Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?
CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

How Apple's Memoji of your face already beats the Galaxy S9

Let the Memoji versus AR Emoji battle begin.

Jessica Dolcourt Editorial Director, Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt's career with CNET began in 2006, and spans reviews, reporting, analysis and commentary for desktop software; mobile software, including the very first Android and iPhone apps and operating systems; and mobile hardware, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica began leading CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of practical advice on expansive topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
Expertise Team leadership, audience engagement, iPhone, Android, iOS, tips and FAQs.
Jessica Dolcourt
3 min read

Memoji > AR Emoji when it comes to customization.

Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
Advertiser Disclosure
Advertiser Disclosure
This advertising widget is powered by Navi and contains advertisements that Navi may be paid for in different ways. You will not be charged for engaging with this advertisement. While we strive to provide a wide range of offers, this advertising widget does not include information about every product or service that may be available to you. We make reasonable efforts to ensure that information in the featured advertisements is up to date, each advertiser featured in this widget is responsible for the accuracy and availability of its offer details. It is possible that your actual offer terms from an advertiser may be different than the offer terms in this advertising widget and the advertised offers may be subject to additional terms and conditions of the advertiser which will be presented to you prior to making a purchase. All information is presented without any warranty or guarantee to you.

iPhones and iPads will soon be able to make a 3D emoji of your own face that moves when you do. Apple calls it a "Memoji," and it's an offshoot of Animoji, the animated emoji that live inside iMessage in Apple's iOS 12 software update.

Sound familiar? 3D emoji are the next evolution in avatars that people personalize to mark their identity and interact with others online. 

Samsung crossed the you-emoji finish line first when it released AR Emoji on its two Galaxy S9 phones. But, despite being made with the help of Oscar winners who know how to do face capture really well, AR Emoji are creepy and weird and rarely look like the scores of CNET editors who tried making them.

We won't know for sure how Apple's Memoji will stack up to AR Emoji until we actually get a chance to make and use our own Memoji, but I can already see at least one early win for the iPhone.

Your Memoji might actually look like you

I can already tell that Memoji have more customization options for your 3D avatar than AR Emoji. The Galaxy S9 has zero options for curly hair and not enough skin tones to choose from.


Sliders and color selection tools help you fine-tune your digital face.


Even in the short Memoji presentation, I already saw at least three styles for curly and wavy tresses, and at least 10 shades for realistic skin (you can also make yourself purple, 'cause why not?).

A Memoji lets you choose your eye color, eye shape and ear shape, add freckles, pick from multiple glasses frames and tint lenses, and add earrings. These choices are limited on the Galaxy S9, which sets up your AR Emoji for you by scanning your face using the phone's selfie camera.

The Animoji update in iOS 12 (coming this fall) gives all avatars the ability to stick out their tongues, which is something that AR Emoji don't do, no matter how often I've tried.

The Galaxy S9's claim to fame is that AR Emoji uses the selfie-camera to make your emoji fast, but I'd rather be able to make my emoji look and feel like me -- even though Apple's Memoji are far more cutesy-cartoony than the Galaxy S9's more realistic-but-unsettling AR Emoji.

What Samsung does better (so far)

The greatest strength of Samsung's AR Emoji is that you can share one with any phone on any platform that accepts animated GIFs (you can record videos, too). 

Apple's Memoji feature appears to work within iMessage and FaceTime only, which means you'll only be able to share them with other iPhone and iPad users, and not on platforms like Facebook.  

AR Emoji generate quickly and live in the camera app, and you can make AR Emoji of other people, not just yourself (I'm still not sure why you'd want to do this).

You can overlay another character, to "become" Mickey or Minnie Mouse, for example, thanks to Samsung's partnership with  Disney .

Here are the biggest iOS 12 features Apple announced at WWDC 2018

See all photos

iPhone Memoji won't work on all iPhones

With Memoji, you build your avatar from scratch, but the new feature uses the 3D depth-sensing camera found in the iPhone X to track your facial movements -- when you turn your head, or stick out your tongue. 

That means it will only work on that phone and on future devices that have Apple's TrueDepth camera. Sorry, iPhone 8 owners.

We also don't know how well Memoji tracks your face in the long term. Samsung's AR Emoji avatars quiver and twitch when your face is idle, which spins the creep factor dial to high, but Animoji have a slight case of the shakes, too. From the presentation, it looks like Memoji might also jiggle while you're collecting your thoughts.

I absolutely can't wait to test this out the first chance I get.

Neither Samsung nor Loom.ai -- the company behind the Galaxy S9's AR Emoji -- immediately responded to a request for comment.

WWDC 2018: Everything from Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference

See all photos

Article originally published June 4 at 1:09pm PT and was last updated on June 5 at 7:16am PT.

WWDC 2018: Everything Apple just announced

iOS 12: Siri shortcuts, group FaceTime and 'Memoji' Animoji of you