How to enable Emoji icons on iOS for free

Emoji icons are a fun addition when sending messages on your iPhone or iPad. We will show you how to get Emoji icons on your iOS device, for free. Follow along as we walk you through the process.

Jason Cipriani Contributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Jason Cipriani
3 min read

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani

Have you ever received a message on your iPhone that looked like the one above? Emoji icons have grown in popularity for iOS devices over the last couple of years. With this simple guide we are going to show you how to get an Emoji keyboard on your iPhone, iPad or iPad Touch for free; allowing you to join in on the fun.

We had originally shown you how to get an Emoji keyboard on your iPhone back in 2009. At the time there was only one Emoji app available in the App Store, and it was a paid app at that. Today there are literally hundreds of apps available in the App Store that bring Emoji to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch--most of them are free.

Step 1. Search the App Store for Emoji.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani

You will need to search the App Store for Emoji (iTunes link) on your iOS device or in iTunes on your computer. Most of the apps you will see are free, while some are free with ads, or $0.99. You can pick any of the free apps; they all end up doing the same thing in the end.

After you have selected an Emoji app that works for you, download and install it on your iOS device.

Step 2. Enable the Emoji Keyboard

After you install the Emoji app of your choice, you will see an icon for the app on your device. This makes for an easy way to browse all of the Emoji icons, but it does not automatically enable the Emoji keyboard. In fact, if you have a folder or a screen where you put apps that you will never open, this would be one app to add to that collection.

In order to enable the Emoji keyboard, open the Settings app on your device. Scroll down and tap on General.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani

On the General screen, scroll down and tap on Keyboard.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani

Tap on Add New Keyboard..

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani

You will now be presented with a long list of available keyboards on your device. Scroll down and locate Emoji. Tap on Emoji. If Emoji doesn't show up in this list, exit back to your home screen and open the Emoji app icon. Let it fully load, then go back into Settings  > General  > Keyboard and try to add Emoji again. If it is still not present in the list, restart your device and try again.

Step 3. Activate your Emoji keyboard while typing

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani

Now that you have enabled your Emoji keyboard, you can access it whenever you're typing on your device. When your keyboard pops up, you will see a button with a globe on it just to the left of the Space key. Tap on this button to change to your Emoji keyboard.

Emoji keyboard on the iPhone Screenshot by Jason Cipriani

Emoji keyboard on the iPad Screenshot by Jason Cipriani

To change back to your normal keyboard, just tap on the globe again.

Now that you are able to send Emoji to friends and family, keep in mind that they will need to be using an iOS device as well. However, some Android apps will recognize the Emoji you send from your iPhone.