Galaxy S9: What you need to know about AR Emoji

Samsung's latest phone comes with a new animoji-style feature that's fun, if a little... weird. Here's how it works.

Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani Contributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Jason Cipriani
3 min read
Galaxy S9 AR Emoji
César Salza / CNET

Samsung's Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus have a new feature called AR Emoji. The animated characters are similar to Apple's  animojis on the iPhone X , only instead of using fancy face-scanning hardware, AR Emoji relies on the S9's camera and augmented reality software developed by the startup Loom.ai.

Samsung and Loom.ai have worked on bringing AR Emoji to the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus for the past year. And because the technology can be licensed by any phone maker or software developer, it's entirely possible you'll see more devices with a similar feature in the near future.

Watch this: Galaxy S9's AR emoji: How good are they?

Create your character

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

The Galaxy S9 lacks a dedicated AR Emoji app, relying instead on the camera app to access and create animated characters. To create your own AR Emoji, open the camera and switch to AR Emoji mode.

Creating your character is done by taking a selfie. Make sure you're in a well-lit environment, take your glasses off and have a natural expression on your face. Once you take the photo, the S9's software will convert the photo into a digitized version of you.

The process is simple and takes just a few seconds, with no limit of how many AR Emojis you can create.

To remove any of your creations, long-press on the small thumbnail until a small circle with a red line shows up, then tap on the AR Emoji you want to delete.

Customize it! 

Once you've taken a photo and seen what your AR Emoji looks like, you're immediately given the option to customize it. You'll need to select male or female, change your skin tone and hair, add glasses and change how your character is dressed.

If you don't like how your character turns out, you can always delete it and make another one. Right now, at least, it doesn't appear you can go back and edit or change an existing character.

Stickers are all the rage

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Another feature built into the AR Emoji section of the camera app is Stickers. In a lot of ways, Stickers are just like Snapchat filters. Some prompt you to open your mouth before it will activate, while others place text or photo frames into the photo.

You can also download additional sticker packs and remove installed packs by tapping on the + sign.


Jason Cipriani/CNET

There are a couple different ways to share AR Emojis. With each character you create, Samsung automatically creates a series of animated stickers (GIFs) doing things like blowing a kiss, shrugging and laughing. These stickers, by default, are saved to the Gallery app.

You can share the GIFs in any app by accessing the gallery, but from my experience, the GIFs aren't always animated for the recipient. I've had success in sending an animated sticker through the Samsung Messages app, but when using Facebook Messenger the recipient received a still image.

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Another method to create and share an item with AR Emoji is to open the camera app, switch to AR Emoji mode and then select one of the characters. You can then press the red button to record a message, or take a photo of the character.

Any recorded videos are saved in the Gallery app. Using the edit tools you can trim the video, or instantly convert it to a GIF for sharing.

AR Emoji: Why the S9's animated emojis weirded me out.

Galaxy S9 review: Our rated review of Samsung's new flagship phone.