Diversity is coming to Apple's emoji population. The company is expected to add an assortment of faces to its emoji keyboard, allowing iPhone users to choose different skin tones for many of the keyboard’s familiar characters such as Santa or the princess. Even the software’s many hand signal emojis, including the thumbs-up and thumbs-down, will be diversified and come in multiple shades from light to dark, according to screenshots of the new emojis that first appeared on The Next Web. The change reportedly will come in March when Apple rolls out its latest version of iOS and OS X operating systems.
Apple was criticized in 2014 after releasing more than 200 new emoji characters, none of which came in a color other than white. Social media blasted the company for not including characters with a variety of skin tones in their update. "We agree with you. Our emoji characters are based on the Unicode standard, which is necessary for them to be displayed properly across many platforms,” Katie Cotton, Apple’s vice president of worldwide corporate communications, said in a statement following last year’s additions. The Unicode standard is the coding system that allows characters to be exchanged worldwide. “There needs to be more diversity in the emoji character set, and we have been working closely with the Unicode Consortium in an effort to update the standard."
— Vox (@voxdotcom) February 23, 2015
— Brett Rudy (@bkrudy) February 23, 2015
Unicode, however, said the lack of diversity was the responsibility of third parties like Apple, Google and Twitter, who ultimately have the final say in the appearance of emojis. Unicode provides the basic visualization for companies to build upon as they like. Companies that use Unicode have the option to illustrate an emoji however they like, but have universally defaulted to white. “Unicode does not require a particular racial or ethnic appearance,” according to Unicode’s website. “However, because there are concerns regarding the emoji characters for people, proposals are being developed by Unicode Consortium members to provide more diversity.”
In addition to more racially diverse texting options, the latest version of iOS, version 8.3, is expected to offer several new languages for Apple’s voice command feature, called Siri. The new Siri will be able to process and respond to Indian English, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Danish and Turkish, among others.