Emojis have become an intrinsic part of our daily communication. So much so it’s hard to imagine there was ever a time before the characters graced our screens. But they have an origin story, and Softbank emojis were a big part of that. Softbank Mobile, a telecommunications company based in Japan, was one of the first companies to implement emoji sets in the late 1990s to their phones.
SoftBank, known as J-Phone at the time, released the SkyWalker DP-211SW mobile phone which had the world’s first emoji set. The set included 90 emoji characters, among them one of the most surprisingly popular characters in the Unicode Standard, the Pile of Poo emoji. Softbank emoji sets went through several changes after that. Each update had different colors, different designs, and sharper details.
See the timeline for a more comprehensive list of Softbank emoji updates:
– Softbank 2006 was released on January 1, 2006. It featured a distinct 15 x 15 pixel-art designs with additional detail or shading on several items.
– Softbank 2010 was released on January 1, 2010. In use from 2010 to 2013, the non-animated emoji set had sharper images and a higher resolution.
– Softbank 2014 was released on January 1, 2014, and discontinued in 2016. It had a total of 726 characters.
SoftBank And Apple Connection
If one were to look at SoftBank’s emojis and Apple’s emojis, one would easily notice the overall similarity between the two groups. This is because SoftBank and Apple have always had a close relationship- SoftBank used to be the exclusive iPhone partner for Apple in Japan. SoftBank was also the only carrier to have the iPhone 3G available to their customers at that time. Given this, it was always important for Apple’s emojis to look nearly the same as SoftBank’s emojis.
In 2016, SoftBank announced it would no longer be producing their own emoji designs. The mobile carrier informed the public that it would switch to using Google emoji designs from then on. The last known emoji set purely produced by SoftBank was its 2014 version.