What's New in Unicode 15.1 & Emoji 15.1

The latest list of emoji recommendations drafted by the Unicode Consortium - Emoji 15.1 - has been formally approved. This means that 118 new emojis should be arriving across our various digital devices over the next year or so.

What's New in Unicode 15.1 & Emoji 15.1

The latest list of emoji recommendations drafted by the Unicode Consortium - Emoji 15.1 - has been formally approved. This means that 118 new emojis should be arriving across our various digital devices over the next year or so.

Above: Emojipedia Sample Images for Emoji 15.1. Image: Emojipedia.

Emoji 15.1 has been formally approved alongside today's release of version 15.1 of the Unicode Standard, the Unicode Consortium's core text encoding standard that is designed to support the use of text written in all of the world's major writing systems.

The Unicode Consortium is the non-profit standards body responsible for the Unicode Standard. Voting members include Apple, Google, and Microsoft.

πŸ†• New Emojis in Emoji 15.1

These 118 new emojis introduced in Emoji 15.1 include six completely new concepts, four new gender-neutral family emoji combinations, and 108 new direction-specifying versions of six pre-existing people emojis.

Example color images are commonly shown on pages of new emoji information by Unicode and come from various sources. These are intended to convey the preferred design choices for vendors when implementing emojis.

The six completely new emoji concepts within Emoji 15.1 are:

The four new family emojis are:

The six people emoji characters that now have direction-specifying variations are:

Each of these new direction-specifying people emojis support the usual gender and skin tone variation sequences, making up a total of 108 new direction-specific people emoji designs in Emoji 15.1.

This means that no changes have been made to the draft emoji list since we here at Emojipedia previewed the Emoji 15.1 draft list ahead of our 10th annual World Emoji Day celebration this July.

All of the 118 emojis contained within the Emoji 15.1 list are constructed via zero-width joiner (ZWJ) sequences.

This means that each of these new emojis is based on combining pre-existing emoji characters or sequences to be represented with a new unique emoji design.

For example, the πŸ¦β€πŸ”₯ Phoenix is a ZWJ sequence combining the 🐦 Bird emoji and πŸ”₯ Fire emoji through the use of a Zero Width Joiner character.

Both 2019's Emoji 12.1 and 2020's Emoji 13.1 lists also consisted of new emojis constructed via ZWJ sequences.

As of Emoji 15.1, there are now a total of 3,782 emojis recommended by Unicode.

Made with Flourish

However, while Emoji 15.1 contains brand-new emojis, since these are all constructed via ZWJ sequences, Unicode 15.1 did not require any brand-new emoji characters to enable the creation of Emoji 15.1.

This means that Unicode 15.1 is the first update to the Unicode Standard to not feature the creation of any new emoji characters since May 2019's Unicode 12.1 - a minor update to the standard that added just a single new non-emoji character to enable software to be rapidly updated to support the new Japanese era name in calendrical systems and date formatting

Prior to Unicode 12.1, new emoji characters had been added to every update to the Unicode Standard from 2014's Unicode 7.0 onwards.

Despite not containing any new emoji characters, Unicode 15.1 does induce several hundred new non-emoji characters to the Unicode Standard.

πŸ”‘ New Characters in Unicode 15.1

The vast majority of characters in the Unicode Standard are not emojis. Emoji updates are given priority here at Emojipedia, but it's worth taking a moment to look at some of the other new characters approved in this release.

Regarding this update, Unicode notes that:

Unicode 15.1 adds 627 characters, for a total of 149,813 characters.

To put it in perspective, the total number of emoji characters and sequences that are recommended for general interchange (RGI) is 3,782 in Unicode 15.1, compared to the 149,813 characters across the entire updated version of the Unicode Standard.

According to the Unicode blog:

The characters in the Extension I block have been deemed to be very urgently needed for use in China. The Extension I proposal was based on characters that appeared in a draft amendment of China’s mandatory GB 18030 standard. For this reason, the Unicode Technical Committee (UTC) considered it imperative to arrive at a stable encoding for these characters as quickly as possible.

The GB 18030 is a Chinese government standard that defines the required language and character support necessary for software in China.

πŸ—“οΈ Emoji Release Schedule

The release of Emoji 15.1 does not mean users can immediately access or use any new emoji from this list.

What today's release from the Unicode Consortium does indicate is when major vendors such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, or Samsung can implement these new emojis in their software.

Expect to see some companies come out with early emoji support throughout the remainder of 2023, and the majority of updates to take place in the first half of 2024.

Last year, Google revealed its designs for Emoji 15.0 immediately following the release of Unicode 15.0 and Emoji 15.0 via its GitHub page and through downloadable font files.

These designs would then begin to appear progressively across select Google platforms such as Chrome OS, Gmail, and YouTube between September 2022 and their release within Android 13 in March 2023.

Last year Samsung debuted their support for Emoji 15.0 uncharacteristically early via October 2022's One UI 5.0 update, though this update did also debut the Emoji 14.0's recommendations that were approved over a year prior.

At the time of writing, the latest beta release for Samsung's One UI 6.0 does not contain support for Emoji 15.1.

Apple's last emoji update was in iOS 16.4, released on 27 March 2023. This added support for Emoji 15.0, which was approved on 13 September 2021.

If Apple sticks to this release schedule, expect to see Emoji 15.1 support come to iOS 17.4 in March or April 2023.

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