⨃🄝ɨ∁ɧ⍙℟ for iOS Review

UniChar for iOS

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.