Developer’s Manual to Android Emoji 🤖😊: Google Edition

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Emoji in Mobile Apps

Emoji Riddles How to Play on Android 11

In our debut game, Emoji Riddles™, relies on a number of different aspects of emoji to make each riddle decipherable. As shown to the right, in the the how to play screen, the illustration of the emoji matters for brainstorming the underlying words in the riddle. If the emoji illustrations are not consistent from player to player, some players could suffer a poor experience and have lower overall engagement. This post seeks to help developers understand key differences when relying on the system default emoji for use in a mobile application.

The full emoji list currently shows over 2000 emoji with twelve different organizations, such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter, creating their own illustrations for each code point. Everything would be great if all devices contained all the emoji as soon as they are published to the specification, but that is hardly the case today. Instead, emoji are bundled with mobile operating system releases and thus if a device loses support users are stuck with the emoji available only in that version. If an app shows an emoji that is not available on that operating system a dreaded empty box or box with an X in it, which we learned quickly during test!

Android Ecosystem

Emoji Riddles™ Compatible Name API Level Release Date
Android API 30 30 September 8th, 2020
Android 10.0 Q 29 September 3rd, 2019
Android 9.0 Pie 28 August 6th, 2018
Android 8.1 Oreo 27 December 5th, 2017
Android 8.0 Oreo 26 August 21st, 2017
Android 7.1.1 Nougat 25 October 20th, 2016
Android 7.0 Nougat 24 August 22nd, 2016
Android 6.0 Marshmallow 23 December 7th, 2015

The Android ecosystem has traditionally been more fractured than the iOS ecosystem. All this means is that new Android operating system adoption tends to drag and on and on due to having to coordinate across so many device manufacturers. Google, the lead company in developing the Android ecosystem, has been working hard to fix this problem with efforts such as Project Treble and other software architecture updates.

Source: StatCounter Global Stats - Android Version Market Share

According to StatCounter, the leading Android OS by active devices in North America, arguably the most valuable mobile market, are Android 10 Q, 9.0 Pie, and 8.0/8.1 Oreo, at roughly 44%, 24%, and 13.5% respectively. If a developer were to set their minimum SDK version (minSdkVersion) to Android 8.0 Oreo (API level 26) their app would be available to roughly 81.5% of active Android devices in North America. For 2021, Google is updating their target API level to 30. When looking world wide, Android 6.0 Marshmallow, is still very present (~7% at time of writing) and important to keep in mind if you are planning to deploy an app with emoji globally.

Source: StatCounter Global Stats - Android Version Market Share


Google emoji images are used on most Android devices, Gmail Web Interface, Google Hangouts, and ChromeOS. These are provided as part of the Noto Emoji project. These images are also used for Slack on non-Apple platforms including Windows, Linux, and Android.> > Emojipedia

API Level Release Date Emoji Changes # Total # Changed # New # Removed
30 2020-09-08 Full support for Emoji 13.0 3341 2144 117 0
29 2018-09-03 Full support for Emoji 12.0 and gender-neutral versions. 3056 787 236 5
28 2018-08-06 Full support for Emoji 11.0 2815 110 161 5
27 2017-12-05 Fixes to food emoji: burger, cheese, beer 2669 4 0 0
26 2017-08-21 A complete redesign of every emoji transforming from “blob” smileys into a more common circle shape. Added support for Emoji 5.0 2644 2192 290 5
25 2016-10-20 Added emoji professions, gendered emojis, and single parent families. 2379 38 583 0
24 2016-08-22 Added modifiers for skin tone. 1786 1316 496 0
23 2015-12-07 Supports Unicode 7.0, Unicode 8.0, and ZWJ Sequences 1294 45 214 0

Key Takeaways

  • Google is the main developer of the Android Open Source Project.
  • The Android ecosystem is fractured and thus when considering which API levels to support, take into account older operating systems that support all necessary emoji needed by your application. Or consider using a emoji designed by a third party.
  • Google “provides the direction, planning, and final aesthetic decisions” for the Noto Emoji project (GitHub), as the source for the emoji font supported on Android and Linux.
  • Being the main developer and designer of emoji in the Android ecosystem, Google is quick to adopt the latest Unicode character specifications.
  • Emojipedia does an excellent job tracking everything going on in the world of emoji. We suggest following their updates on Google.

Samsung has a roughly 25% market share of the mobile market in North America. Follow Sidework AI on Twitter, Facebook, and RSS to keep up-to-date with the next post covering Samsung emoji!