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Apple’s iOS 14.5 emoji promote inclusivity, vaccines, and the AirPods Max

The update also includes more skin tones and some wild new smiley faces

As part of iOS 14.5, Apple is adding new emoji from the Unicode Consortium’s Emoji 13.1 release, including skin tone options for some popular emoji and several new smiley faces and hearts. The company is also making some changes to other emoji that are already available.

The new changes to skin tone and gender presentation are probably the most important to note. Popular emoji like “Couples Kissing” and “Couples with Heart” now have many more skin tone variations for all options.

Skin tone variations for the “Couples with Heart” emoji in iOS 14.5.
Image: Emojipedia

In addition to more skin tones, the bearded emoji has also been adjusted to allow for not just the neutral “Person:Beard” but also “Man:Beard” and “Woman:Beard.”

The various beard options in iOS 14.5.
Image: Emojipedia

Apple’s update also includes its take on the new smiley faces included in the Unicode Consortium’s newest emoji set, including “Exhaling Face,” “Face with Spiral Eyes,” and “Face in Clouds.” Hearts, another emoji go-to category, also has two new members joining its ranks, “Heart on Fire” and “Mending Heart.”

All of these emoji were approved by the Unicode Consortium in September, meaning that vendors could begin integrating them into their products and services at that time. But it’s up to the individual companies to design how emoji look on their devices and services, which is why a smiley face on your iPhone looks different than it does on Twitter. Companies also decide when the new emoji show up — Pixel users, for example, have been able to use the new emoji since December.

Apple is also making tweaks to some existing emoji, however: the rock-climbing emoji will now feature a helmet, the syringe emoji is now a more generic one rather than one filled with blood, and the headphones look like the AirPods Max.

The syringe change could be a legitimately helpful one for anyone writing about COVID-19. Not only is the new syringe way less intimidating when emptied of blood, but it’s also more applicable to vaccinations, which will hopefully become a lot more common soon. Check out this comparison from Emojipedia:

Changing the headphones emoji to resemble AirPods Max, on the other hand, follows a known pattern: Apple regularly inserts its own products into its emoji set as a form of free product placement. (Apple’s mobile phone emoji looks a lot like an iPhone, for example.) If you want to see just how different the new headphones emoji is, Emojipedia made that comparison, too:

Apple says all of these emoji are available in the new release of the iOS 14.5 beta, which also comes with a nice little change to the Apple Music app. According to users on Reddit running the beta, you can now add and remove music from your queue with the same kind of swiping gesture used in Apple’s Mail app to archive, delete, or flag emails.

The full release of iOS 14.5 is also said to include several other helpful additions like support for the new Xbox and PlayStation controllers, the ability to set Siri’s default music streaming service to Spotify, and the ability to unlock your phone with your Apple Watch.

Update February 16th, 8:30PM ET: Added context about the new emoji and the changes to older emoji in iOS 14.5.