Android's emoji are known for being just awfully designed. It's not just a matter of style — in some cases they're so different from other platforms that they can lead to some serious misunderstandings. The latest developer build of Android N reveals that Google is finally making its emoji look more human. Which is good, because what the hell were those weird things supposed to be? The second developer preview of Android N is out today and a blog post by VP of engineering Dave Burke outlines the changes. Of particular note is that Android is adding emoji from the Unicode 9 release, like "bacon" and "selfie", as well as the ability to adjust skin tones — all things that iOS emoji users can do already.
But this is the part that caught my eye: "We are introducing a new emoji design for people emoji that moves away from our generic look in favour of a more human-looking design."
And this, my friends, could change everything.
Google has long suffered from subpar anthropomorphic emoji. They're child-like and vague, like a LEGO minifig left too long in the microwave. They don't even have chins, dammit.
"Police officer" before, and in the update, with the ability to change skin tone
Now compare the old cop to the new cop. See? The new design has really nice details that just weren't coming across before. It's not like a jaundiced slug wearing a 45rpm record on his head any more.
That's great that Android is finally giving its users some better options to express themselves. (Keep in mind this is only for Google-released keyboards; LG, Samsung and so on all have their own emoji.) But it also highlights another trend. Emoji might be becoming more universal, which is a very good thing.
Android's new emoji (top) and Apple's iOS emoji (bottom)
The other day I wrote about a study which examined that perception gap between emoji on different platforms. Apple and Google often had the highest "misconstrual" rate, resulting in lost-in-translation messages.
Let's hope a redesigned "grinning face with smiling eyes" helps to bridge the widening gap between iOS and Android users. Who knows? Someday, this may finally lead to global peace between Apple and Google fans.
Top: Android emoji from today's developer preview (top) and from before (bottom)