Thursday, 24 October 2013

A guide to emoji on Android

There is understandably a bit of confusion when it comes to emoji on Android devices.
This post helps to clear some of that up, and gives an explanation of Magic Keyboard's emoji support.

What are emoji ?

Emoji are graphical symbols which can be used to convey messages using pictures rather than words.  They are typically used wherever you might use a smiley (emoticon), to convey moods, feelings, etc. but their scope has expanded far beyond that to include everyday objects, food and drink, and a lot more.

Here are a few examples...

Emoji were first designed in Japan on i-Mode phones in the late 90s (or in Ancient Egypt thousands of years ago, depending on your perspective).  Back in the 90s, i-Mode phones with their cHTML support seemed very futuristic when compared to the WAP phones available in the rest of the world.  A mere fifteen years later, emoji are now popular everywhere thanks to the iPhone and Android devices.

A rundown of emoji support

This is where things get a little complicated.  Even in 2013 sending emoji messages to each other is not always straightforward.  All depends on what device you have, what the recipient has, what software you're both using, and sometimes even what network you're on !

Emoji on iOS

Let's start with the easy one, iOS.  Provided that you have a relatively recent device, there are around 800 emoji available to you on iOS.  All you need to do is to set up your emoji keyboard and you're off and running.

Well, not quite.  If you're sending a message to somebody with another iPhone, you should be OK (provided of course that you are using a messaging service which also supports emoji).
If you're sending an e-mail to somebody, you can't be sure that they'll see your carefully selected pictures - for one thing the recipient will need to be using an emoji-capable font.

Emoji on Android

Our emoji troubles don't stop with the iPhone.  Android phones prior to 4.1 do not have built-in emoji support.  Whether or not your built-in keyboard supports emoji further depends on your device, but you're likely to need at least Android 4.2 and even then it's not guaranteed to do so.  And if that wasn't enough, even the most recent Android fonts do not match iOS's emoji support (there are around 500-600 available in Android, compared to 800+ on iOS).

All is not lost, however.  Some chat apps (like Google Hangouts and whatsapp) have built in emoji support.
Google Hangouts, for example, can support emoji outside the range of the Android font.

Android's Missing Emoji

Have a look at the first 5 emoji displayed on this Google Hangouts screenshot.

According to the Unicode specification they are the symbols for 'Chestnut', 'Seedling', 'Evergreen Tree', 'Decidious Tree' and 'Palm Tree'.
Since you're sending a message via Google Hangouts to another Hangouts user, they'll be able to see this message just fine.
Send these characters in an SMS from an iOS phone to an Android phone however, and the recipient is likely to see just 'Chestnut', 'Seedling', and 'Palm Tree' - since the glyphs for the other two are missing from the Android font.

Confusing, isn't it !

Emoji in Magic Keyboard

For compatibility reasons, Magic Keyboard 2 supports a slightly reduced set of emoji, all of which should work on recent Android and Apple devices in most environments.  
We've included only those which are present in the Android font, to avoid the kinds of problems we described above.  Fear not though, there are more than 500 in total.

Magic Keyboard will enable emoji by default on any Android build which is 4.1 or later.
We have had a few reports of people on older devices who've managed to enable them manually (via Settings > Emoji & Emoticons) so you can always give it a try.

To access the emoji keyboard, press '123', followed by the smiley face (to get to the emoticons keyboard) followed by shift.
You should then see something like this...

There are 28 emoji keys, each of which will pop-up a different mini-keyboard if you long-press...

Working from the top-left, the 28 emoji categories are:

(Row 1)
  • Happy faces
  • Sad faces
  • Cat faces
  • Roles
  • Love
  • Personal
  • Clothing
(Row 2)
    • Weather, moon and stars
    • Plants
    • Fruit
    • Food
    • Drink and desserts
    • Celebrations
    • Comic characters and symbols
    (Row 3)
      • Entertainment and pastimes
      • Music and sports
      • Buildings and places
      • Animals
      • More animals
      • Animal faces (portraits)
      • Tools and money
      (Row 4)
        • Vehicles
        • Signage
        • Communication
        • Office symbols
        • More office symbols
        • Clocks
        • Audio/Visual

        Hopefully that clears a few things up.  Just remember that just because you can see emoji it doesn't necessarily mean that everybody can !

        Wednesday, 16 October 2013

        More emoji !

        There are lots more emoji in version 2.1.0, taking the total to over 500.

        Emoji are enabled for devices running Android 4.1 or later.
        Please note that the recipient must also have an emoji capable device in order to see emoji messages.


        Wednesday, 9 October 2013

        Magic Keyboard 2 published today

        The full version of Magic Keyboard 2 is now on Google Play! It's $0.99 for the first week..