We recently published a series of 30 NYC emoji it seemed to us that life in New York demands: shaking fists, greasy slices, green cabs, pissed-off Elmos…
In that piece — pretty much as a lark — we asked any developers interested in turning our series into a usable keyboard to contact us. You can imagine our surprise when the dudes at Swyft Media approached us about making our pictographs into an actual downloadable app. We were even more surprised when they said they could meet our emoji keyboard budget of $0.
And lo, you can now download it! Here’s the NYC Keyboard on iTunes and here’s the NYC Keyboard for Android. We hope both add a little New York flavor to your texting. And, like the Voice, they’re free.
While the story of Swyft is a familiar one in tech, it’s nonetheless breathtaking for how quickly the business has grown: Evan Wray — who celebrated his recent 26th birthday by marking the millionth download of a keyboard Swyft made for the movie Minions — started the company in 2012 with his friend Sean O’Brien while the two were senior roommates at the University of Notre Dame. They wanted to send an image of the iconic Notre Dame leprechaun via text message but couldn’t, which spawned their app business. Since then, the company has grown in parallel with the popularity of emoji.
It’s come to a head this year as the branded emoji keyboard has blown up. Even the pope received his own emoji via the Popemoji app that launched in conjunction with the pontiff’s recent visit to America. (Swyft also developed that app — which only adds to the already long list of things the Village Voice has in common with His Holiness.)
“It’s really grown from that little side-project idea to a new, more effective way to reach the young millennial and Gen Z consumer,” Wray says. “They are all spending a ton of time in mobile, they’re all texting like crazy — about 30 minutes a day.”
There’s one small problem — the emoticon apps aren’t actually emoji, which are subject to approval by the California-based Unicode Consortium, a group that ensures data on one device can be understood by another device. For example, a recent Change.org petition to add a taco emoji garnered more than 32,000 signatures. It worked, and the taco emoji will arrive soon.
For app-based keyboards, there are a few steps a user has to take on their phone after installing (going to Settings, enabling the keyboard, etc.). In all it takes about fifteen seconds, but you know, that’s fifteen seconds.
“We’d always like if Apple and Google made it a little bit more seamless,” Wray says. “We’ve seen crazy adoption even with that hurdle.” He says it took about two months for the Minions keyboard to hit a million downloads. (They celebrated with cake.)
The Voice projects its New York keyboard will hit at least 8 million users, on the strength of this reguluh slice and other New York icons. Who knows how many DL’s the pope will bring.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 1, 2015