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A piece of BRAND JAMAICA at your fingertips

Technology Feature

BY KELESHIA POWELL Online Coordinator

Monday, January 23, 2017

Can you remember the days when sending a message from your phone was simply boring old text?

As mobile phones continue to evolve, our text messages change and with emojis, we are able to add a little sparkle to our conversations. Smiles, a heart, a slice of pizza or even a glass of wine now add colour to comments and messages from various emoji keyboards available for download.

But what about authentic Jamaican things like our food, our symbols and our general expressions?

Let’s be honest, many of our jargons are unique and we tend to convey our thoughts differently from other people. Brand Jamaica simply isn’t captured in the characters available on popular emoji keyboards.

This is why five Jamaicans decided to create an emoji keyboard that captures our authenticity.

With Jamoji — an emoji and lifestyle keyboard mobile application — smartphone users have access to characters that depict expressions, phrases, people, food, and places, that are exclusive to our culture.

So whether you want to express "cho" out of frustration, tell your inquisitive friend that she’s too "faas" or say "blouse and skirt" out of pure surprise, Jamoji has a number of icons tailored to suit users’ expressions. They even have an icon for the infamous ‘lottery scam’ and ‘jacket’ the Jamaican reference to children who have been given to the wrong father.

Not only is the app uniquely Jamaican, but "Jamoji is among the first of its kind that provides users with emojis specifically attached to a culture," developer Colleen Hall told the Jamaica Observer recently.

"It is fun to express ourselves in picture text, but the industry expansion does not necessarily mean everyone is represented. It is not always possible to use every single emoticon that is preinstalled in our mobile devices, but Jamoji sets to influence a custom formula per individual preferences and needs one culture at a time," she reasoned.

Hall added that there are currently no known similar culture-specific apps available on the market.

The mobile application is supported by third party application — "stickers", and is thus added as an alternative keyboard to your mobile device. The current smiley layout is in alphabetic order, but Hall told DigIT that she and her team would like to add word search, definition, GIF and new images to keep current with trends and upgrades.

The app also presents the emojis in category format whereby users can view icons related to sports, food, fruits, smiles, places, and lifestyle.

This "is a great way for foreigners to learn about Jamaica and an opportunity for locals to connect right at our fingertips. Jamoji is steps away from being the standard one-word response in your text conversation," Hall said.

According to the developer, the app, which attracts a US$1.99 one-time download cost, is gaining traction especially in Jamaica. She said so far, there have been positive feedback and reviews.

But what led to these developers conceptualising and launching this app?

"When I noticed the emoji keyboard trend taking off in the Spring of 2016, I knew it would be only a matter of time before Jamaica entered the market and I wanted to ensure that the island was represented with care and authentic aspects to Jamaican life and not Jamaican tourism," Hall explained.

Asked about the most popular emojis among users, Hall said: "Surprisingly, the fruits section, especially with tourists because you’re not going to see the same fruits in your standard emoji keyboard."

Jamoji is available for download on both iOS and Android devices.