Google murders old emojis and Android users aren't so happy about it

Google murders old emojis and Android users aren't so happy about it

CultureJune 02, 2017 By Sean Sullivan

Google has decided to murder its traditional face blob emojis in favor of conventional rounded smileys. The asymmetric conal faces have long been a token of Android devices. Now, they’ll be relegated to the past when Google launches the next version of Android — ominously dubbed “O” — this fall. What was once original and unique will be confined to the annals of history, to be forgotten except by future historians who try and decipher what the hell we were all talking about in the early 21st Century.      

Let’s examine a small selection of the over 2000 new emojis and compare them to the old. Take the rabbit and turtle for example. Those old emojis sure are cute, aren’t they? They’re boisterous and fun, signs you’re ready for a good time, or you just need a zany way to finish that “heyyy” text message you shot off before heading out for the night. Look at that land-dwelling reptile. That’s a tortoise who can kick the hare’s ass in a foot race, solve Zeno’s paradox and chug a beer at the finish line.



Now, let’s use that nasty postmodernist destructuralism on the new emojis. Are those rabbits, or vampiric gerbils eager to star in the inevitable reboot of Nosferatu? What’s with that tonal stroke outline and that smug turtle face that says, “Either I’m on PCP" or "I just shit in your shoe and ain’t nothing you can do about it.” What is this? If I was a lesser person I would say that the new rabbits are insulting to bucktooth people, but I think it’s fair to say all people everywhere can set aside their differences and rage, rage against the dying of the classic Android emojis.

Redditor RaindropsPony certainly isn’t happy. “This is a huge step backward in design. What the fuck.” That’s not a question. They what to know what kind of fucks were running through the minds of Google’s design team when they set to work on this class of emojis. And RaindropsPony’s eloquent criticism isn’t alone. Many professional Internet commentators aren't happy. They want to know “why?”  

Well, Google’s creative director Rachel Been explains the company's motivations driving the design shift: “We also spent a long, long time making sure that we addressed cross-platform emotional consistency. Because one of our main goals with the redesign was to avoid confusion or miscommunication across platforms, we wanted to assure the user that when they sent an emoji to a friend, the message was clearly communicated regardless of whether they are on iOS, Windows, Samsung, or any other platform.” Fair enough.

But gradients? C’mon. Your classic emoji’s flat bold affect that seemed inspired by the zero-outline artwork of Samurai Jack — which was somewhat groundbreaking when it released — is wonderful. It pops on your screen, “Hey! Look at me.” Sure, things evolve, they shift, they adapt to the new needs of a new generation. But, circles? So conformist Google.

Maybe the new design isn’t regressive, but it’s certainly Google relegating themselves to the herd, to the lowest common denominator, which is effective when you’re appealing to the masses.  

It’s too bad. I liked my inclusive VIP emojis that said, “Yeah, I’m an Android user, and I’ve got something you can’t have for once Apple. Get shat.” Now my mobile hieroglyphic expressions that may or may not signify the decline of civilization are the same as everyone else. Soon, sexting iOS users won't have the magic of miscommunication so paramount to feeding my primal modern needs. Where’s my emoji individuality? 

I’m sure Google employed A/B testing for the new designs — it practically streamlined the obsessive approach back in 2000. That meaning, the company showed one group the old emojis and the other the new emojis and rated their satisfaction to either. So, maybe the outcry of disdain on public forums is reactionary. People don’t like change.

What people vocalize is often different than how they act, as highlighted in detail in Seth Stephens-Davidowitz’s excellent book "Everybody Lies." When Facebook released News Feed, upset users formed anti-News Feed groups. They were as mad as Alex Jones. But Zuckerberg looked at the data and learned that the protesters didn’t represent the overall Facebook population. 

Davidowitz writes, “In other words, while people were joining in a big public uproar over how unhappy they were about seeing all the details of their friends’ lives on Facebook, they were back to Facebook to sell all the details of their friends’ lives. News Feed stayed. Facebook now has more than one billion daily active users.” Just because a few people are pissed off doesn’t mean what you’ve got isn’t working.  

The update isn’t without its merits, however. We now have six shades of a woman breastfeeding emoji, so you can let everyone in your contacts list know why you’re visiting the park. We’ve even got nine new emojis to express emotions, because using words to convey disdain or how I feel like a raging T-rex just isn’t that easy. Is that a delicious dumpling emoji? I do like dumplings.

Rest in peace emoji blobs. I will remember you when you die this fall. I will remember your cutesy, quiet, expressive revolution.

Wait. What am I talking about? I never really used them ever? Who the hell is using all these things?