How to Install a Keyboard on Your Android Smartphone

Ditch the default Android keyboard and replace it with a better one

A close up picture of a gray keyboard

Karl Tapales/Getty Images

If you don't like the keyboard on your Android device, there are many third-party Android keyboards available. These third-party keyboards have auto-correct, tracing features, and more. While GBoard, the Google keyboard, has gesture typing built-in, as well as voice typing and emoji shortcuts, there are 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). Swiftkey is pre-loaded on several Android smartphones, including the Samsung Galaxy. 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 are set up in the respective app. Some also enable you to customize 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 the installation. Most apps walk you through the process of enabling a 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.

  2. In the Keyboard & inputs section, tap Virtual keyboard.

    System, Languages & input, Virtual keyboard
  3. Tap Manage keyboards.

  4. Turn on the toggle switch next to the keyboard you want to use.

    A warning may notify you that the keyboard may collect the text you type including personal information. This is how auto-correct predicts what you're about to type. To do this, the app may store emails, texts, web searches, and passwords. Find out what the app collects before downloading it.

    SwiftKey toggle, SwiftKey Keyboard, radio button on Android
  5. Tap OK.

  6. Open the new keyboard app and finish the setup.

Finish the Keyboard Setup

Each keyboard app has a different setup process. With Swiftkey, for example, after Swiftkey is enabled in the settings, select it again in the app. Then 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 and personalize text predictions using your sent mail.

Switching Keyboards

If you have a few keyboards you like to use; switch between them as needed. This is convenient when you use a GIF keyboard or a specialized keyboard for specific apps.

  1. Launch the app you want to type in.

  2. Tap to display the keyboard.

  3. Tap the keyboard icon on the bottom right.

  4. Choose the keyboard from the list.

    Keyboard icon, Change keyboard dialog in Android
  5. Start typing.