How to Install a Keyboard on Your Android Smartphone

Ditch the default keyboard and replace it with something better

A close up picture of a gray keyboard

Karl Tapales/Getty Images

Typing on a smartphone can be tedious. Luckily, there are many third-party Android keyboards available, with smarter auto-correct, tracing features, and more. While GBoard, the Google keyboard, is well-liked and has gesture typing built-in, as well as voice typing and emoji shortcuts, it's worth looking at the variety of alternative keyboard apps available. Here's how to install one (or two, or three).

The directions below should apply no matter who made your Android phone: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

Choose Your Keyboard

There are many third-party keyboards available for Android.

  • One of the most popular keyboard apps is Swiftkey (free). It's so popular that it's pre-loaded on several different Android smartphones, including the Samsung Galaxy line. Swiftkey offers predictive text, a variety of themes (some require in-app purchases), and the ability to type by tracing; that is, gliding across the keyboard.
  • Touchpal (free) also offers trace-typing, in addition to stickers, emoji, and auto-correct. 
  • For tap typists, Fleksy (free with in-app purchases) has a top-rated auto-correct engine and some gesture controls.

Most keyboards offer alternate languages to English, which you can set up within the respective app. Some also enable you to tweak the keyboard layout, including adding or removing a number row and including emoji shortcuts.

Make it Your Default

Once you've downloaded your chosen keyboard — or even more than one — launch it to complete set-up. Most apps walk you through the process of enabling your keyboard and setting it as the default, but here's how to do so manually.

Instructions will vary depending on your Android OS.

  1. Go to Settings > System > Languages & input > and tap Virtual keyboard in the Keyboard & inputs section.

    Android language settings
  2. You'll see a list of each keyboard you've installed. Tap Manage keyboards.

    Android manage keyboards
  3. Toggle on the new keyboard.

    You might see a warning that this input method may collect the text you type including personal information. This data is how auto-correct learns to predict what you're typing, but it means an app could be storing your emails, texts, web searches, and even your passwords. We recommend reading about what the app collects before agreeing.

    If you're satisfied with the explanation, tap OK, and you're almost ready to go.

  4. Open the new keyboard app and finish setup.

Finishing Keyboard Setup

Each keyboard app has a different set-up process. If you're using Swiftkey, for example, after you enable Swiftkey in settings, you need to select it again within the app. Then you can choose to sign in to Swiftkey to get personalization, themes, and backup and sync features. You can sign in with Google rather than creating an account, which is convenient. You can also optionally personalize your text predictions using your sent mail.

Switching Keyboards

If you have a few keyboards you like to use; you can easily switch between them as needed, such as if you have a GIF keyboard or a specialized one for specific apps.

  1. Launch the app you want to type in.

  2. Tap to bring up the keyboard.

    Switch Android keyboard in app
  3. Tap the keyboard icon on the bottom right.

  4. Choose the keyboard from the list that pops up.