Was that a smile? It turns out that Emojis are subject to interpretation

emoji study shows ambiguity 25617662995 e1bc33e0bc k
Frank Behrens / Flickr
Was that a smile? Or was it something else? That’s what the GroupLens lab is wondering about regarding a certain special emoji over at the University of Minnesota. It turns out answering this question is harder than you think, and goes to show that you can’t always be sure of what someone means when they send you a quick emoji as a response.

Emojis are essential for any avid mobile communicator. No one has the time these days to write out full, carefully thought out sentences when a simple image will suffice. The problem is being sure you are communicating what you mean by that emoji, and that’s what the researchers decided to investigate.

The emoji at issue, shown in the chart below, is called “Grinning Face With Smiling Eyes” on Emojipedia (Yes, there’s an encyclopedia of emojis). And as it turns out, it looks a whole lot different depending on the device or app you use. The grinning, rosy-cheeked version on Samsung Galaxy devices is the same emoji that looks, well, mysterious on Facebook Messenger and Apple iMessage.

And this is where the confusion begins, according to the GroupLens research lab. A recent survey conducted by the lab, in conjunction with the group’s emoji-rich academic paper, sheds light on how people react different to emojis depending on the device they use. They tested this grimacing (or grinning) emoji on a number of devices, rating how positive or negative a reaction someone had to the image.

SentimentRatings-GrinningFaceWSmilingEyes_Apple-1-1024x650

By far, users on Android and Samsung Galaxy devices saw the emoji as a positive message, while iPhone users primarily saw it as a negative message. It’s pretty easy to understand why when you see how different they look compared to the iOS or Facebook Messenger versions. What makes this even more confusing is that a significant number of iPhone users also saw the same emoji as a positive message, furthering the problem that exists with “knowing” what an emoji really means. The lack of a conclusive opinion on the emoji shows how fellow iPhone users can be confused by a message using it.

This isn’t something new in the emoji world either. We use all sorts of emojis to convey things beyond their original meaning — just ask anyone using the eggplant emoji a lot. While the original meaning is a positive one, the way the emoji has been designed for new devices has since complicated that meaning.

We all communicate differently, and use slang, emojis, and other things to say what we mean as quickly as possible. Think about that the next time you send this emoji to your friends and wonder why someone misunderstood the intended meaning. It might be that they saw the expression as half-smile, or perhaps half-frown — or maybe they’re just using an iPhone.

Computing

In the age of Alexa and Siri, Cortana’s halo has grown dim

In a sea of voice assistants, Cortana has become almost irrelevant. The nearly five-year-old voice assistant is seeing little love from consumers, and here’s why it is dead.
Product Review

Packed with features, the Ring Spotlight Cam Wired makes home security a breeze

With an integrated spotlight, crystal-clear video, and color night vision, this device makes home security a cinch. Here's why we like the Ring Spotlight Cam Wired as a great choice for outdoor home security.
Home Theater

Here’s why you’re not getting Netflix in HD or 4K, and how to fix it

Are you having trouble watching your favorite movies or TV shows on Netflix in HD or 4K? We explain why loading takes so long, why the picture quality fluctuates, and what you can do about it.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Home Theater

Samsung accidentally leaks its new Galaxy Buds ahead of launch

It's been all but certain that Samsung would launch a successor to its Gear IconX wireless earbuds soon, but a newly leaked photo and recent FCC certification document seems to indicate that the debut is very close.
Wearables

Focals succeed where Google Glass fumbled (but do we really need smartglasses?)

It’s been seven years since Google took the wraps off Google Glass. Now, we’re finally getting a modern-day equivalent we want to wear. North’s Focals combine subtle style with an intuitive interface to craft smartglasses you’ll…
Mobile

OnePlus 6T vs. Honor View 20: We compare the cameras in these ‘flagship killers’

For less than $600, you can buy either the OnePlus 6T or the Honor View 20, two extremely capable smartphones with plenty of exciting features. But which one has the best camera? We found out on a recent trip to France.
Home Theater

Hi-res streaming audio service Qobuz arrives in U.S., threatens Tidal’s monopoly

For several years, Tidal enjoyed a monopoly on hi-res music streaming in the U.S. Now, French company Qobuz is here to offer some competition with a variety of monthly plans starting at $10 a month.
Mobile

These 13 gadgets walk a fine line between ingenious and insane

The annual avalanche of devices and gadgets is astounding, but how many will succeed? A few are destined to spark new trends, while the majority fade deservedly into obscurity. We look at some gadgets on the border of brilliant and bonkers.
Mobile

Save space on your iPhone by turning off Live Photos in the camera app

If you want to save storage space on your iPhone or reduce the size of your backup for iCloud, then you should think about turning off Live Photos in the camera app. Find out exactly how to do it with our easy guide.
Mobile

The best Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus cases to keep your titanic phone safe

The new Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is a gorgeous device, with one of the best dual-lens cameras we've ever seen. Keep your titanic device safe and scratch-free with the best Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus cases.
Deals

Amazon slashes prices on Fitbit Versa smartwatches for Presidents’ Day

Amazon is offering a solid $30 discount on this great fitness tracking smartwatch right now. So if you're looking for a wearable that can help you track steps, sleep, and activity, now is a great time to pick one up for less.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Mobile

How to perform a reverse image search in Android or iOS

You can quickly use Google to search, and reverse search, images on a PC or laptop, but did you know it's almost as easy to do in Android and iOS? We explain how to do it here, whether you want to use Chrome or a third-party app.