This article is still a stub

This page aims to gather information, experience and best practices about representation of Myanmar characters on Android smartphones. This article is still a stub. Hopefully the ICT4D and CommCare communities of Myanmar will help to flesh it out.

Charles Flèche

 

Unicode vs Zawgyi

Unicode is a standard that defines how text should be saved into data and how it is read and written. Almost every script in the world, including Burmese, is defined in the Unicode Standard. Carefully designed by experts of the field around the world, this international standard is supported by virtually all the latest platforms: not only in major operating systems like Windows, Mac, and Linux but also in OSes of mobile phones and many electronic devices.

Operating systemVersion since Myanmar UNICODE is supported
Android4.4
iOSUnknown
LinuxAny recent distribution supports it
OS X

Unknown

Windows8.1

 

Switching the font of a text typed in Arial to Times New Roman only changes the way the letters are displayed : an A would still be an A, a B would still be a B, etc. This is made possible because Arial and Times New Roman both respect the Unicode standard : internally, in the computer's memory, the different letters of the alphabet are represented the same way in both fonts.

Zawgyi is a font, invented at a time where Unicode was not a widely used international standard. Zawgyi is currently the most widely used font in Myanmar. However, it is not Unicode-compliant and breaks the Unicode standard in many ways.


Comparing the Burmese characters Unicode map with the matching Zawgyi one shows the main issues on this font :

  1. Lots of Burmese characters do not follow the Unicode standard
  2. Zawgyi doesn't support ethnic Myanmar languages

The Wikipedia Myanmar community page contains a more thorough discussion on Unicode vs Zawgyi and has good links to extra fonts and conversion tools.

Android support for Myanmar languages

Before Android 4.4

Before the version 4.4, Android didn't support the Myanmar language at all. Smartphone sold in Myanmar with an earlier Android version usually have Zawgyi installed by default.

After Android 4.4

From Kit Kat (version 4.4+), Android natively supports the Myanmar languages with a Unicode compliant font. However, some vendors replaces the standard Unicode compliant font with Zawgyi for handsets sold in South-East Asia.

Default Myanmar font for Asian-bought smartphones

VendorModel nameModel numberAndroid versionMyanmar fontCountry of buyingNote
AsusZenfoneASUS_T00Q4.4.2UnicodeMyanmar 
Huawei G730-C004.1.2ZawgyiMyanmar 
SamsungGalaxy Core PrimeSM-G360H4.4.4ZawgyiMyanmar

The ROM location code is CAM, for Cambodia.

Myanmar languages support in Android keyboards

Generally, Android phones bought in Myanmar should be able to display Burmese characters. However, to type in Burmese, a Myanmar language compliant keyboard application must be installed. Depending on font installed on a given device (the standard Unicode compliant font or Zawgyi), different packages should be used.

FontKeyboardNote
Unicode compliantM3 Keyboard (Myanmar) 
Unicode compliantMUA Keyboard 
ZawgyiBagan KeyboardAdvertisement ridden

Am I using an Unicode compliant font or Zawgyi ?

Selecting a character to check

The Unicode character MYANMAR SYMBOL AFOREMENTIONED (Unicode character U+104E) allows for a good test as:

  • both Unicode and Zawgiy represents this character (it is not an "empty case" in neither options)
  • the two representations are really obviously different for a non-native Burmese reader
  • it is a standalone character, not a composition of other glyphs
  • it is a common Burmese character and not part of an ethnic language

Checking the character map

A character map is an organized, visual representation of all the characters and the associated values used internally by a device for a given font. Using a character map application, it possible to check the representation of the Unicode Character U+104E. The following illustrations have been taken using Unicode CharMap.

Finding the U+104E character

Unicode representation of the U+104E character

Zawgyi representation of the U+104E character

In the web browser

Web browsers not only rely on system fonts, they also embed their own. The representation of the U+104E character can be checked on Codepoints.

Web browser Unicode representation of the U+104E character

 

Web browser Zawgyi representation of the U+104E character



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