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It looks like iOS 16.4 is poised to introduce the latest new collection of emoji characters. The first developer beta released yesterday includes a wide assortment of new glyphs, ranging from new heart colours to wildlife, accessories, and musical instruments.
The new characters won’t come as a big surprise for anybody who follows the world of emojis. They were proposed last summer and approved in September 2022 as part of the Emoji 15.0 collection. However, it typically takes companies like Apple a few months to incorporate the new emojis into their operating systems; the Emoji 14.0 set arrived in iOS 15.4 last year, so it seems Apple is right on track by introducing this latest update in iOS 16.4.
One of the reasons why it takes a while for new emojis to appear in iOS is because Apple’s designers have to craft their own interpretations of the glyphs. The Unicode Consortium, which is responsible for ensuring that symbols and characters look the same on every hardware and software platform, merely defines what each emoji should look like in generic terms — it’s up to companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft to choose the look.
Each company has its own take, and as long as the result remains true to what the emoji is supposed to represent, they have a fair bit of latitude in designing it. For instance, Apple’s version of the headphones emoji is a pair of AirPods Max, and it even adds subtle flair elsewhere, such as annotating the Coin emoji with “The Crazy Ones” as a throwback to its famous ”Think Different” ad campaign.
Apple’s New Emoji in iOS 16.4
So, even though we already have the list of what to expect in generic terms, iOS 16.4 is our first opportunity to see Apple’s spin on some of these new characters.
Of course, some don’t require a lot of interpretation. Shaking Face, Pink Heart, Light Blue Heart, and Grey Heart are pretty much what you’d expect.
Apple has also stayed pretty close to form this time with the other categories, which remain very similar to the official emoji sample images. For example, while Google has gone with a side profile of the new Moose emoji, Apple is sticking with the front view. Similar consistency can be seen with the Jellyfish and Donkey.
Interestingly, Apple is going against the grain with the Hair Pick; while the other representations have it pointing up and to the right, the iOS 16.4 implementation has it angled down and to the left instead. Similarly, the Folding Hand Fan is presented at a 45-degree angle rather than the purely vertical version used elsewhere, and Apple’s Ginger is also flipped around. Apple’s Maracas are also more unique, with the handles crossing over each other.
The Emoji 15.0 collection is rounded out with a Khanda symbol for Sikhism and a Wireless glyph representing a Wi-Fi connection. There’s not much room for interpretation in either of these, so Apple’s look pretty much as you’d expect.
There’s also a Rightwards Pushing Hand and Leftwards Pushing Hand, both of which are available in the usual five alternate skin tones in addition to the standard yellow. These follow the same pattern as Apple’s other hand emojis.
While it’s possible Apple could still make some design tweaks before the final release of iOS 16.4, what we see here are likely final or at least near-final versions of what will be available to all in a few weeks. While anybody running the iOS 16.4 developer or public betas will be able to use the new emojis, it’s important to note that you won’t be able to effectively send them to your friends unless they’re also running the latest betas — since iOS 16.3 and older versions don’t recognize these emojis, they’ll appear as empty boxes on those devices.