How To: Unlock the Secret Emoticon Keyboard on Your iPhone

Unlock the Secret Emoticon Keyboard on Your iPhone

Chances are you use the "Emoji" keyboard on your iPhone, but did you know that iOS also has an emoticon keyboard? Whenever you want to use an emoticon, just use this hidden keyboard instead of trying to type your expression out manually.

Emoticons may not be the bright, colorful icons we've come to love on smartphones, but they're equally cute expressions with many possibilities and looks that emoji just hasn't come up with yet. For example, "shrug" anyone?

Usually, you need to type emoticons out piece by piece, and your current typing keyboard might not even have all the Unicode characters that you need. That's when copy/pasting from the internet comes into play, but that's a lot of work too.

While we suggest that you make your most-used emoticons into keyboard shortcuts for quick and easy access, whenever you need something more, nothing beats the convenience of the built-in emoticon keyboard. And if you're asking yourself why you've never seen or heard of this keyboard before, it's probably because you don't speak Japanese.

Step 1: Add the Romaji Keyboard

To begin, open the Settings app, tap "General," then tap "Keyboard." On the next page, tap "Keyboards" at the top of the page, then tap "Add New Keyboard."

Scroll down the list of keyboards, then select "Japanese." You'll see two options, but you'll want to tap "Romaji," which translates Japanese characters into Romanized characters English-speakers would recognize. Once selected, tap "Done" in the top-right corner to exit back to the Keyboards page.

If you want to make this keyboard the default throughout your iPhone, tap "Edit" in the top-right corner of the display, then tap-and-hold on the three lines to the right of "Japanese – Romaji." Drag the keyboard to the top of the list, then tap "Done" to solidify it as your default keyboard.

Step 2: Access the Emoticon Section

Now that you have the keyboard set up, you're ready to select and send emoticons to anyone you wish. Open up any app that you can type in, like Messages, then tap where you need to, to bring up the keyboard. If you set "Japanese – Romaji" as your default keyboard, it should pop up immediately.

If it doesn't open immediately, tap the globe icon (the keyboard switcher) to cycle through all keyboards until you reach Romaji. Alternatively, you can tap-and-hold the globe to access a short list of all your keyboards, from which you can select "Japanese – Romaji" (which will actually be some Japanese characters).

Once in the Romaji keyboard, tap the "123" key in the bottom-left corner, then tap the "^_^" key on the right to access the secret emoticon keyboard.

Step 3: Add Emoticons Like Never Before

From here, you can swipe left to view all emoticons. However, there are too many emoticons to make this method worthwhile in many cases. Tap the "^" icon (the circumflex accent or up arrow) to the right to open up the keyboard in a larger window. This change makes finding an appropriate emoticon much easier.

When you find an emoticon you like, just tap on it. The emoticon keyboard will disappear, and the emoticon itself will be loaded where you're typing. You can delete any part of the emoticon you'd like to since it is only made up of individual Unicode characters.

Oh, and in case you were looking for it, the "shrug" emoticon isn't listed in this keyboard. This keyboard doesn't list all emoticons, just a decent selection of Eastern-style emoticons called kaomoji," as well as some Western ones as well.

Cover image, screenshots, and GIFs by Jake Peterson/Gadget Hacks

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