A couple weeks ago, Apple started laying the groundwork for adding racially diverse emojis to the Mac. Now, they’re making good, adding the ability to select your own appropriately skin-toned emoji to both the latest versions of the iOS 8.3 beta, as well as OS X Yosemite.
In execution, it’s all simple enough. Instead of just having an unblinking sea of Caucasian emojis staring at you, both OS X and iOS now give you the option to select the skin tone of your emoji from a dropdown, which gives you a range of differently colored faces to choose from. In iOS, this drop down is accessed by a long-press on any applicable emoji; on OS X, you can select skin tone by clicking an arrow next to the sumbol in OS X’s default Emoji & Symbols viewer. Once you change that emoji’s skin tone from its default of Simpsons yellow to whatever you’d like, the emoji will default to that skin color until you change it again.
The changes to emojis aren’t just limited to faces. Apple has also added LGBT friendly emojis to the betas of iOS 8.3 and OS X Yosemite: emoji showing a family with two dads, for example, or two women exchanging a kiss of affection. It’s a small but tender gesture in favor of diversity.
These are all steps in the right direction when it comes to emojis. Apple’s already garnering some negative press about the default ‘yellow’ emojis, which meant to be racially neutral but which people are already saying look either jaundiced or, strangely, racist. It’s true, the default “yellow” emojis look weird–stylistically, they’re a freaky cross between realistic and cartoonish. This is how the Unicode standard recommends implementing race neutral emojis, but the yellow skin would look less odd on more abstract “smiley” faces than the way it’s done here. Hopefully, Apple will tweak them to look a little less oddball before iOS 8.3 and OS X Yosemite 10.10.3 ships out to everyone.