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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By emoji

Dreams of emoji yet to come

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

[Jeremy Burge is the founder of Emojipedia. You can find him at the Emojipedia Blog or on Twitter at @jeremyburge.]

Remember the gavel emoji? It was a favorite of mine back on iOS 5, but harshly replaced with the hammer emoji in iOS 6, which has none of the same appeal for me1.

Another emoji from the early days of iOS was the Shibuya 109 emoji, which was a department store in Tokyo. It was booted out for being just a bit too specific for Unicode2 when emoji standardization was first taking place.

The emoji list on iOS has come a long way since first being introduced for the Japanese market in September of 2008. A careful look at Apple’s emoji set from iPhone OS 2.2 shows a range that looks instantly familiar, despite a number of changes over the years3.

With iOS 9 likely due for public release next month, keeping up with the latest emoji proposals, candidates, approvals and implementations can be more time consuming than it would first appear.

Each iOS 9 beta to date has included more flags than the previous version, with the latest betas supporting every single country flag listed in the ISO 3166 standard. As if that wasn’t enough, Apple went on to add flags for remote territories such as Ascension Island and Clipperton Island in the most recent developer previews.

Even the slightly contentious Taiwanese Flag Emoji is set to be supported in the final version of iOS 9 and OS X 10.11 El Capitan, if the latest betas are any indication.

Flags also get their own emoji category on iOS 9, wedged between Travel & Places and Objects & Symbols. Given the sheer number of them, this makes a lot of sense.

In the past 18 months, two versions of the Unicode Standard have been approved, with the most recent being Unicode 8 in June of this year.

Apple added support for just one Unicode 7 emoji and five Unicode 8 emoji modifiers in iOS 8.3 earlier this year. These modifiers aren’t useful by themselves, but they allow modification of 60 existing emojis, covering all of the human-looking characters.

Unicode 9 includes an additional 38 emoji candidates, and is scheduled for approval in mid-2016. Here are some mockups showing how these might look if Apple chooses to include them in iOS:

We aren’t likely to ever get the gavel emoji back, but for those hanging out for the face palm, shrug, and other Unicode 9 candidates, 2016 might be the year for you.

  1. Or this Twitter account
  2. Yet the Tokyo Tower Emoji remains. Go figure. 
  3. In addition to the gavel and Shibuya 109 emojis, the seashell went from being a clamshell to a spiral; the black formal shirt became the graduation cap, golf ball turned into a golf flag, and the cracking eggs (intended to represent cooking) were put in a frypan

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