They say a picture is worth a thousand words – and while the humble emoji might not be that advanced as a form of communication, it certainly has its uses (mainly when you can't be bothered to type). No wonder new additions are constantly being added to the current library of hundreds. But Apple might have just released the most topical emoji of them all.
The company has tweaked its existing 'syringe' icon, adapting it into a far less graphic 'vaccine' emoji. All it had to do, it seems, was remove the blood. The newly empty syringe is said to counter the misconception that vaccinations are in any way gruesome. Take a look at our best free graphic design software if you fancy creating an emoji of your own (it doesn't have to be a syringe).
Until last year, the syringe emoji generally represented donating blood. "A good emoji can stand in for multiple purposes," says Keith Broni, deputy emoji officer (now there's a job title) at Emojipedia (opens in new tab).
"The issue with showing blood in the syringe emoji is the unnecessary limitation. Removing the specific liquid inside allows for versatility. It's fair to say the topic of blood is well represented on the emoji keyboard, and perhaps the syringe could be better served with a less specific design."
And in a bizarrely lofty comparison, Broni even manages to equate vaccines with emoji. "New emojis and new vaccines have more in common than might first meet the eye," the site explains. "Both require oversight from various committees, take years to approve, and these result in varied implementations from different companies, but each with the same goal in mind." Sure, Emojipedia. Sure.
While a more universal syringe symbol makes sense, we can't help but wonder: why not keep both? Since the original was more suited to discussions around blood donation (which is, you know, still a thing), it would certainly still have its uses. And it seems Twitter agrees:
blood /why not just... adding the new one AND keeping the old one?? ... https://t.co/O1K0OcMOrKFebruary 17, 2021
why not just,,, have both,,, https://t.co/tnUC490kiwFebruary 17, 2021
THEY COULDVE JUST HAD BOTH WTF https://t.co/XsChAT2mLIFebruary 17, 2021
why don’t u just make a second one dumbass https://t.co/piEhkIqdNTFebruary 17, 2021
we need to refill itwho's willing to make the sacrifice https://t.co/XhZ2Ca0XwpFebruary 17, 2021
This is by no means the first time Apple has tweaked an existing emoji. Most famously, it changed the 'pistol' emoji from a realistic revolver to a bright green water pistol in 2016. And in 2018, it changed its bagel emoji to include cream cheese following an outcry from New Yorkers.
While the decision to replace the original syringe might seem strange, at least the new version is a more versatile icon. And as coronavirus vaccines continue to roll out across the world, hopefully the new design will see plenty of use over the coming months. But as the response shows, users can be pretty unforgiving when it comes to changes to their favourite icons – something Google recently found out the hard way with its new Gmail icon.