For several years, up until recently, some of the most popular apps that you could download in the Apple App Store were Emoji symbol apps.  Emoji symbols are the little yellow smileys that you have undoubtedly seen in text messages and various other documents online.  These apps were basically repositories of various faces and symbols, and you could copy them out of the app and then paste them directly into your text, much like you would copy and paste words or phrases.  However, these apps aren’t necessary anymore, because they are built right into the iOS operating system.  All you need to do is enable them, because they are turned off by default.

Emoji keyboard
Image courtesy of Apple.com

Emoji emoticons are essentially stored on a virtual “keyboard” in iOS.  Tap on the grey gears Settings app, and then tap on the General button partway down the page.  On the following page, scroll down the page until you see Keyboard, and then tap on that. This will take you to the keyboard setup options, where you can enable and disable things such as auto-capitalization or the “.” (period) shortcut – by the way, if you don’t know already, whenever you tap the spacebar twice, this shortcut will type a period followed by a space.  Below all of these options, you will see Keyboards again, which you need to tap to enter.  Then, you simply tap on Add New Keyboard… and then scroll around until you can select Emoji from the list.  Once you have selected it (or any other keyboard layout, for that matter), iOS will load all the keyboards whenever you have something to type.

To actually make use of the Emoji keyboard, it is simple.  Open up an app where you can type… e.g. start a new note, a new email message, or new text message.  You will see the keyboard that you are familiar with already, though you will notice a new button is present in the bottom left corner that looks like a globe (next to the “123” button).  When you tap the globe button, it will switch the keyboard to the next layout that you have enabled.  On my iPhone, I have the English keyboard and Emoji keyboard, so tapping the globe simply switches between the two.  On the Emoji keyboard, you will see several different colourful emoticons useful for all sorts of different occasions.  However, there are way more than just what you see!  Swipe on the emoticons to the left or right to switch between entire pages of these smileys.  Just above them, but below your text line, you can see a series of gray dots, which represent all of the pages of emoji’s available, with the darkest gray dot representing the page that you are currently viewing.  Try swiping to the left and right to see that the dark dot will move as you change the page.  In addition to these pages, you can also see along the very bottom of the screen several gray buttons in between the globe on the left and backspace button on the right.  The leftmost light gray button is like a history of recently used emoticons, handy if you find that you use a few more often than others.  Then you have buttons for standard smiley faces, then the flower represents nature (animals, plants, etc), the bell represents a bunch of different items or holidays, the car represents vehicles and travel (cars, planes, buildings, etc), and the final button with punctuation marks has several pages filled with numbers, arrows, and various other symbols.

With all of these Emoji symbols built right into your iPhone, there is no reason why you can’t find the perfect way to express yourself!  Even better, you don’t have to go to the App Store and try to select, or buy, one of several apps that all seem to do the same thing!  These emoticons are incredibly handy, and bundling them into the operating system was a smart move by Apple.  Ever since the original emoticons :-) became popular, I’ve always used them.  Now, they are full colour and much more expressive, and they are as much a part of 21st century communication as email and text messages.

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