Mushrooms, Limes, and a Phoenix Bird: Here Are the New Emojis Coming in iOS 17

Emoji 15 1 draft Credit: Emojipedia
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There’s now a day for just about everything, and this coming Monday, we’ll be celebrating World Emoji Day, a day where we “promote the use [of] emojis and spread the enjoyment that they bring to all of those around us.”

To mark the occasion, Keith Broni, Editor in Chief of Emojipedia, has shared a sneak peek at what’s expected to come in the Emoji 15.1 spec, which includes new glyphs for a Lime, Brown Mushroom, and Phoenix Bird, plus gender-neutral family emojis and a change in direction — literally — for six of the current person emojis.

The entirely new emojis are mostly expansions of existing emojis, with Lime effectively being a green version of the current Lemon emoji, and Brown Mushroom is a brown version of the more Nintendo-like Mushroom.

As Broni explains, this is also how these new emoji will be represented under the hood, using zero-width joiner (ZWJ) sequences to combine existing emojis “to construct a new design and concept.”

“For example, Phoenix Bird will have appeared as the Bird and Fire. emojis placed side-by-side, while the Lime will show as a Green Square placed after the Lemon emoji.”

There’s also a Broken Chain emoji that combine Link and Collision in the same manner. 

Of course, this isn’t how the emojis will actually appear on your iPhone once they arrive in iOS 17; it’s merely how they’re represented internally, but it also helps to show how new emojis are developed as extensions and combinations of existing ideas.

The gender-neutral family emojis will similarly use various combinations of Person and Child to create family groupings of one adult and one child, two adults and one child, one adult, and two children, and two adults and two children. Unicode intends for these to be represented in the style of Bust in Silhouette and Busts in Silhouette on most platforms, but it’s ultimately up to Apple and other vendors as to how they choose to draw them. 

Lastly, Emoji 15.1 also plans to add flipped versions of six left-facing person emojis, including Person Running, Person Walking, Person Kneeling, Person with White Cane, Person in Manual Wheelchair, and Person in Motorized Wheelchair. When factoring in skin tone and gender variants, this will result in a total of 108 new right-facing emojis. 

While most emojis don’t explicitly specify direction, vendors such as Apple have traditionally chosen to illustrate them with directionality as that’s how their intention is best represented. For instance, it would be difficult to express a glyph of a person walking without implying sideways movement.

The six emojis expected to take a new direction in Emoji 15.1 are just a start. There are many others to cover that Broni suggests will likely be proposed in future drafts.

“If this initial batch of direction-focused people resonates strongly with emoji users across the globe, it must be assumed that further direction-specifying sequences will be recommended for further people emojis (such as Person Swimming, Person Bouncing Ball, and Person Fencing) and other emojis across additional categories.”

When Are These New Emojis Coming?

It’s important to note that the illustrations here are just concept images created by Emojipedia’s Head of Emoji Design Joshua Jones. Jones and the team tend to lean toward Apple’s design style, so these reflect what the new emojis might look like on your iPhone, but the final designs are ultimately up to Apple’s artists.

More significantly, the Emoji 15.1 spec is merely a draft proposal right now. It still has to be formally approved by the Unicode Consortium in September. There’s a slight possibility that some could be modified by the final committee, although that hasn’t happened since at least 2018.

So, there’s a good chance that what we see here will be the final emojis, but the other catch is that they almost certainly won’t be approved in time for iOS 17.0. While Apple could theoretically add them in an iOS 17.1 or 17.2 point release in November or December, in recent years, the company’s engineers have had their hands full with other things, and new Emojis haven’t shown up until the following year in longer-term point releases like iOS 14.5, iOS 15.4, and iOS 16.4.

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