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Apple Cracks Down on Emoji Enabling Applications Outside Japan Karishma Sundaram | , 9:55 p.m. Feb. 27, 2009 2009-02-27

Apple has recently decided to remove all Emoji support for phones outside of Japan. This edict has manifested in the form of discontinuing applications that offer the support for the character set, as well altogether refusing to accept new applications that have Emoji into the App Store altogether. 

Emoji is a colourful graphical set of characters, very popular in Japan. They can be likened to emoticons which are used regularly in chats and text messages around the globe. The difference with Emoji is that each little picture is equivalent to a single character, a factor which ends up making a big difference in the limited real estate of a text message. However, these characters were meant to be used only in Japan, and phones everywhere else had disabled the functionality. 

Recently, through the use of an enabler program, these cheerful little icons were accessible to iPhone users in other parts of the world. Therefore a large character set was now available for use. This evidently was not to Apple’s taste, as they have now made a move to remove all the enabling applications from the App Store. This move will wipe out applications like Emotifun and iEmoji altogether. These two programs had the sole purpose of allowing users to use the character set without any issues. Other applications that offer this functionality along with a greater purpose have been asked to remove the enabling function altogether. 

There is a lot of speculation about why Apple has issued this particular edict. One reason may be that Emoji uses Unicode characters, and that particular character set is not standardised across platform. Therefore these characters are not handled uniformly across various phones. In any case, Emoji characters were only visible from one Emoji-enabled iPhone to another, so this in effect makes little difference. 

Another possible reason is the region specific issues. For instance, Apple may be allowed to use Emoji characters within the confines of Japan’s borders, but may not have the authority to do on a global scale. In effect, if there is a continuation, Apple may be held liable, putting them in a questionably vulnerable legal situation. 

The third conjecture, currently doing the rounds of technology websites, is that by enabling Emoji, developers have access to files that exist outside the actual development area permitted by Apple. Earlier, this was seen as a minor transgression, not really worth a serious crackdown of any sort. However, this sort of thing can be abused at a later stage, and perhaps Apple felt that the practice must be nipped in the bud, stamping out the possibility altogether. 

The entire move only affects the developers and their applications, and only those that have Emoji support. Of course, those applications that only offer Emoji support will be summarily rejected by the App Store henceforth. Existing applications will need to be revamped, removing all Emoji functionality altogether. However, customers don’t seem to be affected in any particular way. Those iPhone users who already have enabled Emoji support can continue using the character set as they were previously. Updates to the phone will not affect the setting at all.

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