Accessibility links

Breaking News

Coming to a Smartphone Near You: Racially-Diverse Emojis

FILE - Apple icon (tablet, phone)

Emojis -- those little smiley faces and other symbols adding emotion and flair to the world's text messages -- are about to get more diverse.

Tech giant Apple is set to release a new set of the animated icons in varying skin tones.

It is all part of Apple's next software update (iOS 8.3), which is currently being beta tested and will be available to the public later this year.

Users of Mac and iOS devices will be able to select different colors of the male and female faces currently available in the emoji menu. Now, the only option is pale-skinned faces.

The emojis depicting couples, families and even characters like Santa Claus will also come in racially-diverse options. And in addition to the same-sex couple symbols added in 2012, there will now be same-sex families.

The emoji keyboard is part of Unicode, the standard for letters, numbers and characters used across all computing platforms. The Unicode Consortium standardized emojis in 2010.

Apple vowed to work on the lack of emoji diversity early last year, and in November, Unicode announced that different complexions would be added to the emoji standard.

"Apple supports and cares deeply about diversity, and is working with The Unicode Consortium to update the standard so that it better represents diversity for all of us," U.S. media outlets quoted an Apple spokesperson as saying.

The new skin tone palette is based on the Fitzpatrick scale, a skin classification system developed by a dermatologist.

Apple's new update reportedly also includes other new symbols, including 32 new country flags.

Material for this report came from AP and AFP.