How to Create an Emoji Keyboard App for iOS & Android

  • 9 min
  • Mar 30, 2018
Anastasia Z.

Anastasia Z.




We live in a world where emojis provide a range of opportunities for virtual interaction. See for yourself how popular emojis actually are — just look at data provided by Emojitracker. But nowadays, emojis are changing the business world too. The majority of the world’s companies like Disney, Starbucks and Pepsi now create their own emojis for customers. This allows them to reach a broad audience, thereby building their brand awareness and increasing sales.

The emoji phenomenon is continuing to make big waves in the market. So, if you want to make an emoji app, it’s certainly a good idea for your business.

Emojis usage

Types of emoji keyboard apps

The very first step to take before starting emoji development is to identify a type of emoji and an idea of a keyboard app. So, let's consider the most common types of emoji apps:

  • Celebmoji — this app offers stickers and emojis with images of famous people. Remember the popularity of the Trump or Kim Kardashian emojis.
  • Brand emojis — such apps can provide sets of stickers that illustrate, for example, food (pizza, coffee, or sandwiches) like Starbucks did.
  • Greeting emojis — this app contains stickers for special holidays or occasions, like Thanksgiving day or Christmas, for example.
  • Shoppable emojis — this means a brand has the ability connect an emoji or sticker via a deep link to a commercial experience. So customers can share their favorite goods’ emojis/stickers with friends, and users can buy those goods by simply clicking on the emoji/sticker they received.
  • Charity emojis— for example, the World Wildlife Foundation launched this type of emojis. They integrated emojis into their #EndangeredEmoji Twitter campaign to help save animals from extinction. They created 17 emojis for endangered species and encouraged users to donate 10p every time they retweeted one.
Types of emoji app

Mobile platforms for emojis

When the app idea becomes clear, the next step towards emoji app development is to define which mobile platform an app will support. Сurrently there are two popular ways to create an emoji app:

  • Develop emojis like extensions of standard keyboards in iOS and Android;
  • Create new emojis for specific messengers like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, iMessage, Viber, etc.
Types of emoji app

In this article, we’re going to explain how to create an emoji app as an extension to standard keyboards and identify its pros and cons.

How to make an emoji app

When it comes to app development, there are two ways of making an emoji app: use a ready-made tool or go for a custom-built one. Let's look at each of them in more detail.

Use a Ready-made Solution

To build an emoji app, you can use ready-made solutions like open-source libraries and SDKs that provide you with an extensive set of tools and make the development process pretty simple.

For example, with an SDK tool like Makemoji you can create your own emoji app by building upon your emoji’s basic shape or body and adding detail with each successive layer. Makemojii offers Gif support and the ability to use the emoji in-line with the text. Moreover, a keyboard app will work in an airplane or offline mode.

Another tool we’d like to mention is Instabot. Instabot is an open-source library that allows you to create your own emoji keyboard app for both iOS and Android messaging apps. Instabot helps you easily upload, customize and send your emojis and Gifs to messengers. Another plus is supporting a multiple sticker pack; that means an opportunity for good monetization. Furthermore, you can add your emojis and stickers to your app real-time, so you have no need for submitting another one to the app store.

To make an informed decision, let's take a look at the pros and cons of using ready-made tools:


  • Reduced time and money on emoji development
  • Intuitive interface
  • Simple creation process. You only require a small technical skillset to build an emoji keyboard


  • Limited emoji designs
  • Poor brand recognition due to limited emoji designs
  • Available tools can't always help you achieve your required results

Go for a custom-built one

Opt for building an app from scratch if you want to develop an emoji app with a unique design and features. In this case, you can create any app you desire, from static emojis to animated ones, and, moreover, it'll be specific and relevant.

The main features of a keyboard app are the emojis themselves. So it's crucial to give careful thought to UX and emoji design to effectively appeal to your target audience.There’s a golden rule — simple and useful application = popular application.

Before you start developing a custom emoji app from scratch, you should weigh the pros and cons of this approach:


  • Unique design
  • Opportunity to build an app for multiple mobile platforms
  • Ability to customize advertising or other ways of monetizing the app


  • The development process takes more time and costs more

Compared to these methods, it can be said that creating a keyboard with ready-made tools is less complex, because you literally get a set of tools that helps you make an emojis app.

As for the second method, it’s more challenging. It requires professional developers who have a clear understanding of how to build emoji keyboard apps for iPhone or Android. But nevertheless, creating a custom emoji keyboard is the best way to succeed. Despite the fact that such an app will require a lot of work, resources and time, it's worth it since you can use a variety of emojis (from interactive to static), implement additional features, and apply various monetization models, premium versions and more.

Now, once we've figured out the technical aspects, let's consider the features you can implement into your app.

The vital features that help an app stand out

Users expect that keyboard apps will be fast and responsive. Let's consider the following must-have features that help increase an app’s chances of being a popular emoji keyboard in a competitive market:

  • having a variety of free emojis and funny GIFs
  • having the ability to search for emojis and GIFs directly from a keyboard
  • the ability to share stickers/emojis via social apps like Facebook, Messenger, Snapchat, etc.
  • the ability to browse all emojis in a single scrolling view
  • the ability to divide emojis into categories (people, food, animals, etc.)
  • being able to work in offline mode

To make your own emoji app that users will most likely keep using, check out these extra features that'll spice up the overall user experience:

  • a row on top of the keyboard for the most used (or most popular) emojis
  • different keyboard themes to suit different users’ styles
  • the ability to set keyboard backgrounds with gallery or camera roll images
  • 3D animated emojis
  • emoji presents which perfectly match in color and style
  • predictive emoji combinations. For instance, once you type "Congratulations", a keyboard will suggest festive emojis with balloons, birthday cakes, and flowers to complement your message
  • clickable emojis that work as deep links, so businesses can redirect users to storefronts, official websites, and other online resources.
  • the ability to mark emojis as favorites
  • the ability to sort emojis by the most popular or latest
  • the ability to customize emoji backgrounds, colors, etc.

How to make money with emoji keyboard app

Aside from figuring out how to make your own emoji app, it's vital to find a way for its monetization. Here’s how you can make money with your emoji keyboard app:

Download fees — the user receives access to all emojis after paying a fee. Paid apps like Emoji, of course, result in a higher than average revenue per download; they have a higher perceived value. But people are less likely to pay for an app if they can’t try it out first. They can, more likely than not, find an app similar to yours for free.

In-app ads — this offers ads within an app and pays you if users interact with those ads. For example, Facemoji applies such an approach. This monetization method attracts clients with its simplicity since it’s easy to add advertisements on your app. But there should be a delicate balance between giving importance to ads and annoying your users with distracting advertisements.

Branded content — this offers revenue generation by creating branded emojis & sticker packs. #pepsiMoji serves as a vivid example. Instead of posting random advertisements that may seem invasive or annoying to users, you can find a sponsor for your app. On the one hand, such a way of monetizing is usually well received by users since the content is more relevant to your audience. But on the other hand, it’s not so easy to find a good sponsor, especially if you're just starting out.

In-app purchases — this way offers individual pricing of emoji packs and premium content. This is the largest source of revenue in free apps like Emoji Keyboard. In-app purchases work with a variety of different verticals because you aren’t limited to selling virtual goods. Keep in mind, however, that in-app purchases are not guaranteed money-makers. If implemented poorly, they can lead to bad reviews, frustrated users, and customer service nightmares. It’s crucial to consider these potential drawbacks before pursuing this app monetization strategy.

How to create an emoji app

Want to build an emoji keyboard app?

The popularity of emojis and visual marketing is likely to grow in the near future. So, the idea of creating your own emoji keyboard application is pretty good and has great potential.

Recently, we made our own sticker pack named Drako. These are free stickers of dinosaur Drako who has a variety of emotions. The sticker pack is available for iMessage and Telegram. Developing Drako was a perfect opportunity to gain an experience in creating stickers and to share our creativity.



Anastasia Z.

Anastasia Z.


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