The TrueDepth camera on the front of the iPhone X isn’t only used for Face ID. The advanced facial recognition also powers a fun feature in the Messages app called Animoji.

Whether you have an iPhone X or not, this is an impressive tech demo that will likely pave the way for similar features to make their way to the full iPhone and iPad range in future, so let’s take a look.

Animoji tracks your facial expressions and movements, mapping them onto three-dimensional versions of classic emoji characters – all in real time. You can record these characters moving and speaking in your voice, and send the recordings to friends.

How to use

To access Animoji, first open the Messages app and start composing a message to somebody. Press the Apps button to the left of the text input box to open the App Drawer, and then tap the monkey-faced Animoji icon along the bottom of the screen.

You can use Animoji within the App Drawer itself, or tap the grey up arrow to expand the feature to fill the entire display for a better look at what you’re doing.

Move your head around and you’ll see the Animoji on-screen mirror your actions live. Try speaking and making different faces – iPhone X can track the movements of fifty distinct facial muscles for some pretty complex expressions!

You can choose from twelve different emoji to impersonate, from monkeys to unicorns to a literal pile of poo. (Yes, really.)

To record a clip, press the red record button and start speaking into the camera. Press the button again when you’re done, or keep going until the recording times out. You can then press the blue arrow to send your recording to your friend, or hit the red trash can to delete it and try again.

Sharing Animoji

Only the iPhone X can record Animoji, but any iOS device can receive them via iMessage. If you want to send one to a non-Apple device, it will send as a video clip via MMS message. Be aware that this may incur extra charges from your service provider.