As of Wednesday morning, iPhone users can upgrade to iOS 8.3. The new mobile operating system contains CarPlay integration, new languages for Siri, and the ability to filter text messages from saved numbers in a different folder from unsaved phone numbers. But most importantly, it contains new, diverse emoji.
In the new update, users can cycle through skin tone options for the faces of many of the emoji characters, with some characters having up to six different choices. (All of the facial features are the same—nothing changes aside from the emoji's complexion.)
We give Apple the emoji hand clap for their efforts. But for the next update, the company could go farther. Diversity isn't just about color, after all—for Apple to allow its users to fully tell a story through emoji, it needs icons that represent a broad range of cultural images.
Luckily, there's an example for Apple to follow: a third-party emoji app called Wemojis.
Wemojis, which is currently available for iOS, was created by two African-American brothers, Donovan and Trey Brown. The keyboard it uses looks reflects my experience as a African American man. There are images of Egyptian royalty, Shea Butter and a pair of rolling dice, along with Historically Black College paraphernalia and flags from all around the African diaspora.
Because Wemoji's emoji aren't included in the official Unicode set, they don't render like normal emoji within iOS. They're bulkier and on some platforms, they appear as a photo would, not inline text.
Here at Fusion, Slack, gives us the ability to create emojis specific to our company's culture. There are images of Jordan logos, Taylor Swift and Shingy. Plus there are emojis made from snapshots of people who work at Fusion—there is even one of me. This adds to the ability to communicate our story.
Apple's new emoji are clearly a huge, commendable step toward diversifying its software offerings. But iOS shouldn't stop at skin tones. If Apple wants its emoji to reflect its customers' full range of experiences and interests, it should learn from Wemoji and Slack, and either provide a wider range of culturally relevant emoji or let users create their own. Only then will the diversity of emoji mirror the diversity of the people using them.
"I write about the future (Associate Producer at @ThisIsFusion).
I write about the past (publisher of #OGToldMe).
Oakland, CA raised me."