Just because your iPhone comes with a software keyboard doesn’t mean you have to like it…or keep it. There are better iPhone keyboard apps out there with robust features like custom themes and emoji, as well as some that can help you type faster or more accurately, so why not make the jump?
Although keyboard customization first became available on iOS 8, it’s not the only operating system that lets users swap in a third-party keyboard on their mobile device: There are several great options for Android as well. Many of the keyboard apps in our comparison actually offer apps for both systems, so if you own devices on Android and iOS and you find one you like, you can install on all of your devices.
Update, 9/28/21: Checked content for accuracy.
Choosing a new keyboard is a fun way to personalize your phone, and it can be fun trying out new keyboard apps to see what’s available. Every app offers a variety of things to customize from comfort to aesthetics. Each one does things its own way, however, so these are the most important things to think about:
- Text Options: Good keyboard software makes it easy to type quickly and accurately, and supports both gesture and voice typing. It should also sport robust options for text correction and predictive text, support a wide variety of languages, and let you add or remove words from your personal dictionary.
- Design: Third-party keyboard apps are all about customization. From fun colorful themes to keyboard layout choices, having options galore for every setting is what makes them great. The best iPhone keyboard apps offer several keyboard size and layout options, and let you toggle things like haptic feedback, sounds, emoji and GIFs, and a number row. Pretty much any customization you can think of is possible, so make sure you take the time to try out a few and find the one that’s right for you.
- Emoji & GIF Access: Although it’s important for a keyboard to have solid text options for fast accurate typing, half the fun of them is discovering GIFs and emoji and sharing them with friends. Good iPhone keyboard apps make easy access to emoji, stickers, GIFs, and other fun extras a priority, instead of making you search for or download some from another app.
- Privacy: Keyboards can access everything you type, from passwords and usernames to credit card information and your personal dictionary. Because of this vulnerability, we favor keyboards that guarantee privacy and that store everything locally on your device (rather than in the cloud somewhere).
- Cost: All of the keyboard apps in our comparison are free, though some offer in-app purchases for things like premium themes or other tools. Even if you end up looking at other keyboard apps outside of our list, make sure you avoid options that require a purchase or, worse, a subscription, as it just isn’t something you need to pay for.
Microsoft SwiftKey (Free, with in-app purchases) is a solid well-rounded keyboard app, but its most impressive feature is its language support. The app lets you seamlessly type in as many as five languages at a time without adjusting any settings. You can choose from over 400 supported languages, so if you’ve got friends and family across the globe, this keyboard can help you talk to all of them efficiently. The AI-powered dictionary continually adapts to the unique way you speak and has powerful autocorrect and helpful text predictions. And don’t worry, it also has robust GIFs, emoji, and stickers for when you feel like getting crazy.
Fleksy (Free, with in-app purchases) is beautiful and private, yes, but its shining feature is how fast you can type with it. Fleksy is the fastest keyboard out there, even holding a Guinness World Record. It stores everything you type locally on your device, not in a cloud, so you’ll have peace of mind knowing your private information (like username and password) aren’t vulnerable to hacks. The keyboard also has built-in mini apps so you can search for memes, GIFs, video clips, and even Yelp recommendations without changing apps. There’s also a selection of other mini extensions, too.
Google’s Gboard (Free) is simple and straightforward, focusing on features over flash. It offers excellent text prediction using machine learning and has multilingual support so you can switch between typing in different languages. Your dictionary and autocorrect suggestions will automatically detect and switch accordingly. It also supports voice and glide typing.
Gboard has a large selection of GIFs, stickers, and emoji to choose from, and you can customize settings like haptic feedback, sounds, and keyboard layout and theme options. The keyboard has a small selection of themes with muted colors, landscape photos, and gradients, and you can use one of your own photos, too. Gboard also keeps your information private and only stores your information on your device.
Sure, typos happen, but if you feel like you tend to create them more than others, you might want to check out Typewise (Free, with in-app purchases). While it maintains a “traditional” keyboard layout option, it pushes users to type with its alternative keyboard layout, which has larger keys and is designed to cause 80% fewer typos. The app uses gestures to facilitate typing, like swiping up to capitalize a letter or swiping left or right to delete or restore, respectively. It also keeps what you type secure and out of the cloud, and supports typing in over 40 languages.
No one likes being the person known for making grammatical errors. If that sounds like you, consider downloading Grammarly (Free, with in-app purchases). While it lacks many of the more exciting features these types of apps tend to have, it does a decent job of helping you type faster, making your writing stronger and more accurate, and helping you understand the errors you make so you don’t repeat them in the future. The keyboard works in all kinds of apps, like social media sites, email, messages, and documents, and it promises secure privacy for anything you type while using it.
You can unleash your inner artist with ReBoard (Free, with in-app purchases), as it gives you the option to customize pretty much everything from themes to keyboard layouts to fonts. ReBoard has a huge database of animated stickers and the latest emoji, and even has automatic emoji predictions and an emoji search function. ReBoard also has tons of ways to customize your keyboard, like different sizes and colors, one-handed typing layouts, and options for alternate characters and moving the cursor around on the space bar. It even has 27 built-in mini-apps for web and image search, GIFs and stickers, a calculator, YouTube, your calendar, Slack, Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, news, and more.
If you like using emoji but have always wanted something a little more personal, check out Bitmoji (Free). The app lets you create a custom cartoon avatar that looks just like you. You have control over details like facial features, the color of your hair and skin, and even your avatars expressions, outfits, and accessories. Though it also lets you type regularly and offers helpful text suggestions, the fun of the app is taking the time to customize your Bitmoji stickers and showing them off to your friends and family when you chat with them.