(Pocket-lint) - It's been a long time coming, but Apple's racially- and culturally-diverse emoji have just appeared in a software update that is now rolling out.
Apple has released iOS 8.3, the third major update to iOS 8. The company first seeded the software to developers in February, then to public beta testers in mid-March, and now it's out for everyone to download and use.
The update is available immediately as an over-the-air download for iPhones and iPads, and it brings a tonne of new features and design tweaks, including new emoji that represent more families, flags, and skin colours.
What are emoji?
Emoji are “picture characters” commonly used in texting and messaging apps throughout the world.
There has been a total of 722 emoji characters available, though rumours have claimed the Unicode Consortium, a nonprofit organisation the governs the Unicode Standard and determines which emoji are accepted, would introduce new emoji characters as part of a Unicode update scheduled to launch in mid-2015.
Why did Apple make diverse emoji?
Apple previously said it wanted to bring more racial diversity to its set of emoji pre-loaded on iOS devices, and so it's been working closely with the Unicode Consortium for over a year in an effort to update the Unicode standard.
Apple first revealed last year that it would update its emoji, which are based on the Unicode standard, so they'd be inclusive of more people. Unicode is in the hands of a consortium though, and so Apple couldn't just issue an update. The Unicode Consortium first had to accept any changes to the Unicode standard.
When will the new emoji launch?
They've already launched via the iOS 8.3 update. The easiest way to update your device is wirelessly (also called “over the air) by plugging in your device to a power source, then going to General under Settings, and selecting Software Update. You can see more specific instructions about how to get iOS software updates here.
What do the new emoji look like?
Check them out in the gallery above.
Not only are there a tonne of new emoji, including things like more families and country flags, but you can also change the skin tone of any emoji by just clicking and holding on the emoji and selecting a new colour. The ability to change any emoji's skin tone is due to a new "skin tone modifier" within the Unicode standard.
Apple has redesigned the emoji keyboard with over 300 new characters and 32 country flags. Interestingly, the watch emoji was changed to look like Apple Watch.
What else is new in iOS 8.3?
Apple's iOS 8.3 update is primarily all about bringing an updated emoji picker, which doesn't just included diversified emoji but also organises the new emoji into scrollable lists and categories.
Other iOS 8.3 changes include wireless CarPlay, so that you can connect your iPhone to a CarPlay systems without a Lightning cable, as well as support for Google two-factor authentication, and Apple Pay support for the China UnionPay network. Siri also gained new languages support and the ability to make calls using the iPhone's speakerphone.
There are also some changes to Passbook and the Photos app, and there's a new option in Messages to separate iMessages between friends and unknown senders. You'll also see a slight difference in the keyboard; the spacebar has been elongated to stop you from hitting the period key whenever typing in Safari.
And finally, you can turn on a setting to allow you to download free apps without the need to enter your password. Apple also included a long list of bug fixes to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, orientation, messages, and more.