On November 21, 2008, Apple released iPhone OS 2.2 to users in Japan, introducing an emoji keyboard and emoji characters for the first time ever on an iPhone. At the time, the latest iPhone to be released was the iPhone 3G, which launched in June 2008 with iPhone OS 2.

iphone emojipedia anniversary

The emoji keyboard in 2008 (left) vs 2018 (right), via Jeremy Burge/Emojipedia

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.

The launch within iPhone OS 2.2 predated emoji support in the Unicode Standard, which now makes the characters universally interchangeable between devices and operating systems.

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.

Emojis then gained traction in iOS 4 and Mac OS X Lion, but these were still not widely supported across regions. Not until iOS 5 in 2011 did Apple introduce the emoji keyboard setting that allowed anyone around the world to access the characters by tapping the Globe icon on the iOS keyboard. In 2012, Apple introduced 376 new emojis with iOS 6 and switched to Unicode-compatible code points for the emojis.

apple original emoji set emojipedia

iPhone OS 2.2 emojis from 2008

One of the latest updates on the emoji timeline came in 2015, when Apple introduced new emojis for the first time in three years with iOS 8.3. This was the year that Apple also enabled the emoji keyboard to all iOS users by default, whereas before each user had to go into the Settings app, find the keyboard settings, and manually add the emoji keyboard.

In total, the number of emojis has increased from 471 in 2008 to 2,776 in 2018, thanks to the introduction of swappable genders and skin tones. Head over to Emojipedia for more details about the emoji anniversary, and to check out a long list of changes that some of the emojis have had over the years.

Tag: Emoji

Top Rated Comments

adamjackson Avatar
47 months ago
At the beginning we had to install a certain app to enable the emoji keyboard in iOS.
FrostyPlace!


This post reminded me to dig up this SMS convo I had with a friend on January 23rd of 2009:



I was quite literally blown away receiving these. ...also damn the iPhone 3GS had a TINY screen!

August 2008 Home Screen:
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
cocky jeremy Avatar
47 months ago
I like that we have them, but two things:

1) There are too many that are too similar
2) We need a better way to organize them

There are a few categories I don't even touch. I wish I could just hide them in the keyboard.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
iReality85 Avatar
47 months ago
It's interesting that it took a while for Emoji to catch on. Emoji appeared on the iPhone in 2008, but I didn't see lots of people using them until 2011-2012 or so.
Now imagine, if you were me, being 16 in 2001, and spending a year in Japan as a high school exchange student. The only type of cellphone I had been familiar with up until that point was my parent’s late 90s era Startac (still an iconic phone). I get to Japan and everyone — literally everyone, even my same age classmates — were using colorful flip phones with color screens and sending these things called “emojis” that I had never seen before. 3G was even being rolled out.

Going back to the States a year later in 2002 was like stepping back in time.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
e1me5 Avatar
47 months ago
10 years of wasted developing resources, according to some people.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Tozovac Avatar
47 months ago

Dang. I almost forgot how ugly this icons were back then
Speak for yourself. At least some icons were breathtaking to look at. These were works of art in my opinion, compared to today’s which look like any talented fifth grader could create.



Attachment Image
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
zorinlynx Avatar
47 months ago
It's interesting that it took a while for Emoji to catch on. Emoji appeared on the iPhone in 2008, but I didn't see lots of people using them until 2011-2012 or so. I remember when I discovered them; someone had used the poop emoji on a flyer at a convention and my mind was blown that this unicode character existed.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

top stories 2jul2022

Top Stories: M2 MacBook Air Release Date, New HomePod Rumor, and More

Saturday July 2, 2022 6:00 am PDT by
The M2 MacBook Pro has started making its way into customers' hands and we're learning more about how it performs in a variety of situations, but all eyes are really on the upcoming M2 MacBook Air which has seen a complete redesign and should be arriving in a couple of weeks. Other top stories this week included a host of product rumors including additional M2 and even M3 Macs, an updated...
Mac Studio IO

Apple Begins Selling Refurbished Mac Studio Models

Thursday June 30, 2022 7:42 pm PDT by
Apple today began selling refurbished Mac Studio models for the first time in the United States, Canada, and select European countries, such as Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. In the United States, two refurbished Mac Studio configurations are currently available, including one with the M1 Max chip (10-core CPU and 24-core GPU) for...
macbook air m2

Exclusive: Apple Plans to Launch MacBook Air With M2 Chip on July 15

Wednesday June 29, 2022 5:23 pm PDT by
The redesigned MacBook Air with the all-new M2 Apple silicon chip will be available for customers starting Friday, July 15, MacRumors has learned from a retail source. The new MacBook Air was announced and previewed during WWDC earlier this month, with Apple stating availability will begin in July. The MacBook Air features a redesigned body that is thinner and lighter than the previous...
13 inch macbook pro m2 mock feature 2

M2 MacBook Pro Much Slower Than Previous Model

Friday July 1, 2022 2:24 am PDT by
Apple's new 13-inch MacBook Pro with the M2 chip features a significantly slower SSD compared to the previous model, resulting in poorer performance in some workflows, it has been discovered. Specifically, it has been found that the $1,299 base model with 256GB of storage has significantly slower SSD read and write speeds compared to the equivalent previous-generation 13-inch MacBook Pro....