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2021 emoji update: 217 new icons coming this month

iOS 14.5 is coming soon, and with it Apple’s yearly emoji update

Each year, Unicode – the consortium in charge of keeping emoji consistent worldwide – adds a batch of new icons to its core emoji set. Those were approved last year, but only just started rolling out to smartphones recently. Before the end of the month, iPhone and iPad will have access to 217 additional emoji.

Well, we say 217, but most of those are variations on a theme. Let’s take a look.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen Unicode focus on diversity, to make sure its existing icons better represent the full range of humans on Earth. Skin tone, gender, disability, and even ginger hair have all been addressed in previous updates. This year, the vast majority of additions are here to bulk out the range of emoji that show couples. Now you can mix and match not just genders but colors, which means couples with mixed skin tones can finally be represented.

Oh, and you can now choose a woman with a beard!

Beyond that, it seems as though Unicode is running out of ideas. Either that, or it’s trying to keep the emoji library from becoming so bloated you’ll never be able to find anything. In terms of the core set,  we’ve got three new smileys (exhaling, spiral eyes, face in clouds) and two new hearts (on fire, mending) to look forward to.

It’s also interesting to note that Apple is adjusting a couple of the existing designs. The syringe emoji is no longer filled with blood, a change that will make it more suitable to use in reference to the COVID-19 vaccine. And the headphones emoji has changed from a generic set to representing Apple’s own AirPods Max. Whether anyone will be swayed to buy a set of the $500 headphones based solely on its new emoji is anyone’s guess.

Thanks to Emojipedia for the image mockups. The new emoji will be available with the release of iOS 14.5, expected later in March.