Emoji, the system of emoticons and pictures ubiquitous in Japanese text messaging and mobile email, is to be standardized after three of the country's major carriers announced plans to unify their character sets. Currently when you send a message to someone on a different network their phone will transliterate your emoji and display a similar character in the carrier's own style, but this can cause confusion in certain cases — an example is Docomo's Taurus zodiac sign being displayed as a picture of a regular cow when sent to a KDDI phone.
Docomo, KDDI, and eAccess have joined together to create a universal system, though KDDI says the smaller two carriers will simply be adopting Docomo's style. Nikkei reports that the latter two companies are working on 200 new characters to catch up to Docomo's more extensive library, and the first handsets to support the new emoji system will be released in summer. Third-placed SoftBank is conspicuous by its absence, claiming that its current character set is already compatible with the other companies', though the carrier already uses separate styles for the iPhone and its other handset lineup (as seen above). KDDI's iPhone will also be unaffected by the new system.