Emoji Library Getting a Lunar Update in 2017

February 1, 2017 - 2 minutes read

If there’s one thing iPhone app developers can all agree on, it’s that emojis are the best thing to happen to phone keyboards since touch screens. So the tech community is looking forward to some much-needed updates in 2017. Proposals for dinosaurs, holiday themes, and of course more cats have fingers crossed in Silicon Valley.

For now, three additions we can count on: Lunar New Year icons symbolizing luck, prosperity, and good fortune. The Unicode powers that be have been under some pressure to add more cultural diversity to the Unicode standard, and the firecracker, cake, and red envelope will be among several emojis referencing Chinese culture. The full list, as of yet, is not clear.

It bears mentioning that while western cultures tend to think of the Lunar New Year as “Chinese,” it’s actually celebrated by millions of non-Chinese people and countries, with various variations on the sharing of cake and money-filled envelopes.

The red envelope emoji may seem random to some, but it actually makes sense and will have high utility for users who celebrate the Lunar New Year. Digital red envelopes have been very popular on the Chinese chat app platform WeChat, where the developers created a “lottery” that encouraged users to shake their phones to “catch” envelopes, some of which contained cash payments.

Capitalizing on holidays and special events has long been a mainstay of the brick-and-mortar business world, and it’s interesting to see major mobile platforms following a similar path. How more experimental chat app platforms like Facebook’s Messenger will interpret holiday concepts remains to be seen. (Although many users noticed time-sensitive snowing backgrounds and snow globe icon options around last Christmas.)

That said, unicode updates are notoriously slow to roll out, as they have to be standardized and implemented on every mobile and desktop platform beforehand. San Diego app developers can expect to start seeing the Chinese symbols join their emoji indexes in early 2018.

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