The Android source code shows a possible future movement of fonts within the system to allow them to be updated without waiting for a major Android update. Enough to get new emojis without waiting for years.
One of the main complaints against Android is often the slowness of its updates. Despite all the efforts made by Google in recent years to make life easier for third-party manufacturers and to allow updates to be deployed quickly, it is still necessary to wait several months to taste the latest news on a smartphone already released. For Android 11 for example, available since September 8, the number of updated devices can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Google, however, gives less and less reason to wait for major updates on its smartphone. Not only do third-party manufacturers often implement certain functions well before Google (the split screen is a good example), but security patches are now deployed through a different channel. However, there is still one point that prompts us to wait for a system update: emojis.
Emojis linked to the Unicode standard
Emojis are integrated into the Unicode standard, which means that they are considered as a character, just like a letter or a number. On Android, emojis are therefore stored on the system partition of the phone (or tablet), in a directory dedicated to fonts. This partition is configured as read-only, which makes it impossible to modify outside of a system update carried out when the partition is not yet mounted (therefore before its initialization).
XDA has noticed some changes in the open source code of Android, however. Of commits reveal a movement of the fonts in order to store them in a folder in the / data partition, accessible by all applications, but which can only be modified by system_server.
This a priori minor change, if it were to be fully integrated into the Android code, would allow Google to update the fonts, and therefore add new emojis, without going through an update of the system. A simple push of Google Play Services might thus suffice.
For the moment, this code is not yet integrated into the source code of Android, but if it is soon, this is a change that we could see coming from Android 12.