New commits in the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) suggest that Google could be planning to add the ability to release new emoji on Android without the need for a full system upgrade. The folks at XDA Developers spotted the code commits, which decouple the font files where emoji are stored away from full OS updates.
Currently, the emojis are stored in a file that's read-only. But this change will allow a "system_server" process to write font files in a certain directory.
"The data partition is mounted as read-write, so with this change, Google is allowing only the system_server process the permission to write to this directory," explains XDA. "All apps will then read the font and emoji files from this directory for drawing text."
Decoupling emoji updates from full Android OS upgrades would be a big, welcome change. Emoji are very popular in messaging, letting you add something extra to a text message or express an emotion with no words at all. This change could allow Google to do something like roll out emoji updates through the Play Store, which could mean new emoji faster and easier emoji updates for older phones.
Unfortunately, the exact details of Google's plans are still unknown, so it's unclear when Google might actually roll this change out.