⨃🄝ɨ∁ɧ⍙℟ for iOS Review
Jordan Hipwell's absolutely delightful celebration of digital text diversity.
I’ve never understood why I never see anyone making use of the vast catalogue of nearly 140,000 standard Unicode symbols available in their social media posts, metadata, or word art. Like replacing standard bullets in our weekly newsletter with ◎ (U+25CE,) — probably my all-time favorite, or using strings of four characters for intro, ad, and station identification spots on Extratone Radio. (☉☉☉☉, for instance.) I’d like to think these uses make their experiences feel just a bit more unique to users — if only unconsciously — but I’d long wondered if I was in fact the last Unicode enthusiast alive.
The development of Jordan Hipwell’s UniChar for iOS would suggest otherwise. Its app store page describes it as “a powerful yet beautiful Unicode symbol selection app and keyboard,” and its generic webpage appears to have testimonials including a real post on the Web Site lifehacker.
UniChar is a third-party iOS keyboard that unlocks the wide wide world of weird Unicode characters. Service marks, copyright logos, mathematical symbols, technical signs like Apple’s “splat” icon or radioactivity indicators, and more are available in the standalone app as well as the keyboard add-on you can use wherever you need to type something.
Wow! I can’t believe I’d pull-quote lifehacker anywhere, but here is an iOS app that actually addresses a regular issue of my own in a beautiful and intuitive way. I actually cannot remember the last time this happened — you’d have to give me a list and a comprehensive refresher of all the ways I’ve used my iPhones in the past ten years.
Contrary to what may seem obvious, UniChar’s character selector is by far the more intuitive and efficient of these two separate ways to use it. Even in the free experience, there are simply too many characters in the catalog to reasonably browse in iOS’ old extended keyboard. (For the record, I’d like to note that UniChar is technically a “Reference Application,” but I understand if you can’t bring yourself to use the term.) Across both the seamlessly-interchangeable gallery and list views, the user can very quickly copy a character to the clipboard with 3D Touch, which works so well it’s as if it were meant only for this use from its beginning.
In the off chance you’re a longtime lover and devout user of the grander Unicode collection and an iOS user, I hope you’re now experiencing the same sort of petty enthusiasm I felt myself when I discovered it. If not, I hope you’ll take away a desire to explore it. I mean… aren’t these smileys way better than any emoji? ☺☺☺☺
Despite a handful of reports of crashing issues in App Store reviews, Unichar has continued to perform admirably for me. I ended up spending $2.99 to unlock the full Unicharacter keyboard as the tremendous value of that number for the time and effort it would save myself would be more than worth it. (Actually, it’s thanks to Redbubble for sending me the first truly usable Inter net Money I’ve had to actually spend on any apps and/or services in fucking forever, but you know.) After all this time, I’m still giddy that someone else on Earth values these hieroglyphs as much as I do, and that they knew enough to manifest the perfect software to preserve them.