Emoji Updates in 2019

Emoji Updates in 2019

As 2019 comes to a close, we here at Emojipedia have been reflecting on all the emoji updates that took place throughout the year.

Weโ€™ve seen long-request designs such as white heart and flamingo be introduced to all major vendors.

Gender neutral people were made the default appearance for many emojis starting on Android. A bunch of additional gender inclusive emojis also came to iOS in the past few months, and the world didn't collapse as a result.

So with all that in mind, what else happened in the world of emojis this year?

Two infamous new emojis added in 2019 were the ๐Ÿฅฑ Yawning Face and the ๐Ÿค Pinching Hand.


Above: the new ๐Ÿฅฑ Yawning Face emoji as it appears across various vendors.


Above: the new ๐Ÿค Pinching Hand emoji as it appears across various vendors when sent without a skin tone modifier.

A total of 25 emoji releases[1] were added to Emojipedia throughout the year across 9 different active[2] emoji vendors. Of these updates, 14 included the introduction of brand-new emojis from the Unicode Consortium's two official emoji recommendations this year[3], as well as a couple of new emojis not yet recommended for general interchange (RGI) by Unicode.

The year's first major emoji update from Unicode, Emoji 12.0, was released by in March 2019. It recommended 230 new emojis, all of which can be seen in their Google designs in the image below.


Above: New Emoji 12.0 emojis added in Android 10 in September 2019. Image: Google designs / Emojipedia composite.

Following a proposal by Google in early March, Unicode also recommended another 168 new emojis in October 2019[3:1]: Emoji 12.1.[3:2]

These additional emojis provided a gender neutral option for existing profession and identity-focused people emojis (e.g. ๐Ÿง‘โ€โš–๏ธ Judge and ๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿฆฐ Person: Red Hair), as well as expanding the skin tone combinations available for the holding hands emojis introduced in Emoji 12.0.

At the time of writing only Apple support Emoji 12.1, with Apple releasing both Emoji 12.0 and Emoji 12.1 updates simultaneously in October via iOS 13.2. Apple's designs for both updates are shown below.


Above: All 398 new emojis brought to iOS devices in 2019[4]. Image: Apple designs / Emojipedia composite.

๐Ÿ†•๐Ÿ—“๏ธ New In 2019

The release of the new Emoji 12.0 designs throughout the year enfolded as follows:

Having already compared the ๐Ÿฅฑ Yawning Face and ๐Ÿค Pinching Hand, further highlights from Emoji 12.0 are shown below. First, the new ๐Ÿค White Heart.[6]


๐Ÿฆฉ Flamingo had also been a popular request for a number of years.


The biggest new set of additions from early 2019's Emoji 12.0 was the introduction of various people holding hands with one another, such as the non-gender-specifying ๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘ People Holding Hands emoji shown below.

71 of the 230 new emojis in Emoji 12.0 - roughly 31% - featured some combinations of one or two ๐Ÿ‘ฉ Woman emojis, one or two ๐Ÿ‘จ Man emojis, or two ๐Ÿง‘ Person emojis. All of the existing skin tone modifiers options are available for each of the people holding hands: for example, the ๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿฟโ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿผ Women Holding Hands: Dark Skin Tone, Medium-Light Skin Tone emoji shown below shows one ๐Ÿ‘ฉ Woman modified by the ๐Ÿฟ Dark Skin Tone and the other modified using the ๐Ÿผ Medium-Light Skin Tone.


Emoji 12.0 also featured a selection of new emojis intended to represent a selection of differently-abled people. One such new emojis is the ๐Ÿฆพ Mechanical Arm.


Others new accessibility-focused emojis include ๐Ÿง Deaf Person, ๐Ÿฆป Ear With Hearing Aid and ๐Ÿฆฎ Guide Dog.

In the Animals & Nature category, the new ๐Ÿฆง Orangutan has received a very positive response, though that may due to Apple's version resembling a certain meme.


๐Ÿฆฆ Otter has also received a strong response for both its cuteness and its LGBTQ associations.


The new ๐Ÿฉธ Drop of Blood was initially proposed as a means of allowing discussing menstruation via emoji.


The creation process for ๐Ÿฉธ Drop of Blood was one of the focuses of the 2019 documentary film Picture Character alongside Emoji 5.0's ๐Ÿง• Woman With Headscarf and this year's ๐Ÿง‰ Mate, shown below.


๐Ÿ†•๐Ÿ”€ New 2019 Emoji Fragmentation

However, across vendors' implementation of Emoji 12.0 an old adversary has raised its head.

Emoji fragmentation is a term often used to describe when at least one fundamental attribute an emoji's design is notably different between vendors. While some emoji differences don't overtly change the meaning of what is being conveyed, others completely change what is attempting to be said.

Example of both a minor and major variation in emoji design can be seen in the new ๐ŸงŽ Person Kneeling emoji.


The relatively minor difference seen across vendor's ๐ŸงŽ Person Kneeling is the color of the person's top. While Google, Facebook, Twitter, and JoyPixels have all opted to use an orange attire for this gender neutral designs, each of the other vendors have used a different color (e.g. a light grey in the Apple design).

However, a potentially major fragmentation is that Google's ๐ŸงŽ Person Kneeling is only kneeling on one knee. Since 2016 this posture has become associated with the U.S. national anthem protests : a connotation not present in any of the other vendor's designs, since all others are kneeling on both of their knees.

Other new instances of both major and minor design fragmentation from Emoji 12.0 are highlighted below.

The new ๐Ÿฆช Oyster emoji has been largely categorised as a food emoji by vendors' emoji keyboards. However, many vendors have chosen to display a pearl on top of the creature's fleshy interior: indicating instead that it is a non-edible Pinctada genus, and therefore not technically a food. However, as the Apple, Facebook and JoyPixels ๐Ÿฆช Oyster emojis lack the pearl, they can be considered an edible Ostreidae oyster.


The fruit juice contained within ๐Ÿงƒ Beverage Box is highly varied between vendors: apple, grape, orange, lemon, and a combination of pear, apple and cherry all appear.


The ๐Ÿช’ Razor emoji alternates between a modern safety razor and a Sweeney Todd-esque straight razor.[7]


๐Ÿ†•๐Ÿ”œ New But Not (Yet) RGI

Alongside the 398 new emojis recommended by Unicode in 2019, there were two emojis not yet RGI introduced by a number of vendors throughout 2019: the โšง๏ธ Transgender Symbol and the ๐Ÿณ๏ธโ€โšง๏ธ Transgender Flag.


While โšง๏ธ Transgender Symbol has had non-RGI support from Microsoft and Samsung since 2012 and 2013 respectively, it was also given an emoji version by both Twitter and WhatsApp this year alongside the ๐Ÿณ๏ธโ€โšง๏ธ Transgender Flag. Facebook also began to suppor the ๐Ÿณ๏ธโ€โšง๏ธ Transgender Flag as an emoji this year, although it does not feature an emoji version of the โšง๏ธ Transgender Symbol.

Both of these emojis are candidates for full emoji status in Emoji 13.0, which is currently being drafted.

๐Ÿ†™๐Ÿง‘ Gender Neutral Changes In 2019

By far the biggest change seen across various emoji vendors in 2019 was the introduction of gender neutral designs to many previously-released emojis.

Throughout the year Google, Apple, Twitter and Joypixels[7:1] all introduced over 300 new gender neutral designs to their emoji design sets, following the declared intent of Google detailed in the "Using Gender Inclusive Designs" submission. ๐Ÿคท Person Shrugging, ๐Ÿ•ต๏ธ Detective, and ๐Ÿงœ Merperson are shown as examples below.


Above: a selection of new gender neutral designs introduced for previously-released emojis as they appear in the Apple, Google, Twitter and JoyPixels sets.

When many earlier person-based emojis such as ๐Ÿ‘ฎ Police Officer and ๐Ÿ’‡ Person Getting Haircut were recommended by Unicode, they did not have a specified gender. Instead, Unicode recommended that:

โ€œhuman-form emoji should normally be depicted in a gender-neutral way unless gender appearance is explicitly specifiedโ€

However, instead of adhering to this recommendation, most vendors opted to display human-form emojis with gender presentations: the ๐Ÿ‘ฎ Police Officer appearing as a man and ๐Ÿ’‡ Person Getting Haircut appearing as a woman.

After issues were raised relating to how emojis were depicting men and women, Emoji 4.0 introduced gender-specific versions of most person emojis, leading to the creation of the gender-specific ๐Ÿ‘ฎโ€โ™‚๏ธ Man Police Officer and ๐Ÿ‘ฎโ€โ™€๏ธ Woman Police Officer. However, the non-gender-specific ๐Ÿ‘ฎ Police Officer emoji still retained its previous gender-specific appearance, continuing to reinforces stereotypes related to the "default" gender for certain roles and activities.


Above: the ๐Ÿ‘ฎ Police Officer as it appeared across vendors at the start of 2019.

In addition to this, when new human-form emojis such as ๐ŸงŸ Zombie were recommended, vendors would inconsistently designate gender.

Above: the ๐ŸงŸ Zombie as it appeared across vendors at the start of 2019.


Above: A comparison of several ๐Ÿ‘ฉ Woman, ๐Ÿ‘จ Man and non-gender-specifying emoji designs between Google's Android 9.0 (before) and Android 10 (after).

At the end of 2019, both ๐Ÿ‘ฎ Police Officer and ๐ŸงŸ Zombie now appear as shown below.

Above: the ๐Ÿ‘ฎ Police Officer as it appeared across vendors near the close of 2019.


Above: the ๐ŸงŸ Zombie emoji across vendors at the end of 2019.

While this wider representation for emoji users who do not identify with a specific gender identity, it does lead to further new instances of emoji fragmentation.

๐Ÿ†™๐Ÿ™† Convergent & Divergent Changes In 2019

In early 2018 Emojipedia CEO[8] Jeremy Burge mused about whether 2018 would go down as "the year of emoji convergence". This ultimately came to pass, with the growth of design convergence epitomised by the changing of the ๐Ÿ”ซ Pistol emoji across all vendors to display a toy waterpistol instead of a legitimate firearm.

In 2019, this trend towards design greater convergence was best encapsulated by Samsung's historically divergent emojis undergoing a large-scale redesigns to be visually in-keeping with those of other vendors.

For example, this year Samsung updated its ๐Ÿ‘ฏโ€โ™€๏ธ Women With Bunny Ears emoji to display two women clad in black dresses and bunny ears, as opposed to a single woman wearing white bunny ears.


Additionally, Samsung's ๐Ÿ˜ Elephant also now appears as a much more realistic animal, losing the cartoon heart by its trunk.


Other examples of emoji design revisions being made in the name of design convergence are highlighted below.

Facebook's ๐Ÿ˜€ Grinning Face lost its clenched-teeth grin in favor of an open-mouth smile of other vendors.


Google updated ๐Ÿคค Drooling Face to have its eyes closed and mouth smiling.


Facebook's ๐Ÿคฎ Face Vomiting now has its eyes shut in discomfort instead of featuring an intense wide-eyed stare, rowing back a divergent change originally made in the Facebook 3.0 update.


Google changed the position of the sweat drop on their ๐Ÿ˜ฅ Sad but Relieved Face to better match the appearance of other vendors.


Samsung also updated its ๐Ÿฅฐ Smiling Face With Hearts to displays three hearts floating around its face instead of four[8].


Windows's โ˜• Hot Beverage is now a white cup on a matching saucer instead of a pale blue mug.


Despite the trend towards emoji design convergence seen throughout the last few years, 2019 still introduced some new instances of emoji fragmentation. An example in which both convergence and fragmentation occurred simultaneously can be found in Facebook's 4.0 update.

Following their September 2019 update, the ๐Ÿ˜  Angry Face and ๐Ÿ˜ก Pouting Face now both display the same design - one in-keeping with other vendors' ๐Ÿ˜  Angry Face design. However, in losing its red gradient ๐Ÿ˜ก Pouting Face is now notably inconsistent with the design of other vendors.


Above: the update to the ๐Ÿ˜  Angry Face emoji introduced in Facebook 4.0., swapping gritted teeth for a more convergent frowning mouth.


Above: the new ๐Ÿ˜ก Pouting Face design in Facebook 4.0., which now diverges with the red-faced design of other vendors.

There were also some instances of fragmentation that were not widely addressed by vendors in 2019.

One such outstanding vein of continued fragmentation can be found in the implimentation of animal emojis. While where certain vendors display a full-bodied creature for some animals, other vendor's just display the animal's head. ๐Ÿฆ Gorilla is shown as an example of this below.


However, perhaps the biggest outstanding instance of fragmentation can be found in the ๐Ÿ˜ต Dizzy Face emoji designs.


The inconsistent shape of the eyes in ๐Ÿ˜ต Dizzy Face (spirals or x-shaped) can lead to confusion between users as these two symbol types have different connotations: specifically, the x-shaped eyes are often used as an indication of unconsciousness or even death in the visual language of comics, cartoons, and emoticons.

๐Ÿค” Oddities In 2019

Despite the substantive changes seen across all active emoji sets in 2019, a couple of major cross-platform quirk remains within the Samsung emoji set. Since Samsung TouchWiz 7.1 in 2016, ๐Ÿ‡บ Regional Indicator Symbol Letter U displays a capital "V" (instead of U) and ๐Ÿ‡ป Regional Indicator Symbol Letter V displays a "U" (instead of V).


Above: ๐Ÿ‡บ Regional Indicator Symbol Letter U and ๐Ÿ‡ป Regional Indicator Symbol Letter V as they are displayed across a series of major vendors' emoji sets.

As regional indicator letters are not intended to be displayed in isolation (they are intended solely for the creation of flag emojis) this design mis-match isn't of major consequence to most users, but is an odd bug to last for so many years despite there being 7[9] Samsung emoji updates since this oddity's introduction.

Additionally, the ๐Ÿ‘๏ธโ€๐Ÿ—จ๏ธ Eye in Speech Bubble emoji remains absent in Samsung One UI 1.5, having been removed from Samsung's emoji set in 2018. This is of note considering that in February Samsung One re-introduced a selection of emoji previously made unavailable on Samsung devices in an August 2016 update: โœ๏ธ Latin Cross, โ˜ช๏ธ Star and Crescent and โ€ผ๏ธ Double Exclamation Mark.

There was, however, an oddity from an update to Facebook's emoji set in December 2018 that was rectified in 2019.


The ๐Ÿšฑ Non-Potable Water emoji was corrected to display the standard cross-through-tap design, as opposed to indicating a ban on binning litter. This bizaare change echoed Windows' 2016 design for ๐Ÿšฏ No Littering, which instead of discouraging littering also appeared to condemn proper garage disposal.

๐Ÿ”ฎ Looking Ahead To 2020

As of December 2019 Apple currently supports the emojis added in Emoji 12.1.

It is expected that all major vendors will provide support to this emoji update in the first half of 2020. Google will likely be one of the next vendors to implement support, given that they have already previewed a selection of Emoji 12.1 mock-ups.


Above: a selection of Google's Emoji 12.1 designs, as previewed within their initial proposal document.

Also expected in Q1 of 2020 is the release of Emoji 13.0. While the list of new emojis is not yet final, a few that could be on the way include Bubble Tea, Fondue, and Seal.


With the 2020 emoji list due to be finalized in the coming months, expect to see any that make the final version of Emoji 13.0 to hit phones in the second half of the year.

  1. For those of you interested, Twitter had the highest number of updates throughout the year: a total of 7 including last week's Twemoji 12.1.5. WhatApp follows with five updates, then Apple with four. โ†ฉ๏ธŽ

  2. An active vendor to Emojipedia is one that is actively updating their emoji sets in line with the Unicode Consortiumโ€™s annual (or in the case of 2019, biannual) emoji release recommendations. Emoji vendors that are featured on Emojipedia but have become inactive in recent years are as follows: emojidex, Facebook Messenger, LG, HTC, and Mozilla. Emojipedia also features inactive legacy sets from three of the first emoji vendors from Japan, namely SoftBank, Docomo, and au by KDDI. โ†ฉ๏ธŽ

  3. This is the first time since 2016 that Unicode has released two sets of emoji recommendations in the same year. โ†ฉ๏ธŽ โ†ฉ๏ธŽ โ†ฉ๏ธŽ

  4. Including the correction to ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿฝโ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿพ Men Holding Hands: Medium Skin Tone, Medium-Dark Skin Tone from iOS 13.3. โ†ฉ๏ธŽ

  5. OpenMoji was updated in May to feature not only all new Emoji 12.0 emojis, but also emojis from prior releases such as Emoji 11.0 that the vendor had not yet supported. Following review, the vendor made its debut on Emojipedia.org in late September. โ†ฉ๏ธŽ

  6. A new ๐ŸคŽ Brown Heart was also added, alongside an additional colored shapes. With these Emoji 12.0 additions, each of the heart, circle and square type emojis are all available in the following nine colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, white, black and brown. โ†ฉ๏ธŽ

  7. OpenMoji also features a specific designs for gender neutral emojis, but in several instances the non-gender-specifying design was introduced before the gender-specific designs (e.g. the design for ๐Ÿคท Person Shrugging was released prior to the design for ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™‚๏ธ Man Shrugging and ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™€๏ธ Woman Shrugging). โ†ฉ๏ธŽ โ†ฉ๏ธŽ

  8. That's Chief Emoji Officer, of course. โ†ฉ๏ธŽ

  9. In order, these updates were Samsung Experience 8.0, Samsung Experience 8.1, Samsung Experience 8.5, Samsung Experience 9.0, Samsung Experience 9.1, Samsung Experience 9.5, and Samsung One UI 1.0. โ†ฉ๏ธŽ