Emojis have become an important means of sharing emotions and intention in messages, especially because of the difficulty of conveying your tone through mere words. New emojis are often added to Unicode Standard, and usually OS upgrades need to be released to support the new system-level emojis. Google has been working to make the font file containing new emojis updatable without the need for an Android system update, and today the company has suggested that this is a feature of Android 12.
In a blog post, Google announced that hundreds of the little fun icons – 992 to be exact – have been stirred up and improved to make them more universal, accessible and authentic, and there are new ones as well. For example, the emoji of a “pie”
According to Google, all apps that support the Appcompat library will automatically receive the latest emojis from Google. No matter how old your phone is or how long it takes your apps to update, starting with Android 12, you get the latest emojis in apps that use Appcompat. At the moment, you can get the new Android 12 emojis on any rooted Android device, but it’s obviously not that easy to mess with. Nothing is as simple as just having your apps automatically grab all the new emojis themselves.
Our friends over at Android Police did some digging to learn more about this announcement. If you have been following Android for a long time, the disconnection of emojis from the Android system may sound familiar. It certainly rang a bell for me, and I was not sure why. As it turns out, back in 2017, Google said exactly the same thing when they announced the support library called “EmojiCompat” that worked at API level 19 or later (Android 4.4+). First-party applications like Gboard and Google Messages use it (and that’s why you can get new emojis in Gboard), but very few third-party apps do. Basically, it may not be part of the system, but rather something that developers effectively need to choose. Thus, it is unclear to us whether today’s announcement is actually related to the recently added support for updating font files via Google Play Services.
When Android Police reached out to Google, they asked why a main module was not implemented instead. “Mainline” in this case would mean that it is part of Android’s core services, but this is instead a GMS core-oriented change that is part of Google Play Services and Android Jetpack. Google’s response was to say that a GMS core-integrated change required “no extra developer work”, and that sticking to the EmojiCompat approach means “it will work on older devices”. It seems to ignore the fact that Google specifically announces this as an Android 12 change, though.
Disconnecting emojis from the Android system has been something many have been calling for for a long, long time. Every time new ones are released and iPhone users get them first, you will probably end up miscommunicating due to the lack of context to an emoji that can get used to on the other side. Because they are considered “fonts” and fonts can finally be updated in the / data partition on an Android smartphone, maybe be able to get updates that will include emojis in the future via Google Play Services.
In any case, updatable emojis are an improvement in the quality of life that may seem silly to some people, but considering how emojis have become such a big part of our vernacular, it is important for them to be easily updated and speed up whenever necessary. We hope that this is definitely part of the equation.