Chinese emoji? New iPhone software update to feature more diverse messaging icons

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 February, 2015, 11:24am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 April, 2015, 12:10pm

Apple is finally adding some diversity to the emojis available on its desktop and mobile operating systems. 

The latest beta versions of iOS and OS X, released to developers today, include emoji faces in a variety of skin tones, as well as an increased number of national flags. 

Emojis – small picture icons which are widely used in iMessage, WhatsApp and on Twitter – have long been criticised for only having icons of white people, apart from a small number of non-white icons which draw heavily on ethnic stereotypes.

“Of the more than 800 emojis, the only two resembling people of colour are a guy who looks vaguely Asian and another in a turban,” read a petition on posted last year which called for more diversity. 

After the matter attracted considerable attention online, including support from pop star Miley Cyrus and other celebrities, the Unicode Consortium, which governs emojis and ensures that they work across platforms and devices, announced that the next edition would include possible skin tones for the human icons. 

Apple promised last March to introduce the new emojis as soon as possible, after MTV Act emailed Apple CEO Tim Cook to complain about the lack of diversity. 

“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,” Apple’s head of PR Katie Cotton wrote at the time. 

The new skin tones can be selected by pressing down on one of the emojis to reveal a pop-up box containing the other options – similar to how iPhone users select accented letters when typing.

The latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 8.3, is due for release in March.