Services/apps mobile

America Faces Critical Emoji Gap

The US is lagging in a super-important telecom technology. NFV? SDN? 5G? No, no, and no.

It's emoji. The wildly popular icons were invented in Japan, and reflect that culture, not the culture of the good old U S of A.

Emoji is a popular use for both traditional texting as well as the new OTT services such as WhatsApp and Apple Messages. Messaging traffic has been a longtime driver of carrier revenue, eclipsed recently by the OTT services.

The 722 faces, animals, and various objects represented in emoji are "essentially a foreign language that we have tried to adapt for the English language and American customs," writes Damon Darlin at the New York Times.

Start out with "unchi-kun," the smiling poop emoji, a guaranteed "WHAT THE?!" for every American encountering it for the first time. The symbol was popular in Japan long before it became an emoji.

More noteworthy are common American gestures and objects missing from emoji, the Times notes. Start with the raised middle finger, good-luck signal of fingers crossed, and Vulcan salute.

Also missing: Thanksgiving turkey, bacon, steak, burritos, and kale (kale? Well, it's the New York Times. I guess kale is big deal for Times readers.)

An international body is trying to add up to 250 emojis, the Times notes.

Emoji date back to 1995, when NTT Docomo was booming with 40% market share in Japan. The company added a heart symbol to its Pocket Bell devices, endearing the company to Japan's teenagers, according to Jeff Blagdon in the Verge. NTT later replaced the heart symbol with more business-friendly features like kanji and Latin alphabet support, and sales plummeted.

Emoji was the killer app that reversed that error, The Verge notes. It was invented by Shigetaka Kurita, part of the team that developed i-mode, the first widespread mobile Internet platform, combining weather, entertainment reservations, news, email and other features that gave Japan a ten-year mobile lead.

Thirty-seven emojis have been accepted as candidates for inclusion in Unicode 8, according to Emojipedia.

Want to know more about mobile? This will be just one of the many topics covered at Light Reading's second Big Telecom Event on June 9-10 in Chicago. Get yourself registered today or get left behind!

The most popular requests for next-generation emoji: bottle with popping cork, burrito, cheese wedge, hot dog, popcorn, taco, turkey, and unicorn face. I guess emoji users are hungry. And like unicorns.

Other candidates include a zipper-mouth face; religious symbols including prayer beads, mosque, and synagogue; and sports symbols for cricket, hockey, table tennis, and volleyball.

Whatever happens, people are going to continue to 💕 emoji into the foreseeable future. You don't need a 🔮 to know that.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected]

MikeP688 3/22/2015 | 4:00:21 PM
Re: American Emoji As someone who is a "emoji devotee", I frankly am not concerned where it comes from as I use it extenvisely on my iphone and am on the road with my Daily Tweets on the Daily Reviews...on my LG Tablet as well as my Kindle.  I note this because the globalization of it all should not really matter where it comes from--but knowing how FB et. al think and act, they will probably eat up the leading players and take up the challenge Mr. Mitch laid out for them here.    
R Clark 3/20/2015 | 11:31:38 AM
Re: American Emoji The Australian foreign minister does interviews in emoji and the BBC has an emoji news quiz.  Is the US even trying? 

sarahthomas1011 3/20/2015 | 9:38:11 AM
emoji drought I completely agree that America is in a serious emoji drought. Other apps routinely have software upgrades. Why can't my emoji keyboard I paid $1 for get updated with new and topical emojis on the fly?! Or, what about an app that turns the emotion you're expressing into an emoji?? Developers need to step up and fill the void! 
Gabriel Brown 3/20/2015 | 6:54:33 AM
American Emoji There's most definitely a burger emoji on my phone.


Sign In