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The old saying: a picture is worth Emoji thousand words ranks true with Apple’s latest creation, iOS devices. Many iPod touch and iPhone owners use their devices every day to communicate with friends and family. What if I tell you that you can actually send more than just text in your text messages? And best thing is, all iOS devices have emoji icons built-in. You will find out how to enable them in this article.

Emoji icons are cute little images that represents something in our daily lives. You could, for example substitute “I love you” with a simple emoji icon that represents a heart. It is commonly used and supported by most cell phones in Japan.

Enabling emoji on your iOS device is simple, but not for the faint of heart. One of the simplest methods is to first jailbreak your device. The term jailbreak itself may sound a little intimidating, but it is a process where you modify your device’s system software to do what it was not meant to do. And once it is jailbroken, you can then enable emoji through a simple setting.

Another method to enable emoji icons on your device would be to use a simple software enabler. These software are easily found in the App Store. Simple search for emoji and you will find a few. As a matter of personal preference, I like to go the software enabler method, as this does not require that I jailbreak my device.

Once you enable emoji on your iOS device, it only requires a few simple steps to configure it. Most software enablers will tell you what to do in their manuals, so I will not go into detail here.

It’s hard enough trying to keep up with the latest English terminology and slang surrounding the use of mobes, the gratingly ugly term preferred in the UK for cellphones (mobe is short for mobile phones), but with Japanese keitai terms (that’s the Japanese slang for cellphone) now appearing in the English language, us old fogeys can sometimes find it difficult to work out what it is all about. This article will try to explain two common and one not-so-common phrases that seem to be making the rounds of the SNS generation.

Kaomoji
Literally, this is face letters, but it is also often referred to as Japanese emoticons. These take not just alphabetic characters, but the full gamut of symbol characters, Japanese kanji characters, Greek, Russian, dingbats and anything else you can find to make assorted horizontal faces. The classic cat smiley =^.^= is a simple example, but searching the internet for a term such as “kaomoji dictionary” will reveal hundreds, if not thousands, of kaomoji to represent just about every emotion or situation you could ever think of, and a good number you couldn’t!

I do find it interesting that there are many, many articles out there about how the Western smilies like:-) came about, but very little has been done to reveal the history of the Japanese kaomoji. As far as I can determine, it was a Korean person in Japan in early 1986 who proposed the (^_^) smiley, and a Japanese nuclear scientist who came up with (~_~) at much the same time.

Emoji

Move a step up the evolutionary ladder and we get to emoji, literally picture letters. These were first popularised on Japanese cellphones, displaying a small icon in place of characters in an email. Now almost every phone supports a full range of over a hundred of these icons, and are an indispensable feature for the vast majority of users in Japan, as even if people don’t write them, the chances are that contacts will be sending emails full of them! They also infect Japanese blogs, and for many people they replace punctuation within their text. Some of the mobile service providers now even animate the glyphs, which brings us round to the final term.

Decomail

Decomail is actually derived from English, being short for decoration mailDecorated mail would be more grammatically correct, but the official full name is indeed decoration. This should actually be familiar to many readers as it is just a marketing name for HTML-based email on a mobile phone, allowing simple decoration of text through features such as scrolling banners, inserted images, aligned text, and colour selection. One major manifestation of decomail is the use of what is effectively animated emoji, by allowing small animations to be inserted into email, with some phones coming preloaded with animations numbering in the thousands! However, these images are not just limited to small animated emoji (kaoani – animated faces – are one manifestation, and another term to talk about at a later date) but also may be larger and may even be Flash with simple scripting.

As mentioned at the start of this section, decomail is HTML mail, so that means that yes, you can send foreign friends these messages directly from your Japanese cellphone! You can also sometimes receive it, but as the size and other limitations on a cellphone are quite severe, there’s less of a guarantee of it actually working.

So, that I hope gives you a flavour of how Japanese spice up their mobile emails. I’ve no space to mention that Google’s Gmail can display emoji, nor that Apple and Google are trying to standardise emoji in Unicode, nor even 2ch emoticons, but hopefully now you’ll know the definition of kaomoji, emoji and decomail if you hear them in conversation.