How to Add Emoji to Your iPhone Keyboard

Screenshot of the multicultural emoji for iOS.


One of the great things about texting is being able to send smiley faces and other funny faces, plus all kinds of icons, to punctuate your messages and express yourself. These icons are called emoji. There are dozens of apps that can add emoji to your iPhone or iPod touch, but you don't need them. There are hundreds of emoji built into the iPhone for free. With a few simple steps, you can start using them to make your messages more colorful and fun.

How to Enable Emoji on iPhone

The option to enable emoji on your iPhone is a bit hidden. That's because it's not as simple as moving a slider to turn them on. Instead, you have to add a whole new keyboard option (the iOS treats emoji as a set of characters, like the letters of the alphabet). By default, your iPhone or iPod touch uses the keyboard layout for the language you chose for your device when you set it up, but it can use more than one keyboard layout at a time. Because of that, you can add the emoji keyboard and have it available at all times. 

To enable this specialized keyboard on iPhone or iPod touch (and iPad) running iOS 7 and higher:

  1. Go to the Settings app.

  2. Tap General.

  3. Tap Keyboard.

    Three iOS screens showing Settings icon, General button, and Keyboard button screenshot
  4. Tap Keyboards.

  5. Tap Add New Keyboard.

  6. Swipe through the list until you find Emoji, and then tap it to enable it.

    Three iOS screens showing Keyboards, Add New Keyboard, and Emoji buttons screenshot

On the Keyboards screen, you'll now see the default language you chose at set up as well as Emoji. This means you've enabled emoji and are ready to use them.

Using Emoji on iPhone

Once you've enabled this setting, you can use emoji in practically any app that lets you type using the onscreen keyboard (you can't use them in apps that don't use the keyboard or that use their own custom keyboard). Some of the common apps you may use them in include Messages, Notes, and Mail.

When the keyboard appears now, to the left of the space bar (or at the bottom left, beneath the keyboard, on iPhone X), you'll see a small key that looks like a smiley face or a globe. Tap it and the many, many emoji options appear.

You can swipe the panel of emojis left and right to see all of your options. At the bottom of the screen are a number of icons. Tap these to move through different categories of emoji. The iOS includes smiley faces, things from nature (flowers, bugs, etc.), day-to-day objects like cameras, phones and pills, houses, cars and other vehicles, and symbols and icons. 

To add an emoji to your messages, tap where you want the icon to appear and then tap the emoji you want to use. To delete it, tap the back-arrow key at the bottom of the keyboard.

To hide the emoji keyboard and return to the normal keyboard layout, simply tap the globe key again. 

Accessing the New, Multicultural Emoji in iOS 8.3 and Up

For years, the standard set of emoji available on the iPhone (and on virtually all other phones) featured only white faces for people emojis. Apple worked with the Unicode Consortium, the group that controls emojis (among other international communication standards), to recently change the standard emoji set to reflect the kinds of faces seen the world over. In iOS 8.3, Apple updated the iPhone's emojis to include these new faces.

If you just look at the standard emoji keyboard, though, you won't see these multicultural options. To access them:

  1. Go to the emoji keyboard in an app that supports it.

  2. Find an emoji that's a single human face (the multicultural variations don't exist for animals, vehicles, food, etc.).

  3. Tap and hold on the emoji that you want to see variations for.

  4. A menu will pop up showing all the multicultural options. You can take your finger off the screen now and the menu will remain.

    Two iOS screens showing multicultural emoji options on the right screen- screenshots
  5. Tap the variation you want to add it to your message.

Removing the Emoji Keyboard

If you decide you don't want to use emoji at all anymore and want to hide the keyboard:

  1. Go to the Settings app.

  2. Tap General.

  3. Tap Keyboard.

  4. Tap Keyboards.

  5. Tap Edit.

  6. Tap the red icon next to Emoji.

  7. Tap Delete.

    Three iOS screensots showing Emoji button, red delete circle and red Delete button in Keyboard settings

This just hides the special keyboard—it doesn't delete it—so you can always enable it again later.