There are so many versions of Android in circulation, all with different emoji sets, so a message that looks perfectly reasonable on one phone might be a mess of black boxes and grey flags on another.
It's a problem Twitter has decided to tackle (smiley) head on. From today, Twitter for Android will ignore your phone's emoji and replace them with its own 'Twemoji'. This will bring the collection of emojis available to Android users back in line with those on the Twitter web app and Tweetdeck.
To toggle Twemoji, go into the app's settings, select 'Display and sound' and check 'Use the Twitter emoji set instead of your device's default set'.
Unicode releases specifications for a new set of emoji each year (the 2018 set includes such essentials as a pirate flag, a raccoon and a stick of dynamite), but there isn't a standard set of icons for all devices. Instead, phone manufacturers create their own emoji to Unicode's guidelines.
"While the shape of the character can vary significantly, designers should maintain the same 'core' shape, based on the shapes used mostly commonly in industry practice," Unicode says. "For example, a U+1F36F HONEY POT encodes for a pictorial representation of a pot of honey, not for some semantic like 'sweet'. It would be unexpected to represent U+1F36F HONEY POT as a sugar cube, for example."
Unfortunately, manufacturers don't roll out new emoji for older versions of Android, leading to a patchwork of outdated and missing icons.
The fragmentation situation is likely to become even worse in the coming years. Right now, only 6% of Android devices are running the latest version, Oreo, and devices running Android P are due to arrive in September.
It seems wise for a service like Twitter that makes such heavy use of emoji to find a way to give all users the same set of characters. Happy faces all round. 😊️