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(Pocket-lint) - Apple's Animoji are custom, animated versions of popular emoji characters. The feature uses Apple's Face ID facial-recognition system to create 3D emoji that mirror your own facial expressions.

You can make and share them with other Apple users through the Messages app and while there were only a few available in 2017 when they first launched, there are now multiple options, as well as Memoji which you can read all about in our separate feature.

Here's what you need to know about Animoji and how they work.

What are Apple Animoji?

Apple's Animoji are custom animated messages that use your voice and reflect your facial expressions.

Ever use those cool lenses in Snapchat? Well, Apple's Animoji feature works very similarly - only instead of being based on custom masks developed by Snapchat, they're based on popular emoji.

There are over 25 emojis available, including poop, panda, pig, robot and ghost. They essentially mirror your facial expressions. So, as you move your face and talk, they will do the same, in real-time.

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How do Animoji work?

Face ID

Face ID is a facial-recognition feature developed by Apple. It launched in 2017 on the iPhone X but it's on all iPhones since that device, except the iPhone SE (2020), and it will likely be on future iPhones too.

To make Face ID possible, Apple crams a lot of hardware into a tiny area at the top of the displays of compatible iPhones. This area is dubbed the TrueDepth camera system, and it is made up of a flood illuminator, infrared camera, front camera, dot projector, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, a speaker, and microphone. When you glance at an iPhone with Face ID, the TrueDepth camera system kicks in.

Animoji leverages the TrueDepth camera system used for Face ID, as well as the chip inside a compatible iPhone, to capture and analyse more than 50 different muscle movements in your face. It then mirrors your expressions in different emoji to produce Animoji.

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How to create and share Animoji?

Animoji is available within the Messages app and FaceTime on a compatible iPhone running iOS 12 and above. You can create and edit Animoji in fullscreen through the Messages app, and they'll be animated in real-time before you send them as a message.

When you send them, the recipient will receive them as looping videos with audio.

For FaceTime, you can choose an Animoji to take part in the video call instead of your real face. The Animoji you choose will appear on top of your shoulders. 

Here's how to create and share an Animoji on Messages:

  1. Open Apple's Messages app.
  2. Open a message with a contact.
  3. Tap the App Store icon next to the text field in a conversation thread.
  4. Tap the Animoji (character in yellow square frame) icon from the selection of App Store apps in the tray below the input field.
  5. While looking at your compatible iPhone, scroll to the emoji you want to turn into an Animoji.
  6. Bring your face into view and press the red record button.
  7. Tap the send (blue arrow) button to send the Animoji.

Here's how to use an Animoji on FaceTime:

  1. Open the FaceTime app.
  2. Choose the contact you want to FaceTime video call.
  3. Select the Effects icon at the bottom of yout screen
  4. Choose the Animoji (character in yellow square frame) icon
  5. Select the Animoji you want to replace your face
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Which emoji work with Animoji?

You can create an Animoji out of the following emoji on a compatible iPhone: Mouse, Octopus, Cow, Giraffe, Shark, Owl, Boar, Monkey, Robot, Cat, Dog, Alien, Fox, Poop, Pig, Panda, Rabbit, Chicken, Unicorn, Lion, Dragon, Skull, Bear, Tiger, Koala, Dinosaur, Ghost.

More continue to be added over time.

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Which devices support Animoji?

Anyone with iOS 11 or later can receive and view Animoji, but to create and share them, you'll need an Apple device with Face ID. The current list of compatible iPhones with Face ID are:

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  • Apple iPhone X
  • Apple iPhone XS
  • Apple iPhone XS Max
  • Apple iPhone XR
  • Apple iPhone 11
  • Apple iPhone 11 Pro
  • Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
  • Apple iPhone 12 mini
  • Apple iPhone 12 
  • Apple iPhone 12 Pro
  • Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

What about Memoji?

Memoji are personalised Animoji. These can look exactly like you (or a version of you with, say, yellow skin, blue hair, a mohawk, a 'fro, man bun, or a cowboy hat).

As you adjust your Memoji to suit you, whether changing the head shape, brows, or eye colour, you will see the Memoji change in real-time via Message's built-in Memoji builder tool. Just like Animoji's, Memoji's work in FaceTime too.

To learn more about how Memoji work, see Pocket-lint's guide.

Writing by Maggie Tillman. Editing by Britta O'Boyle.