Japanese mobile operator NTT Docomo, (previously styled as DoCoMo), is a Japanese phone carrier that played an important part in the introduction of the first widely-used set of emojis. In 1999, Shigetaka Kuritam, an engineer working at NTT Docomo, created an initial set of symbols to enable easier digital communication. These symbols were a part of the messaging features of “i-mode,” one of the first mobile internet services developed and provided by NTT Docomo.
Drawn on a 12 x 12 pixel grid, the NTT Docomo emojis, 176 in number, looked much simpler than the emojis we use today. The picture characters were instantly successful and paved the way for other mobile operators, like au and SoftBank, to introduce their own version of emojis. Everything changed when, in 2010, the Unicode Consortium created a standardized library of picture characters available for iOS and Android devices, as well as Apple and Windows computer systems. The end result was a nearly universal system for communicating via small cartoon images.
By the time this happened, NTT Docomo emojis were slowly becoming obsolete. The emojis said goodbye with a final, original set released on August 1, 2013. Comprised of 698 emojis, it was initially available on handsets carrying Android 4.3 and 44, but later discontinued and replaced with standard Google emoji designs.