With iOS 10, Apple Steps Up Emoji Gender Diversity

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This fall's iOS 10 rollout will bring big changes to the way iPhone and iPad users interact with emoji, but Apple wants to make sure that diversity doesn't get lost in the shuffle.

Today the company released some samples of the myriad skin colors and gender diversity its new emoji characters will wear. Darker skin tones are especially well represented: there are non-white female runners, mountain bikers, construction workers, and even someone who vaguely resembles a black, female version of Sherlock Holmes.

There's also a new rainbow flag, as well as what appears to be a single father with his two children and a single mother with her son. The new emoji have been available since the June release of Unicode 9.0, though Apple and other companies typically take months to integrated new Unicode releases into their software.

Apple said in a statement that it is "working closely with the Unicode Consortium to ensure that popular emoji characters reflect the diversity of people everywhere."

Cupertino's cognisance of emoji diversity isn't unique in Silicon Valley. Although emoji themselves are proposed and voted on by the Unicode Consortium, companies are usually quick to promote their adoption of the latest diverse icons.

Facebook, for example, recently started rolling out more than 1,500 newly designed icons, including many of the same ones Apple previewed today. Gender diversity, meanwhile, is largely thanks to Google, which submitted a proposal for more emoji representing female "professionals" in May. And the Unicode Consortium has been working on developing racially diverse emoji since at least 2014, when Unicode 8.0 added the option to modify the skin color of human emoji.

Of course, gender diversity isn't emoji's only new offering. If you ever wanted to express yourself with a water pistol, a facepalm, or someone rolling on the floor laughing (ROTFL), you're also in luck.

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