(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 several, 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 - at least that's how Apple describes them.

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 20 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.


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 can also be found on the iPhone XR, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, as well as the iPhone 11 models and it will 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.


How to create and share Animoji?

Animoji is available within the Messages app on a compatible iPhone running iOS 12 and above. You can create and edit Animoji in fullscreen, 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.

Here's how to create and share an Animoji:

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

Which emoji work with Animoji?

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

We suspect more will be added over time.

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:

  • 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

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

Writing by Maggie Tillman.