Some interesting new regulations are starting to appear surrounding emojis on iOS. Apple is starting to reject apps that use emojis in ways they deem against their rules. Emojipedia, a lifeline for anyone who works in social media from their computer and needs to use emojis for dank memes on their corporate channels, reports that app developers are seeing rejections from Apple for using emoji in their app screenshots, or in their apps themselves that Apple deems unfavorable. One example used is the crying emoji used when users can’t connect to Game Center in a game.
Emojis exist in a weird space because technically, they’re just a set of unicode characters. Emoji are standardized, so an emoji typed out on Android is theoretically the same as on iPhone, or on a computer. However, the artwork itself is not standardized, which leads to interesting situations like the Google cheeseburger emoji outcry of 2017 (the biggest geopolitical issue of that year) or cases where certain emoji carry different cultural contexts based on tiny details in the artwork.
Apple might not own emoji, but they own their emoji depictions, so in theory they are saying that developers can’t use their art all willy-nilly on the platform with reckless abandon. Apple’s particular emoji art interpretations play a major role in their marketing, in particular with their Animoji.
However, this also means that Apple is saying that developers can’t display a certain type of unicode character in their app because somebody at Apple said so. And as is to be expected with any kind of Apple policy, there appear to be very selective rules about it, as some apps are getting away with using emoji in ways that would otherwise violate the rules. Emojipedia names Snapchat in particular as an offender of these rules. Some apps are getting away with using the Apple emoji set on other platforms, such as Signal using Apple emojis on Android. Slack notably uses the Apple emoji set on the web and Android as well, even replacing the platform’s native emoji set.
For example, Dashy Crashy (Free), which used to use the official Apple emoji set as you can see in the original launch trailer, now appears to use a custom emoji set in the most recent version of the game.
I asked Travis Ryan of Dumpling Design, developer of Dashy Crashy and the AR tank battler Smash Tanks ($1.99), about the situation, and apparently this has been brewing for a while now.
Dashy Crashy’s prominent use of emoji was an extension of an idea we used for OutRun2, and the solution to us not being able to afford to localise the tons of text we’d written for the game at that time ?? Over time it would become the character of the game, and a useful tool in communicating gameplay goals and performance to players.
However we changed our use of the emoji font last September; for the ’SUPER KART’ event during the ‘Arcade Season’ of updates, we hit upon the idea to use emoji to drive our Karts:
Honestly, even we felt we might have been pushing it a bit too far ?. To comply with Apple’s trademark and copyright guidelines, we opted to replaced all use of the emoji system front in the game and marketing materials with a third-party emoji font – and had a dumpling drive the karts instead – which is obviously less sleek or familiar to iOS players, but maintains the character of the game ?
This is what developers that want to use emoji in their games and apps might have to do going forward: utilize custom-built, non-Apple emoji sets, and avoid the use of emoji in certain text forms. Or if you’re a dev that’s gonna go crazy with emojis, make sure you’re just doing it on Android, where the rules are far more lenient. Perhaps emojis in general were a mistake…if The Emoji Movie wasn’t a warning sign of that already.