Earlier this year, in a move that was well received by gun control activists, Apple replaced the more realistic-looking gun emoji with a bright green water gun in its iOS 10 update. Android users should not expect a similar modification, as Google, which owns the operating system, announced at the inaugural Emojicon in San Francisco that it would be keeping its gun emoji.
The motivation to keep the gun emoji is to ensure nothing gets lost in translation; Google essentially wants to make certain emojis are universally consistent across its different devices and platforms. This way, in theory, there will be no miscommunication between a user sending a relatively harmless water gun emoji and a user who receives a pistol emoji.
"The thing is, emojis already look different on different platforms, and it does cause confusion," Jeremy Burge, editor of Emojipedia, told the BBC at the time of Apple's gun emoji redesign. "When we're dealing with guns and toys as a comparison, that's a whole new level of problems that we have there."
Currently, Apple's operating system is the only one to represent the gun emoji as a squirt gun. While Microsoft previously had a toy gun emoji, it switched to a revolver emoji as part of its Windows 10 Anniversary Update one week after Apple's announcement.
"We believe in the cross-platform communication, so we are maintaining our gun," Rachel Been, a Google art director who worked on Android emojis, said at the three-day event, according to Fortune.
Apple, Google and Microsoft are all members of Unicode Consortium, the nonprofit in charge of selecting and overseeing emojis.