According to MacRumors the latest iPhone 2.2 firmware has one hidden feature that should please Japanese iPhone customers: the inclusion of 461 emoji characters.
Emoji are picture characters that are very popular in the Japanese mobile market. One analyst even specifically cited the lack Emoji support as one of the factors contributing to slow sales in the Japan market.
While the latest iPhone 2.2 firmware contains the emoticons, they are not user accessible at this time. The above screenshot was generated by calling the unpublished API. The images are located in a single artwork file in the UIKit.framework.
The clock icon on the left gives you access to your recent emoji, while the other icons give you access to differently themed emoji.
It wouldn’t surprise me if they add this as a Japanese feature only, but I sure hope they let the rest of us enjoy this feature as well. Emoji are essentially the same as emoticons popularly used in message boards and other online communities state side.