is that mobile carriers in  Japan do not support SMS. Mobile phone messaging in Japan is email.

It’s interesting to see Google and Apple cooperating here as both Google and Apple have a need with the iPhone and the Android device that’s planned to be launched by NTT DoCoMo this year for emoji support.

via What Japan Thinks.

4 Responses to Google and Apple propose emoji for Unicode

  1. You say that the key is that carriers don’t support SMS, but I disagree – I think that’s a consequence, not a cause. SMS is nothing more than a poor substitute for email, and I’d certainly never use it if a better option existed.

  2. Simon, I agree that SMS is a poor substitute for email but if you had to use email for even short messages on your phone, can you see why email adoption on the phone is at 90%?

  3. I don’t know where you got the idea that Japanese carriers don’t support SMS. They do. MMS is supported too. You might be confused because some Japanese carriers gave SMS a different name (skymail). Also, they integrated Email in cell phones, including push like the Blackberry, around 2001, way before European or American telcos.
    And they integrated E-Mail, MMS and SMS into one application: Send a message to a cell phone number of your own network without a header, and it’s an SMS. Send it with a header, and maybe a picture, and its an MMS. Send a message to a mail address, and it’s an email.

    Japanese cell phone users don’t use SMS because most won’t even realize that they’re using a system different from email when they send SMS. From a usability perspective, this is a good thing.

  4. I’m with Martin: SMS is completely supported in Japan. I’ve used it frequently to communicate with both people at home in the Netherlands as well as with fellow travelers in Japan.

    His notion that users don’t know the difference between SMS and email is an interesting one. I hadn’t thought of that.