The rise and uptake of IM applications has created some interesting ways for users to communicate with each other, with the emergence/popularity of emojis (which could be said to be an evolution of the emoticons) and stickers being the two that comes to mind for me.

However, since I am not a very active user of social media platforms, I am curious as to what the difference between emojis and stickers as they are used in IM applications. The two things that I notices are:

  1. Stickers will incorporate words on a regular basis, whereas emjois tend to be purely symbolic
  2. Stickers tend to be larger in size and more complex in design (not necessarily true), whereas emoji have a smaller footprint and are simpler in design (although they appear to be getting more complex)

What other differences have people noticed?

  • 1
    Emojis usually have a corresponding set of text characters that draw the same symbol. The user may feel that there should be a way to add them using a text-based input field. It is true that they are getting more complex and further away from their original text-character based counterparts, which I think many people actually find annoying.
    – Winter
    Sep 4, 2016 at 0:29
  • 1
    On the other hand I find the stickers to be much louder, invasive, and annoying. I very seldom use them.
    – Winter
    Sep 4, 2016 at 0:31
  • I would suggest doing some research considering your user's age group etc. versus their inclination toward using emojis and stickers. My guess is that a slightly older and more computer based user group will prefer smileys and emojis whereas a younger group who is more mobile device friendly will prefer the relative "catchiness" of stickers. (Just guessing.)
    – Winter
    Sep 4, 2016 at 0:35

3 Answers 3


The main difference between stickers and emojis is that emojis are Unicode based and they're universal and controlled by the Unicode Consortium, meaning that the same code will be parsed by different clients, and it will always represent the same idea, even though different clients may display the emoji differently. See an example of a few emojis as displayed by different vendors (image from Mashable)

enter image description here

Stickers are a different story. They're not universal and they're not controlled, therefore there's not a version for each vendor. While they might be represented by code, this code can't be parsed equally by all clients. Instead, when you send a sticker, the receiver will get an image.

In short

Emoji=Unicode / Sticker=image

  • 1
    Maybe Emoji=text / Sticker=image might drive home the point better. Oct 5, 2016 at 7:15
  • 1
    @AndreDickson, not really. Text input is reserved for Emoticons. And that's one of the differences between both: an user will type a emoticon, but will never use the emoji unicode. Instead, she has to select tfrom an existing list. So even user behavior is different: type vs click/tap
    – Devin
    Oct 5, 2016 at 14:58
  • I didn't mean to imply text input but that's a good point. Oct 5, 2016 at 15:05

You noted the more size-restricted nature of emoji... I believe they are meant to always fit within a normal flow of text. In my own little universe, if it is bigger than a line of the text around it, it is a sticker, not an emoji. This, to me, is one of the key differences. Emoji can usually still work in content within a paragraph of text, whereas stickers tend to stand on their own.

Also, stickers are more and more including animation (and text, as you noted), which are notably absent from "classic" emoji. Emoji also tend to look much more like pixel art than the more ambitious graphic rendering of stickers, mostly by nature. But again... if it is notably larger than the line of surrounding text, I would classify it as a sticker rather than an emoji.

Actual mileage may vary.

Note: While emoji are, as you note, evolutions of emoticons, there is obviously a broader range of emoji, and many tend to be more about ideas/actions/situations than just emotions. Emoticons, too, have evolved to accommodate a wider range of meaning (hey, table-flipping anyone?

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

But on the whole the pixel art of emoji can carry more meaning as a body.


I have always related the latter ones with the Stickers you could buy to add to your printed photos in the 90s, something like a text bubble saying "I love U" or "Best Wishes".

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