This week the tech industry has been getting excited about Apple’s latest update to iOS, which introduces a number of new emoji, including variations of skin tone. What has not been commented on much is the fact that white is no longer default.
Sure it’s pretty incredible that Apple has updated the emoji set to include a more diverse set of emoji but what we think is more incredible is the default emoji set.
The original emoji showing basic facial expressions are unchanged but originally, the more human looking ones had a pale, caucasian looking skin. Now they too, while giving a more diverse selection of colours, default to yellow.
This is much like Lego, whose figurines are traditionally yellow. Lego has said that this was chosen to avoid children associating their wholly creative play with any one race. If they’d coloured their figurines with pink skin, black children would only be able to make believe their playthings were that colour, and if they were black, vice-versa. by removing race from these toys, the toys were suitable for all to play with and make believe to their heart’s content.
The original emoji removed race, and yet the more humanised ones, that were meant to truly represent the writer, represented themselves as white men and white women, white hands and white noses. Not that anyone thinks the nose emoji looks like a nose!
It’s not the only diversity and equality to be introduced by Apple this week in their emoji update too. We’ve received emoji with same-sex couples and even same-sex families depicted too, complete with different skin tones again. It’s a big step forward, putting these on every iOS device worldwide, regardless of country, is huge. It’ll be interesting to see how countries like Russia, with laws against such “propaganda,” will react.
Along with a number of other new emoji, we also received some new flags, bringing more of the world the ability to identify themselves. No Scotland as of yet, would have been a nice touch, but I’m sure we can forgive them, even if some of us may not find much need for that Union flag.
Another neat observation we made was the Apple Watch making an appearance. It’s worth noting that this is not a new emoji but rather, a replacement for the default wrist-watch emoji. So if an Android user should send you an emoji about the time, you’ll see it as an Apple Watch. Because you know, maybe if we can stick it in our emoji, we’ll fork out the cash for one… maybe not.