Earlier this week Apple introduced new and redesigned emoji as part of iOS 10 developer beta 4 and public beta 3. Among the new emoji are a pride flag, single-parent families, and more emoji featuring women. Apple also changed the existing pistol emoji from a realistic image of a gun to a water gun.
According to Jeremy Burge of Emojipedia, Apple's change to the pistol emoji has been the single most poorly received emoji change since he started Emojipedia. The range of criticism has been wide and varied, but as Jeremy points out:
The real issue here is that emoji is bigger than Apple. Or to put it more succinctly, this is dangerous:
If Apple goes ahead with this change in the public iOS 10 release, one person could innocently tweet a toy and have that be seen by others as a weapon.
Burge proposes an alternative way to handle the situation without changing the meaning of the pistol emoji in a way that is inconsistent with other platforms – simply hide it so the pistol emoji isn't available from the iOS keyboard.
I like Burge's solution. Regardless of your view of whether there should be a realistic representation of a gun emoji on iOS, changing the meaning of the emoji is problematic when considered in the context of other vendors that use a realistic gun for the pistol emoji. Apple's change only creates confusion that, as Burge rightly points out, could be dangerous.
For another great discussion of the changes to the pistol emoji in the iOS 10 beta, I also recommend Episode 102 of Connected, which does an excellent job of exploring the difficult issues Apple's change raises.