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WWDC 2018

Apple's Memoji Is Copying Bitmoji and Snapchat

Apple’s newest texting feature, Memoji, looks like a Bitmoji ripoff.

Sarah Emerson

Sarah Emerson

Screenshot: Sarah Emerson

Apple is copying Bitmoji by adding stickers and “Memoji” to iOS 12. Both were announced today at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California—Apple’s annual developer-focused event.

Memoji are an update to Animoji, which were announced with the iPhone X. The face-tracking feature works with the phone’s True Depth camera, and allows users to mask their expressions and voice with 3D animated emoji. For example, you can say “I love you” to your dear mother as a talking poop. Now, you can tell her as an emoji version of yourself.

Memoji, like Bitmoji, are customizable human-looking emoji. But unlike Bitmoji, Apple’s version is animated. “We're all going to be sticking out our tongues to our phones in the near future,” said Apple’s Craig Federighi, senior vice president of Software Engineering. Okay!

Bitmoji is now owned by Snapchat, and was the most-downloaded app in the US, UK, France, Canada, and Australia last year. It’s so ubiquitous that even Facebook has tried to copy it, testing similar looking emoji called “Facebook Avatars” this year.

Snapchat has seemingly become the incubator for popular features that inevitably get cloned by larger platforms, mainly Facebook. Instagram copied Snapchat Stories, for instance. So did WhatsApp. And Facebook itself has experimented with geofilters and overlays.

Apple’s top priority is keeping us within its ecosystem. It’s historically launched features—and made some obsolete—with the intent of forcing consumer behavior, often ignoring the wants and needs of its customers. Is Memoji as sinister as that? Probably not. But maybe it’s telling that one of the most notable things about WWDC this year is the ripoff of an already-existing app.