Thursday, August 11, 2016

Emoji in iOS 10 and Sierra


More than one hundred new and redesigned emoji characters will be available to iPhone and iPad users this fall with iOS 10. This exciting update brings more gender options to existing characters, including new female athletes and professionals, adds beautiful redesigns of popular emoji, a new rainbow flag and more family options.

Benjamin Mayo:

The emoji depicting people and faces now use a new gradient style to give them a visual refresh. The default yellow face emoji now look more artistic and less like ‘Simpsons’. In fact, they look more like traditional emoticons from chatrooms.

Glenn Fleishman:

The new public betas now include 10 additional families: every combination of single mom and single dad with one and two children across gender binaries. I’m not sure what families with more than two children use for emoji, but there you go—these are both symbolic and concrete at once. Technically, these new families involve coding of combinations of emoji using Zero Width Joiners (ZWJs), which Jason explains in detail in his column. When you open an iOS Pages document containing the new families using El Capitan, those combos are revealed, such as a woman, a boy, and a girl instead of the all-in-one single mom plus one boy and girl emoji.

Apple has also added gender variants for all sports and professions in which a male or ostensibly non-gendered figure was provided before. There’s now a basketball player with cropped hair and one with a ponytail and the slighest suggestion of breasts. For swimmers, the male and female differ between a partial unclothed male torso and a swimsuit on the female version.


Now, Apple hasn’t gone that far. It’s still in the hills above the uncanny valley. But compare the before and after faces, and you’ll see a more definitive expression than the previous drawings. The emoji look like someone specific, instead of a generic impression. (The new “woman” emoji looks eerily similar to a tech reporter friend; I shared it with her and she agreed.)

Jeremy Burge (via Jason Snell, Hacker News):

Pistol emoji has changed from a realistic-looking gun in iOS 9.3 to a bright green toy water gun in the iOS 10 beta.

In the history of running Emojipedia, I have never seen an emoji change so poorly received.


If Apple goes ahead with this change in the public iOS 10 release, one person could innocently tweet a toy and have that be seen by others as a weapon. […] All other vendors display this emoji as a real gun.


The unicode code chart actually says “PISTOL = handgun, revolver”, and the reference glyph (with a larger version on page 4) is pretty clearly a Beretta M9.

John Gruber:

Intriguingly, Microsoft is switching their pistol emoji from a toy sci-fi ray guy to a realistic revolver. And Ben Sandofsky argues that the new emoji should be a variant, not a replacement, to avoid the ambiguity of the glyph conveying a very different meaning depending on the recipient’s OS.

Benjamin Mayo (tweet):

With previous iOS versions, Apple presented this emoji as an actual gunmetal pistol. With iOS 10, they’ve changed it to a green toy water gun. I don’t like how they have handled this. This has nothing to do with the associated political implications of free speech and everything to do with the way Apple has implemented this technically.

My personal qualm is that Apple has distorted the integrity of the Emoji language by replacing the glyph for a character which has a very different meaning. A toy water gun depicts very different intentions than a real gun.

John Gruber:

While I’m on it, I’ve heard from a little birdie that Apple’s new water pistol glyph was in fact changed from left-pointing to right-pointing, but only in internal-to-Apple builds of iOS. The idea was to make the water pistol pair well with the “splashing sweat” symbol, which to date has been rendered left-to-right. But because flipping the gun direction changes the meaning when it’s paired with any other emoji to its left, it was decided that it would be easier to flip the direction of the splashing emoji and leave the pistol left-pointing. If Apple does change the splash direction, it will also pair better with the much-beloved eggplant.

Carl Franzen:

In this case, the change to the squirt gun emoji comes nearly a year after a social media campaign called #DisarmTheiPhone was launched by advocacy group New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, with the goal of pressuring Apple to drop support for the revolver emoji.

Previously, Apple was reported to have pressured the emoji masters of the universe —the Unicode consortium, an international standards body — to drop plans to add a rifle emoji to the set.

Jason Snell:

There are now around a thousand base emojis and tens of thousands of variations. One day, in a dark mood, I wondered: What are the least-loved emojis? I checked out the live stats on and asked Jeremy Burge of Emojipedia for his site’s least-favorite emojis. The result is this list: The world’s least-loved emojis.

Stephanie Studer (via Hacker News):

Kim Uryong, a professor of communication at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, says emoji are South Korea’s “third language” (after Korean and English) – worthy, he thinks, of their own dictionary.


Stickers give cadence and character, punch-lines and punctuation, to South Korean text-speak. They act as qualifiers that inflect words with humour or sadness; they also establish an intimacy that most would shy away from in face-to-face dialogue. Many appeal for forgiveness. A dog called Frodo, one of KakaoTalk’s signature characters, proffers a bouquet of roses on one knee while perspiring.


Emoji in South Korea and Japan tend towards over-dramatisation, irony and self-mockery. They appeal not just to the young but also to middle-aged office workers looking to smooth awkward or delicate situations with bosses, colleagues and family members. One sticker set revolves around “Salaryman Mr Ho”, who veers between slumping over his desk from exhaustion surrounded by energy drinks, spinning gleefully in the CEO’s chair, and crying with rage. Kim’s recent hits include a crotchety grandmother who curses a lot – a softer way for chat-app users to swear in front of their elders – and a loving father-daughter set in which the girl gently admonishes her dad. Kim says wives use such stickers to show their disapproval of their husbands’ behaviour – when they’ve been out drinking late, for example.

See also: Hacker News.

Update (2016-08-13): Becky Hansmeyer:

As I seek to understand more about the popularity of stickers in messaging apps (hint: they’re more than just big emoji!), I thought I’d share some of the interesting articles I’ve come across.

Update (2016-08-15): Pierre Lebeaupin:

When I first heard of the change, I was already skeptical, and after pondering it some more, I have reason to think the benefits are not worth the costs.

To begin with, by doing it this way Apple makes the change retroactive. Any piece of text (email, text message, blog post, article, photo caption, or of course tweet) with a pistol emoji has now had its meaning retroactively changed when viewed on the latest iOS 10 beta. This change does not just affect newly received messages: any time the pistol emoji was used in the last few years will be affected by this change.

It’s not clear to me that there even is a benefit. I suppose the idea is that Apple, the company that made the 1984 ad, thinks that Newspeak emoji would reduce real-world violence. I’m not aware of any evidence that would support that hypothesis, and any potential effect might actually be reversed by the ambiguity the change introduces with other platforms.

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