Apple emoji puts on a happy face about masking up

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The mask-wearing emoji has a smile on its face. Apparently
Apple’s mask-wearing emoji now looks happy, not sad.
Photo: Apple/Emojipedia

Apple updated the mask-wearing emoji in the latest iOS 14.2 beta so it shows the person is happy to be wearing a mask. It’s a change very much in sync with 2020, when health experts say masks are a vital part of preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Put on a happy face mask

I suggested this kind of emoji change in a Cult of Mac editorial back in July. At the time, I pointed out that “the face shown is unhappy about having to wear a mask.”

Obviously, Apple agreed. The company updated the Face with Medical Mask emoji to show that the person wearing the mask is happy about it. As Emojipedia pointed out, after the change, the mask-wearing emoji is literally Apple’s smiling face emoji with a mask on.

Changing role for the the mask-wearing emoji

Before 2020, the role of the mask-wearing emoji was to indicate that someone felt sick. Thus the person in the emoji looked sad.

In the middle of a pandemic, the role of this emoji changed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, “cloth face coverings are a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19 that could reduce the spread of the disease.” The virus has now killed more than a million people around the world, including more than 200,000 Americans.

Before the update in the beta, Apple’s mask-face emoji was behind the times. As I said in my July editorial, the previous design could “suggest that face masks are something to be disappointed about.”

Not anymore.

Currently, the updated mask-wearing emoji is only available in iOS 14.2 beta 2 and the iPad equivalent. It’s not clear when it will be available to non-beta testers. One possibility is that the updated mask emoji will arrive in iOS 14.1. Apple likely will introduce that update with the iPhone 12 launch expected later this month.