Google has confirmed that beginning next week, Nexus devices will be receiving an update that brings along with it the new emoji everyone has been waiting for. In late October, Hiroshi Lockheimer first announced that Google was working on bringing the new emoji to the platform, but there was no word on when it would happen. According to Lockheimer, the updates will hit Nexus devices beginning next week.
This will be a new system image, so it's not just simply an update to Google Keyboard unfortunately. Lockheimer stated that it includes a new keyboard, font and code. Google has shared the updated information with its OEM partners so they can begin to incorporate the changes. The timeline for the update availability on other phones and tablets will be up to the individual manufacturers.
Source: Hiroshi Lockheimer (Twitter)