When Apple unveiled its iPhone X in autumn 2017, one of the most popular features was Animoji, which lets you create cute animated videos of various animals and creatures and send them to your friends.
The iPhone X (and later the XR, XS and XS Max) uses its TrueDepth camera system to record the Animoji, mimicking your facial expression and the movement of your head to create an audio message in the guise of that character. (The TrueDepth camera is also used for Face ID facial recognition.)
Animoji are a little like animated emoji that mimic your facial expression, and in this article we explain everything you need to know about using them. If you’d like some tips on using emoji, read How to use emoji on a Mac and How to use emoji on an iPhone.
How to record an Animoji
If you’ve got an iPhone X, XR, XS or XS Max, all you need to record an Animoji is a face and the Messages app.
- Open Messages.
- Add the recipient details in the To field.
- Tap the icon for Apps (the A beside the text input bar).
- Choose the monkey icon from the collection of icons at the bottom of the screen.
- Scroll through the Animoji options on the left until you find one you like, or select New Memoji on the left to create your own custom Animoji.
- To see the Animoji slightly larger you can tap on the up arrow just below the iMessage field and the Animoji section will move up to fill the screen.
- Hold up the phone and look straight at it. If your face isn’t in view you will see a yellow box. Position your phone so your face is in line with the box.
- Notice how the character mirrors the movement of your head, mouth and face.
- To record your message (with audio) press the red button.
- You can record for up to 30 seconds. (If you want to record a longer message you’ll need to stitch a number of clips together in an app such as iMovie.)
- Press the red square to stop the recording; if you hit the time limit it will stop automatically.
- You can play back the recording before you send it. If you don’t like what you record you can delete it by tapping the trash icon.
- To listen to the recording again, tap Replay.
- If you want to see how your recording looks with another Animoji, just select one and the recording will replay with that Animoji. You can also switch to a different Animoji character by swiping sideways on the recording.
- Once you’re ready to send tap on the up arrow or just tap on the Animoji.
- When you play back an Animoji before sending to check it’s okay, the audio plays too. But once it’s been sent and it sits in the message thread, audio is turned off by default for both you and the recipient. (It’s safely recorded, it just doesn’t play.) To turn on the audio, tap the speaker icon.
How to send an Animoji sticker
You don’t have to send an animated recording. You can just send an Animoji sticker – essentially a still photo of you as an Animoji.
- As above, open Messages and add the recipient details in the To field.
- Tap the icon for Apps (the A beside the text input bar) and choose the monkey icon.
- Choose an Animoji/Memoji.
- Look at the iPhone and pose.
- Touch the Animoji until it flickers and then ‘unsticks’.
- Hold the Animoji and drag it up into the message field.
- This will automatically send the Animoji sticker to the recipient.
How to save an Animoji
If you want to use the Animoji yourself, there are a few ways to get it from Messages, but you need to send it first.
- Find the Animoji in the Message thread.
- Press on the Animoji and swipe up on it until the options Copy, Save or Forward appear.
- Alternatively hard-press and hold until it opens up on its own screen.
- Press the Share icon (box with an arrow coming out of it).
- Choose Save Video to save the video to your Camera Roll.
- Or choose Save to Files to save the video to iCloud.
How to share an Animoji on a social network
You can share an Animoji as video on any social network. Here’s how:
- You need to create your Animoji in the same way as above, and send it (you could send to yourself).
- Hard-press and hold on the Animoji until it fills the screen and the share icon appears in the bottom left.
- Tap on the share icon.
- Scroll through the icons beside Messages, Mail and so on until you find the one for your social network of choice.
- Tap on that icon and choose Post to post a video of that Animoji.
How to use Animoji on iPhone 8 or earlier
Officially, Animoji are supported by the iPhone X/XR/XS/XS Max only. Apple says Animoji use the IR and depth sensor of the X-series iPhones for better accuracy, and wouldn’t work as well on another iPhone.
You therefore cannot record Animoji on an iPhone 8 or earlier. (Although you can replicate the effect with an Animoji alternative.) But there are still plenty of ways you can use Animoji on older phones, and it’s even possible to fake it by searching for ones that have been created elsewhere.
Share an Animoji from an older iPhone
- Older iPhones cannot record Animoji, so you’ll need to get someone who has an iPhone X or later to create one and share it with you.
- When you receive the Animoji, press and hold it until it fills your iPhone screen.
- Tap on the Share icon at the bottom of the screen.
- Choose Save Video to add the Animoji to your Camera Roll.
- Alternatively you can get Messages to send the Animoji video to someone else.
- Or tap on Facebook or any other social network to share it there.
Find and share a pre-made Animoji
Alternatively you could send an Animoji from your iPhone by using the images search and getting hold of a GIF.
- On your iPhone open Messages.
- Tap on the A icon for the App Store.
- Tap on the images icon (a red icon with a magnifying glass).
- In the Find Images search field, type Animoji.
- Choose an Animoji GIF.
- Send as normal by tapping on the blue arrow.
You can read more about how to send a GIF from your iPhone. Unfortunately the collection of GIFs available though Messages is poor; perhaps it will improve with time.
If you’re trying to fool someone into thinking you’ve got an iPhone XS, you’ll need to search the web to find an Animoji gif, then save it to your Mac before sending it to a friend using Messages on there.
- Search in Google image search for Animoji GIFs.
- Find one you like and drag it on to your desktop.
- Open Messages on your Mac.
- Choose an existing message or enter the recipient details.
- Drag the Animoji GIF into the message.
- Press Enter to send.
Find out more about using Messages in our complete guide to texting on the iPhone.