The worst iPhone Emoji (and here’s the proof)

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Before I jump in, let’s talk about why there’s such a thing as “iPhone emoji” to begin with. Emoji are created by the Unicode Consortium and they are a part of the “Unicode” standard. Simply put, the consortium decides which emoji should exist, and then those can be used by anyone that wants to include emoji in their software. Here’s the catch—the consortium doesn’t actually design the emoji. It provides a basic description and some reference icons, but it’s up to the “vendors” to make the final designs. Apple is one of those vendors, along with Google, Microsoft, Samsung, and many other companies. All of this is why emoji on iOS and iPadOS look different than emoji on Google Pixel phones, Samsung Galaxy phones, and even web platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Everyone has their own styles to match their software.

Emoji have their own design language on each platform. Of course, some of these designs are superior to others. Apple’s iPhone emoji are unexpectedly ugly for a firm famed for its attention to design. I’ll demonstrate it to you. We’re talking about something essentially subjective when we talk about design. However, design trends, particularly in software, tend to follow what the broader public finds appealing. When it comes to emoji, Apple is falling behind with an out-of-date design. On your friend’s phone, that emoji might not look the same.


  • As you can see, the changes are extremely subtle. Many people may not even be able to spot the differences. iOS 6 was released 10 years ago and the emoji looks essentially the same today. You’ll find this is the case with many of the original 90 emoji that were included in iOS 2.2, the first version that supported them. Many are simply higher resolution than they were 10 years ago, the design is identical.

  • Like many aspects of software, emoji designs have changed dramatically over the years on most platforms. For example, let’s take a look at how Google’s “Grinning Face” emoji has evolved.  While all the iterations have a general “flatness” to them, they’ve changed considerably in the newer version of Android. Let’s look at Microsoft’s emoji for Windows, which have changed even more. Here we can see some pretty major changes. Windows 8’s emoji weren’t even in color, then the mouth shape and colors changed a few times until we have the very modern-looking Windows 11 emoji.


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