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Animoji will sell iPhones

Family Sharing
Family Sharing (Image credit: iMore)

It's been a bad year Apple firmware leaks. Last month it was unfiltered HomePod firmware accidentally placed in a public directory. This weekend it was iOS 11 Gold Master (GM) firmware leaked to a news outlet.

Leaks happen. They suck for Apple, which loses the value of surprise at the upcoming keynote, and all the employees who have their weekends shattered, their grand unveilings ruined, and will face yet tighter and less convenient disclosure policies going forward. But, they can also help consumers get an earlier, if murkier, glimpse at what's coming up next, so they can better plan their purchases.

I have no beef with leaks. Revel in them or avoid them as you wish, just like you do movie trailers, script leaks, and episode bootlegs. The choice is entirely yours. Just don't read the spoilers and then claim nothing surprised you and everything was boring. Because that's a dick move.

Which brings me, circuitously, to Animoji.

The power of emoji

A funny thing happened at WWDC 2016. Apple's vice-president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, announced "larger emoji" for the company's iMessage platform, and he got one of the biggest rounds of applause at the event.

Understandably so. Messaging is ludicrously popular on mobile. China basically runs on WeChat, Facebook has launched and bought almost as many messaging services as Google has abandoned. And iMessage is the most popular app on iOS.

People love messaging but, increasingly, they love messaging not just with text but with stickers, emoji, and similar visuals.

That's because text, by itself, is a dry, emotionless, and easily misconstrued. Text someone you'll be late and they're likely to get upset with you. Send them a funny sticker or emoji of you racing their way, though, and you just might get a smile instead.

Rumor has it Apple had an even bigger emojification feature planned for the event — one that would emojify the sender — but weren't quite happy with the results. Animoji, if the leaks are right, seems like a vastly better idea and implementation.

Enter, Animoji

Apple has been experimenting with animated emoji for a while. Apple Watch at launch featured animated faces, hearts, and hands. Animoji take things to the next level.

From 9to5Mac:

'Animoji' [uses] the 3D face sensors to create custom 3D animated emoji based on the expressions you make into the camera.Users will be able to make Animoji of unicorns, robots, pigs, pile of poo and many more.

The Animoji apparently let you "create custom animated messages that use your voice and reflect your facial expressions."

You'll presumably need the more expensive iPhone X — or iPhone 8, iPhone Edition, iPhone Pro, or whatever Apple ends up calling the next(er)-generation OLED iPhone — for them to work, but that's the point.

Selling iPhones

I'm buying tongue-in-cheek when I say a feature like Animoji will sell iPhones. Kind of. The original iPhone lacked many features found in other smartphones of the day but had a user experience so compelling many people didn't care. They just saw the pinch-to-zoom, CoverFlow, rubber banding, and were blown away.

It's those small but incredibly important little touches that speak to people and influence purchasing decisions. Things that take complex new technologies like multitouch and make them relatable.

Animoji and other fun new features like Face ID will help do that for the new sensors in the new iPhone. They'll take complex new technologies like real-time 3D scanning and make them relatable.

Compelling, even.

Rene Ritchie
Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

19 Comments
  • "It's been a bad year Apple firmware leaks" It's been a bad year for proofreading articles also.
  • Phrases like "**** move" and "they suck" belong in the comments section, (posted by a hormonal teen), rather than in a supposed 'professional' publication.
  • It's incredibly patronising to censor your readership for minor swearing offences (why the H, E, L, L can't I say ****?) when imore think they're of a high enough import to say abbreviated-Richard.
  • Didn't like that myself, but they don't belong in the cesspool of comments either. I've started to come around less because of them.
  • "I'm buying tongue-in-cheek when I say...", should be, "I'm being tongue-in-cheek when I say..." I believe. Bad year for proofreading, indeed!
  • Rumor has it Apple had an even bigger emojification feature planned for the event — one that would emojify the sender. Another rumor is that the new emoji will be as big as Rene head.
  • im not sure how much an emoji matters when i have to swipe up every time before i click the "home" button.
  • Where do you have to swipe up? In relation to what?
  • in the leaks i saw theres a little line at the bottom of each app that you swipe up to get to the virtual home button. unless I'm missing something in translation
  • I think most have a different interpretation of of how this will work. The going theory is that swipe up will take you home or two your app switcher (similar to iPad beta). I suspect (hope) Apple has a user friendly solution. Fingers crossed
  • And they do, you swipe up and it takes you to the home screen, really simple and easy
  • doing that every time is going to get real old. real quick
  • Just like pressing the home button did
  • Not all of us like spoilers, Mr. Troll
  • "Just don't read the spoilers and then claim nothing surprised you and everything was boring." Well said!
  • If people want to pay $1099 for their 13 year old to have animoji's, maybe it will sell iPhones. Don't see this as a feature that will get fiscally intelligent people to bone up that kind of cash for a phone.
  • Animoji is one of those features people will use for 3 days and then forget about. The technology behind it is cool, but is it worth $1000 (or more)? I'm not convinced.
  • Animojis are something little girls and teens will enjoy. As a businessman, I'd get laughed out of the conference room if I used those, and not because people would think they're funny. No thanks.
  • Yes, it's very cool, but I don't see anything that is making me freak out and need this over my 7+. If someone offered this to me for free, I'd take it and get a case that covers the front cameras when not using them. I'd pay $1.99 for an app that did this, not $200 more. Problem is I'm not Apple's target audience.