Sneak Peek: iOS 14.5 Will Bring 217 New Emojis Including AirPods Max

New Emoji iOS 14.5 Credit: Jeremy Burge / Emojipedia
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Today Apple pushed out the second beta of iOS 14.5 to developers, also revealing that the latest new batch of emojis will finally be arriving for everyone with the public release of iOS 14.5 in a few weeks.

While we’ve known about this batch of 217 emojis since last September, when the Unicode Consortium — the group responsible for developing and ratifying new emoji — announced an interim “Emoji 13.1” release to help tide us over while the ongoing global health pandemic delays the certification of the broader Unicode 14.0 standard.

The Unicode Consortium is the group responsible for ensuring that all character sets work properly across multiple platforms, ranging from the normal letters of the English alphabet to Chinese glyphs and other international and foreign characters, so ultimately Emoji is only a small part of the Consortium’s broader responsibilities, however normally new Emoji come each year as part of the full annual Unicode updates. However, when the Consortium announced a year ago that Unicode 14.0 was going to be delayed by at least six months, many wondered if we would see any new Emoji at all until iOS 16.

Fortunately, the sub-group within the Consortium that’s responsible for emoji — aptly dubbed the Emoji Subcommittee — decided that they didn’t need to wait for the full Unicode update to be ratified, and instead chose to move forward with 217 new emojis that could be added to devices much sooner.

It’s important to keep in mind, however, that there’s normally about a six-month delay between new emoji being approved and the point at which they show up in an iOS release, and Apple has traditionally only bundled new emoji once per major iOS release — usually an early point version. For example, iOS 13.2 heralded the arrival of the Unicode 12.0 set, and iOS 14.2 brought the Unicode 13.0 emoji.

So, it’s actually a nice surprise that Apple has chosen to include the new Emoji 13.1 update already, since many wondered if it would appear before iOS 15 arrived this fall, and while we already saw a preview of most of them last fall, there are still a couple of new surprises to be found in Apple’s own designs, as the Unicode Consortium only outlines broad design specs, leaving each platform vendor with the latitude to interpret those in its own way.

New Emoji in iOS 14.5

Jeremy Burge, Emojipedia’s Chief Emoji Officer and a key member of the Emoji Subcommittee, has just shared a preview of the newest emoji changes in iOS 14.5, noting that they’re already in the second developer beta that was released today, meaning you’ll also soon be able to find them in the public beta when it arrives later this week.

To be clear, of the 217 new emoji, 200 of them are exclusively changes to skin tones, as the bulk of the update focused on creating mixed skin tone options for the two emojis that depict couples — Couple with Heart and Kiss. The goal in this case was to provide alternatives for the classic yellow emoji colours, since even though these were originally intended to be neutral, they’ve become more closely associated with white people.

To address this, the Emoji Subcommittee has added five different skin tone options, but of course since these are couple groups that also have to represent four different gender variations as well, the result is a total of 100 new emojis for each of the two sets by the time all possible combinations are included.

Another 12 new emoji in iOS 14.5 expand the Person with Beard emoji set to offer gender-neutral and female variations to the group that previously only represented a male character.

Technically speaking, this means that only five emojis are actually new, and these are made up of Face Exhaling, Face with Spiral Eyes, Face in Clouds, plus Mending Heart and Heart on Fire.

Apple’s Changes

It’s not just about new Emoji, however, as Burge notes that Apple has added its own flair to a couple of the existing emojis.

Specifically, Apple has taken the blood out of the Syringe emoji to make it more appropriate in an era of ongoing COVID-19 vaccinations.

Apple has also traditionally used its own hardware to represent otherwise generic emojis — for example, the Mobile Emoji is clearly an iPhone, and the Laptop emoji is clearly a MacBook. Even the Man Technologist and Female Technologist emojis clearly show the person behind a MacBook, complete with a tiny Apple logo.

So with the arrival of the AirPods Max, it should come as no surprise that Apple has also recreated the classic Headphone emoji in its own image, now clearly depicting a set of AirPods Max, shown in classic Apple white just to make sure there’s no confusion.

iOS 14.5 Emoji Headphones AirPods Max

These new emojis are already available in the most recent developer betas of iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5, watchOS 7.4, and will likely also appear in the next beta of macOS 11.3 Big Sur, along with the upcoming public betas for each of these updates.

Just keep in mind that if you install the latest beta you’ll be able to see the latest emoji on your iPhone or iPad, but you’ll only be able to exchange them with users who are also running the same iOS 14.5 beta or later, so they’ll be of limited use until iOS 14.5 et al arrives among the public.

As of now Google Pixel devices are the only Android smartphones that have yet received the Emoji 13.1 glyphs, and it’s still uncertain when they’ll be available on other platforms.

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