Emoji designs from Japanese carrier SoftBank are now showing on Emojipedia. These archives catalog emojis that were distributed on SoftBank devices from 2006—2016.
Many of the emojis shown in these sets pre-date emoji being added to the Unicode Standard, and as such these have been mapped to their modern Unicode counterparts.
Above: The most recent emoji designs from SoftBank, prior to this set being discontinued. Image: Softbank / Emojipedia screenshot.
The original SoftBank emoji set dates back to 2006 and features distinct 15x15 pixel-art designs which in some instances include animation.
Above: Animated emojis in SoftBank's original emoji set. Image: SoftBank / Emojipedia composite.
Each SoftBank emoji update (2010, 2012, 2014) released after the original set features increases in resolution, detail, and like all emoji sets, often includes completely different colors or other design choices.
While most of the smileys in the first release were edge-to-edge faces that filled the available space, from 2010 onward the majority move to the circular smileys we know and use on all platforms today.
Releases from 2012 onward include more shading, and no longer include animation.
These designs are effectively the precursor to Apple Color Emoji: the emoji font that began shipping on iPhones since iPhone OS 2.2 in 2008.
The reason for the similarity between the SoftBank 2006 emoji set and the iPhone 2008 emoji set is that SoftBank was the exclusive iPhone partner for Apple in Japan at the time: SoftBank was the only carrier to have iPhone 3G available to their customers.
Given this, it was important for Apple's emoji set to be compatible with SoftBank's.
Above: An emoji keyboard showing on a SoftBank phone. Photo: Jeremy Burge.
Over time emojis sets from Apple and SoftBank diverged, and in 2016 SoftBank announced they would no longer be updating their own emoji designs.
It's worth noting that SoftBank didn't have the first emoji set in Japan; though arguably the designs created by SoftBank have been more influential in how emojis look today than any other vendor since.
By way of emoji convergance around Apple's emoji designs, preceded by Softbank's emoji designs, many vendors today have emojis that are more similar to Softbank's from 2006 than their own sets from a decade later.
Above: 🙇 U+1F647 PERSON BOWING DEEPLY on major platforms 2006—2018. Image: Emojipedia composite.
Modern phones from SoftBank now show stock Android emojis from Google.