Google appears to be working on making updating Android’s emoji easier, and maybe even allowing for custom emoji in the process.
XDA spotted some unmerged commits on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) related to emoji. For those unfamiliar with AOSP, developers can submit code changes (commits) to the project, which can then be merged into AOSP and become part of the open-source code. The unmerged code spotted by XDA would, if merged, potentially allow updates to the emoji without requiring full system upgrades.
For context, Android currently stores font files that handle emoji within its system files. These files are ‘read-only,’ which means they can’t be accessed or changed except during system updates. It’s also worth noting that people who root their Android phones can modify these files, but in most cases, the hassle of rooting isn’t worth it just to change up the look of your emoji.
What makes these commits so exciting is they would adjust the storage of emoji font files and allow the ‘system_server’ to modify those files. In other words, emoji could be changed without an Android update.
For now, it remains unclear how flexible this change would be. On the one hand, Google could restrict it to certain system apps, such as Google Play Services, and use that to update emoji without pushing system updates. On the other hand, the company could open up the system to allow third-party apps to modify the emoji files. Potentially, that could allow developers to add third-party emoji packs to the Play Store so users can update and customize the look of their emoji.
As cool as that would be, I have my doubts that Google will open up the emoji that much. Plus, these changes are largely speculation, given that the code changes have yet to be merged. Until that happens, there’s nothing to get excited about.