How to Unlock the Hidden iPhone Emoji Keyboard (And the Best Alternatives)
The explosive popularity of emoji means that you have more ways than ever to express yourself over text. Aside from faces, you’ll find emoji for animals, food, flags, and more. But what good are emoji if you can’t easily access and send them?
It’s super easy to add the emoji keyboard to your iPhone or iPad so you can add some flair to your messages. (Remember, emojis are different from emoticons.)
How to Enable the iPhone Emoji Keyboard
Every iPhone and iPad can access emoji. But you’ll need to turn the keyboard on first. To do this, just follow these steps:
- Go to Settings > General > Keyboard.
- Select Keyboards, then Add New Keyboard.
- Scroll through the list and look for Emoji, then tap it to select.
- When you tap on it, the Emoji keyboard joins your list of usable keyboards.
- You can repeat this process for any other language or even third-party keyboard you want. Your third-party options from installed apps appear at the top of the list.
Now that you’ve enabled it, how do you access the emoji keyboard? It’s simple, and you can use it in any app where you enter text.
- Tap on the text input field in any app. A good place to test out emojis is through the Messages app.
- On the default keyboard, there’s a key between the 123 and Dictation keys that has a smiley face on it. This will appear as a globe if you have more than three keyboard installed. Tap on it to switch to the Emoji keyboard, or long-press it for more keyboard options.
- Look for the emoji you want to insert in your text. They’re organized by category, such as Smileys & People, Animals & Nature, Food & Drink, and similar. Find the emoji you want, then tap it to insert in your message.
Replacing and Predicting Emoji
When you’re typing in Messages, if you switch to the Emoji keyboard, you’ll see certain words become highlighted. This means there’s an emoji available to represent that word, and you can just tap the word to change it to an emoji.
If you also use predictive text, it can detect when you type a word that has an emoji available. The emoji appears in the predictive text bar, so you can easily tap on the emoji to insert it.
Alternative Emoji Keyboards for iPhones and iPads
While Apple provides an emoji keyboard, it’s pretty basic. Fortunately, there are plenty of third-party keyboards designed to focus on giving your text some personality with unique emojis, or just make finding the right ones easier.
Please note that for third-party keyboards to work on iOS, they require full access. This could lead to privacy concerns, so only grant this permission to keyboards you trust.
You may know the basics of emoji, but what if you want to step your game up? You can with Emoji>.
Emoji> is one of the most popular emoji keyboards on iOS, and for good reason. It’s one of the only emoji keyboards that has its own set of exclusive in-text emojis. They’re not stickers, so they look and work like the native emojis on iOS.
Of course, Emoji> also has the default emojis included, which are searchable by category. You can add favorites for quick access to your frequently used emoji, and even send animated stickers too.
Download: Emoji> (Free)
You’ve probably heard of SwiftKey, a popular Android keyboard app. When Apple began allowing third-party keyboards in iOS 8, Swiftkey quickly rose to the top, as it was a highly anticipated addition to the App Store.
While Swiftkey is certainly a great keyboard for daily use, what if you want something solely for emojis? Say hello to Swiftmoji.
What sets Swiftmoji apart from other emoji keyboards is the prediction feature. With this, Swiftmoji presents emojis based on what you’ve just typed. It’s a fast and fun way to liven up your text messages, social updates, or whatever else. It also shows you all the appropriate emojis for the situation, so you don’t need to go searching through hundreds of emoji.
Can’t decide on a predictive emoji? Long-press on the prediction icon to unleash an emoji storm on your friends. This throws all the predicted emojis into your message. Just make sure you use this sparingly.
Swiftmoji still lets users look for emojis the old fashioned way (through categories), and you can see your frequent picks too.
Download: Swiftmoji (Free) [No longer available]
If you’re a frequent user of Snapchat (our beginner’s guide ), then you may already be familiar with Bitmoji. These started with Bitstrips, a site that allowed users to create customized comic strips with cartoon versions of themselves.
Snapchat acquired Bitstrips in 2016, which led to Bitmoji: custom avatars you create to represent you as a cartoon. Once you create your Bitmoji, you can then insert them directly into supported apps like Facebook and Messenger, Gmail, Slack, and Snapchat.
With the Bitmoji keyboard, your Bitmoji avatar can go with you anywhere. Just switch to the Bitmoji keyboard, find a sticker you want to use, and tap it. That Bitmoji sticker gets copied to your clipboard, and you can paste it anywhere you want.
Bitmoji may not be exactly the same as emoji, but they’re a fun and more personalized way to convey your feelings through chat. You may want to review Bitmoji’s privacy implications, though.
Download: Bitmoji (Free)
Disney Emoji Blitz
If you’re a Disney fan, then you probably wish you could send Disney emojis and stickers to your friends and family. While there are a few different Disney-related sticker packs for iMessage (how to install and delete sticker packs ), they aren’t free. Fortunately, there’s also Disney Emoji Blitz.
The app is actually a match-three puzzle game. Your goal is to score as many points as possible in a one-minute time frame. Each Disney emoji that serves as your avatar has its own unique abilities. As you play and complete goals, you’ll unlock new Disney emoji.
But what does the game have to do with sending emoji? As it turns out, the emoji that you unlock by playing the game become usable in the Emoji Blitz keyboard. When you enable the keyboard, you can send Disney emojis to your friends. However, they’re more like stickers since you copy and paste them into your text.
You start out with just Mickey and generic Disney items like ears, Mickey hands, and others. But more become available as you progress in the game. You can get your favorite Disney characters, and even special emojis that are only available during in-game events, which happen on a regular basis.
Disney Emoji Blitz is a great way to add some Disney magic to your messages, and it’s also a fun game to pass the time.
Download: Disney Emoji Blitz (Free)
Spice Up Your Messages With Emoji
Even though many see emojis as something for young kids to liven up Snapchat snaps (plus Snapchat emojis have different meanings ), everyone can use them! I wasn’t a fan of emojis at first, but now I’m using them constantly. They help me convey how I feel, and make it easier to visualize topics like food plans.
You may or may not have known how to unlock and use the default iOS emoji keyboard. But we’ve also provided some fun alternatives to up your emoji game.
Now that you’re using emoji, don’t forget to make sure you know the meaning of an emoji before you send it, as the wrong one could lead to some embarrassing explanations. Our Emoji-to-English dictionary should help you out.