November 21, 2008 is a momentous date in iPhone history, as it marks the first appearance of emoji on the iPhone. Apple released iPhone OS 2.2 (as it was called back then) to users in Japan on this date 10 years ago.
Emojipedia has provided an in-depth look today at the first iPhone emojis, explaining that despite Apple’s decision to restrict the emoji keyboard to Japan in iPhone OS 2.2, some apps unlocked the keyboard for users outside of Japan. This was the first time that third-party apps were even available on iPhone, since iPhone OS 2.2 also introduced the App Store.
Emojipedia recalls the impact emoji on iPhone made on the industry as a whole:
Apple’s 2008 emoji implementation was based on the set used by Japanese carrier Softbank, and the influence on many of these designs is clear.
Even moreso—much the the chagrin of some—Apple’s emoji font has gone on to dominate public expectation of what an emoji should look like.
While Apple does not dictate which emojis are approved by Unicode, it is reasonable to wonder that without Apple’s strong color emoji support in these earlier years, whether we would see it as the cultural phenomenon it has become today.
It was iOS 5 in 2011 before Apple debuted the emoji keyboard that allowed users around the world to insert characters with a tap of the globe icon in the iOS keyboard. 2012 saw Apple introduce 376 new emoji . in iOS 6, switching to Unicode-compatible emoji.
New emoji have been added with each new year, as the number of available emoji have increased from 471 in 2008 to 2,776 in 2018.