Samsung denies AR Emoji are copied from Apple’s Animoji. Yeah right.

Samsung claims its new AR emoji are not copied from Apple’s Animoji

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Samsung AR Emoji
Samsung's AR Emoji give Galaxy owners a taste of iPhone X.
Photo: Samsung

A signature feature of Samsung’s new Galaxy S9 flagship phone is AR Emoji, which bear a very strong resemblance to Apple’s Animoji. But Samsung’s mobile chief claims that’s a complete coincidence.

When The Wall Street Journal asked D.J. Koh if the inspiration for his company’s emojis that mimic user’s facial movements was a nearly identical feature that debuted in the iPhone X last fall, he said, “Their approach and my approach is totally different. I do work seriously based off my own roadmap.”

It’s not the first time Samsung has been accused of copying Apple. There have been numerous examples over the years, from Apple Pay/Samsung Pay to remarkably similar circular icons in Samsung’s smartwatch. Most famously, Samsung lost a high-profile court case accusing the Korean giant of ripping off the iPhone. (Apple has also been accused of copying Samsung. Exhibits include Plus-sized and full-screen phones, both of which Samsung debuted first.)

In Koh’s defense, it’s unlikely that Samsung was able to fully develop the code for AR Emoji in the few months since Apple announced Animoji. But the timing for the public release was almost certainly driven by the need to compete with Apple’s offering.

Apple Animoji
Apple Animoji mimic facial expressions.

Also, AR Emoji isn’t a straight copy. The iPhone X gives users a small selection of characters that can be animated, including a unicorn and a fox — but not a human. Samsung, by contrast, allows the user to create an animated version of their own face. That said, AR Emoji includes some licensed Disney characters that can be animated.

Early responses to Samsung’s new feature have so far been mixed. After testing the Galaxy S9 this week at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Spain, a writer for The Verge described AR Emojis as “kind of horrifying.”

Samsung Galaxy S9 is all about the camera

The fact that AR Emoji is camera-related isn’t surprising, as virtually all the new features in the Galaxy S9 involve taking images or video. For example, Samsung heavily touted the phone’s improved abilities to take slow-motion video in the official announcement of the S9 on Sunday.

The company had much less to say about the other new features of this upcoming device, possibly because most of these come with the latest version of Google’s Android operating system and are therefore available to any device running it.