Japan’s thirty hardest emoticons

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If you don’t have a Japanese font installed this survey will be impossible to understand; I do, yet I can barely work out some of these difficult to picture emoji.

Demographics

Over the 19th and 20th of April 2012 1,092 members of the goo Research monitor group completed a private internet-based questionnaire. 60.5% of the sample were female, 11.3% in their teens, 17.0% in their twenties, 28.4% in their thirties, 25.5% in their forties, 10.2% in their fifties, and 7.7% aged sixty or older. Note that the score in the results refers to the relative number of votes for each option, not a percentage of the total sample.

I can picture just a few of them, but I’ll have to add them all to another site of mine, Evoticon.net.
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Mobile email extremely popular

How many emails per day do you send and receive? graph of japanese statisticsDespite this survey from Point On Research into mobile phone email targeting heavy users of mobile phones, reported on by japan.internet.com, the figures for emailing are quite impressively large! You may also want to cross-reference the results with another survey last month also from Point On Research with a similar demographic that showed very little mobile voice usage.

Demographics

On the 30th of March 2010 800 heavy users of mobile phones completed a private mobile internet-based questionnaire. The sample was exactly 50:50 male and female, 25.0% in their teens, 25.0% in their twenties, 25.0% in their thirties, and 25.0% in their forties.

I send and receive probably around 10 emoji-ridden emails per day, three to five from me, about four to six incoming, I would estimate. I usually do reply as soon as I can, except on the train home as I’m too busy translating these surveys to distract myself with a reply! It would have been interesting to see a cross-reference between the number of emails and the pattern for replying to them.
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Majority usually adorn their mobile emails with icons, smilies

How often do you use emoji, kaomoji or decomail in your emails? graph of japanese statisticsAbout the only proper punctuation mark I use in my mobile emails is a question mark, and this recent survey from Point On Research, as reported on by japan.internet.com, into mobile phone email found that I’m in the majority in my smiley habits.

Demographics

On the first of September 2009 exactly 800 members of the Point On Research monitor group completed a mobile phone-based private questionnaire. 50.0% of the sample were male, 20.0% in their teens, 20.0% in their twenties, 20.0% in their thirties, 20.0% in their forties, and 20.0% in their fifties.

I don’t really use much decomail, not even the animated emoji, as my phone’s a bit old and the interface for accessing them is pretty awkward, so I stick with emoji most of the time.

Oh, and if you need some kaomoji for your phone or PC, please visit my huge collection of Japanese emoticons and smilies.
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Apple and Google proposing emoji Unicode standard

emoji, literaly “picture characters”, are the small graphical icons that fill (or litter, depending on your point of view!) many Japanese mobile phone email messages, but within Japan the three main mobile phone service providers have all got different encoding representations for them and support different sets of emoji, meaning that although they all perform encoding translation when exchanging emails, it can be a bit hit-or-miss as to whether or not the message gets through. Next, add into the mix the iPhone with support for at least four different kinds of mail (SMS, SoftBank’s own iPhone-specific mailbox, webmail, and third-party POP3-based mailboxes), and even within the one device a lot of trickery needs to take place to make the experience consistent for the user.

Google have recently been ramping up their advertising of Gmail in Japan as they currently languish with the also-rans in the popularity stakes. One aspect of their advertising has been to highlight their support of emoji, but the lack of a standard encoding method makes everything a bit more complicated than it need be.

Thus, engineers from Google and Apple have got together to try to propose an encoding for these emoji (they have identified 674 of them!) that can be added to the official standard ISO/IEC 10646, as can be seen in this document, Proposal for Encoding Emoji Symbols. The proposal uses a few of my translations as reference documents, which is nice.

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Mobile email and emoticons, emoji and friends

Which do you use the most: emoji, kaomoji or deco mail? graph of japanese statisticsHonestly, it’s not just because I’ve recently launched a Japanese emoticon and smiley dictionary that I’m picking up a number of surveys like this one from Point On Research and reported on by japan.internet.com into mobile phone email use, with the focus for this report on textual and graphical emoticons.

Demographics

On the 15th of February 2009 exactly 1,000 mobile phone users from the Point On Research monitor pool completed a private internet-based questionnaire. 50.0% of the sample were female, 20.0% in their teens, 20.0% in their twenties, 20.0% in their thirties, 20.0% in their forties, and 20.0% in their fifties.

Even though I have produced the above-mentioned emoticon dictionary, I don’t actually use text emoticons in my mobile email! Most of the time it is the built-in emoji graphical icons. I’d use more decomail (larger-sized, on the whole, animated gifs) but my phone is one of the first models to support them, so the user interface is pretty awkward to say the least.

I don’t get enough mobile emails to use any other pattern than immediate reply, but my blog email is another matter altogether…
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SoftBank’s CEO Son agrees with me on emoji!

When I wrote my iPhone R.I.P. article last month a lot of people told me I was completely wrong for making such a big deal out of emoji as the key feature missing on Apple’s iPhone in Japan.

However, at a recent press conference, Masayoshi Son, the CEO of SoftBank, the Japanese carrier for the iPhone, said the following about the planned update of the iPhone software and the addition of emoji:

“Email without emoticons can’t be email in Japan. We persuaded Apple Computer (to localize iPhones for the Japanese market).”

Since I’m tooting my own blog’s horn here, I’d also like to point out that Apple still need to add a retro CHTML (iMode-like) browser and a strap hook.

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†┏┛墓┗┓† ←iPhone R.I.P.

emoji rankingOnly two months after the most-hyped mobile phone launch in Japan, with people queueing round the block to buy it and journalists spilling thousands of gallons of ink in praise of it, the consensus now seems to be that Apple’s iPhone has failed in Japan, with boxes piled high in many stores and sales predictions being halved from the initial one million units in a year. But why, in a country that has embraced the iPod, relegating all bar Sony to a single-digit percentage share of the MP3 player market? It’s an easy question to answer.

Emoji.

Yes, emoji, and emoji alone. It’s missing a FeliCa RFID smart card, but most people use them embedded in credit cards, not phones; everyone talks about wanting One Seg but most people don’t actually watch television on their mobiles; there’s no QR code scanner but there’s a free App Store program to download for that; SD memory cards are popular add-ons, but the iPhone has lots of built-in storage; there’s no place to hang a strap, but an after-market slipcase can be decorated instead; there’s no emoji, yet having a lot of text emoticons and smilies in the dictionary does not paper over the chasm.

Emoji, these small icons (pictured in the top right) that almost every Japanese phone has, for expressing happy and sad faces, hand gestures, weather symbols, sports and hobbies and star signs to name but some of the kinds available, are the killer application, and their absence from the iPhone has killed its sales. One unfamiliar with the Japanese market might think that such a seemingly trivial feature would appeal only to children, but over a third regularly use them, and another two in five sometimes use them, making them second nature to the vast majority of Japanese. For instance, if you’re emailing an invite to go for a beer, on beginning to type “beer” up pops a graphic of a pint mug as an auto-completion option, so why not? That is how emoji have become second-nature to most phone users. For the poor iPhone user on the other hand, on sending the message there’s no nice graphic to add, and on receiving, if they are lucky they’ll see something like “Fancy going for a ¾?”, the dreaded moji-bake corrupted character, if they are unlucky (which is most of the time) the iPhone will relegate the whole of the message into an attachment, requiring an extra step before the reader finds out they cannot.

The not one but two drops in price for light users by SoftBank illustrate that they recognise there are people not really that interested in surfing with the Safari web browser (remember, public WiFi is the exception rather than the rule in Japan) but instead are mail-centric, but without full suppport for both reading and writing emoji, the iPhone is useless. When the iPhone first launched, a review in Nikkei Trendy Net described it as a foreigner with excellent Japanese, noting that although it can handle technical aspects of Japanese very well (the pop-up kana input for instance is a very clever solution that can only work on a touch panel) it fails to understand the culture.

Until Apple realises emoji are the key element of Japanese mobile culture, the iPhone will not sell.

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Emoji versus Kaomoji – graphical icons versus text emoticons

Which do you use more on mobile phone email, emoji or kaomoji? graph of japanese statisticsI’ve previously translated surveys looking at Japanese text emoticons (kaomoji) and at graphical icons (emoji) but now let’s look at a recent survey from BlogCh on emoji and kaomoji.

Demographics

Between the 11th and 13th of June 2008 433 members of the BlogCh monitor panel who owned mobile phones. 53.1% of the sample were male, 15.5% in their twenties, 49.9% in their thirties, 27.0% in their forties, and 7.6% of other ages.

I use emoji almost exclusively, with one of the main reasons being that I cannot remember the meaning of most of the kaomoji! I also occasionally download, or more often save icons from other people’s mobile phone email.
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Japanese cell phone emoji graphical icon usage

If you are looking for iPhone emoji information, here is a story on why no emoji is killing the iPhone.

How satisified are you with the emoji on your mobile phone? graph of japanese statisticsRather than text-based smilies that we’ve looked at in earlier surveys, this time we look at the emoji graphical icons that the three main Japanese mobile operators all support to varying degrees, called 絵文字, emoji, picture characters. Here is a full table of the set of emoji common across the three main carriers, NTT DoCoMo, SoftBank, and EzWeb (au and TU-KA from KDDI) so you can see for yourself how good or bad each provider’s art work is. Recently, MyVoice investigated this subject of mobile phone emoji graphical icon usage.

Demographics

Between the 1st and 5th of June 2007 13,158 members of the MyVoice internet community completed a web-based questionnaire. 54% of the sample was female, 2% in their teens, 18% in their twenties, 39% in their thirties, 27% in their forties, and 14% in their fifties or older.

Note that some of the newer DoCoMo phones, such as the Panasonic P703i come with an enormous library of pseudo-emoji, implemented as embedded images in HTML mail.
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