Apple often patents interesting hardware or futuristic iPhone designs that may never see the light of day. But in its latest patent granted on Tuesday, Apple (AAPL, Tech30) describes something a little less innovative, and already wildly popular.

Cartoon avatars might be Apple's next big thing.

The design and editing process in the "Avatar editing environment" patent look similar to Bitmoji, the personalized mobile stickers customized to look just like you.
Bitmoji are crazy popular (or extremely annoying, depending on who you ask), so it makes sense for Apple to make its own unique characters for iMessage users.

Bitmoji-maker Bitstrips was founded in 2007, and became a social media sensation with its Facebook (FB, Tech30) comic strip app in 2012. Snap acquired Bitstrips in 2016 and integrated the customized cartoons into Snapchat.
If Apple is taking inspiration from Snap's features, it wouldn't be the first time -- Facebook also has a storied history of ripping off Snapchat.

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