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Apple iOS 6 emoticons feature gay couples for the first time

As the WWDC 2012 draws to a close and some of the surrounding hype begins to subside, it's finally possible to dig a bit below the surface and appreciate the more subtle updates revealed by Apple this week.

Chief among these is a radically refreshed collection of emoji pictographs that includes, for the first time, emoticons depicting gay and lesbian couples. The updated iOS 6 keyboard option now features images of same-sex pairs holding hands alongside equally mushy cartoon-like images of their heterosexual peers.

Of course, critics will inevitably find ammunition to slate the new emoticon palette as not going far enough, despite its progressive intention: why aren't the gay couples smiling like their straight counterparts, for instance, and where is the child being sported by couples in the heterosexual emoji?

The emoji fad started in Japan and is a more advanced version of basic emoticons like smiley faces, commonly sent across SMS services to convey an individual's feelings. Apple first brought the visually expressive keyboard option to the iPhone when it launched in the Japan, with a European rollout following after Western users were quick to warm to the cuteness of the icons.

Apple's latest operating system, iOS 6, features a plethora of new features and improvements - 92 to be exact. Some of these updates have understandably grabbed the headlines, with Siri's rollout to iPad, Facebook's integration into the OS, and the ditching of Google Maps in favour of an in-house cartographical solution being the blockbuster headlines this week.

Based on this update, homophobes will want to immediately switch to Android, as a future iOS 7 could now well feature same-sex couples more prominently, incuding with children, as equal rights issues appear to have found an intruging new battleground in the digital world.