More than 100 million iOS 6 users will have a number of new ways to express themselves with Apple's expanded selection of emojis, the little Japanese images used as shorthand in texts, emails and on social media sites.
Emojis are a lot like emoticons, but consist of pictures instead of a series of standard characters. There are many emojis that depict emoticons, but there are also many that depict activities, weather, food and drink, and can be used as a quick replacement for text. For instance, instead of asking a friend to meet for a burger, you could just use the hamburger emoji, along with a clock showing that you need to set a time to meet.
New emojis include same-sex couple icons, Sanzaru monkeys (see, hear and say no evil), as well as nearly twice as many activity and event choices.
Some emojis may be unfamiliar to people outside of Asia. The red-tagged bamboo represents the custom of hanging wishes on a Tanabata tree; the blue spiral is a cyclone , and the building with striped towers is a textile factory. But most emojis are not hampered by cultural references — most everyone understands a big red heart.
Emojis have been standardized by Japanese wireless carriers as a set of 722 pictographs, available on most devices within networks in Japan and other Asian countries. Apple's iOS devices allow you to enable an emoji keyboard, but the pictures can only be seen by other iOS users.
To activate emojis on your iPhone, open your Settings, tap General, scroll down to find and click on Keyboard and then tap on Keyboards in iOS 6 or International Keyboards in iOS 5, and finally tap Add New Keyboard. You'll see Emoji, along with keyboards for more than 50 languages. When you next bring up the keyboard to type, you'll see a globe-icon key. Tap to switch to the emoji keyboard.
iOS emojis show as a string of boxes on sites like Instagram when you're not using an Apple device.
"We do not display emoji for Android users, and hide comments that solely consist of emoji," Instagram says on its Help page.
While the boxes may look random, they contain code that can be translated. Try iemoji.com : Copy the boxes from a comment and paste them into the conversion feature; then hit enter and the boxes will become emojis.
Some people go wild with emojis, adding strings of the little pictures to every tweet, Instagram comment and Facebook update. However, not everyone loves the little symbols.
"I won't go so far as to say that emoji are the spawn of Satan," Meg St. Clair wrote on Apple's forum in response to another user who was having problems seeing emojis on her phone. "You could always learn to send emoticons the old fashioned way ;-)”