How the iPhone won over Japan and gave the world emoji

How the iPhone won over Japan and gave the world emoji


It’s easy to see how the iPhone changed the world 10 years ago — now pretty much every public place is packed with people peering into their palms in a way that would have been difficult to imagine before 2007. But as Steve Jobs pointed out during his famous introduction to the product, Apple was entering a market where the existing competitors weren’t all that great — they were either somewhat hard to use and dumb, or hard to use and somewhat dumb.

What if Apple had entered a market with a complex, entrenched ecosystem based on advanced infrastructure and services, where devices offered an endless array of features that people actually made use of? And what if it actually succeeded in overturning this market and brought many of its advantages to the rest of the world?

That would have been even more impressive. But that’s exactly what happened in Japan.

The first iPhone to hit Japan was the 3G in 2008. At that point, Apple had answered two of the biggest criticisms of the original model often made by mobile aficionados: the lack of 3G connectivity, and the inability to install third-party apps. But the iPhone 3G wasn’t anywhere near meeting the list of various features that Japanese users had come to consider table stakes.

There was no infrared port, the most common way to exchange contact details IRL at the time. The AIM-style SMS chat interface made no sense in a country where everyone already used push mobile email. The Safari browser was literally too good — it couldn’t load Japanese C-HTML mobile websites or…



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