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How to Make an Emoji Keyboard App?

An illustration showing two hands typing a message with different emojis popping up from the background

Interested in building an emoji keyboard app? 

This is a great market that has really taken off in recent years.

Besides all the money, innovating in the software industry is a great way to improve people’s lives. Here’re a few amazing case studies of companies who hired DevTeam.Space to build their software products:

  1. DentaMatch – Healthcare Android and iOS App
  2. Medicoin – Healthcare Blockchain-Based Web Application
  3. Medical Supply – Healthcare Mobile App and Web Application


Top emoji keyboard apps
How to make a custom emoji app: The approach
The importance of the mobile app UI
Access a comprehensive emoji library
SDK/API options to create your own emoji app
The mobile backend of the emoji app
Development and testing tools
Localization of your emoji mobile app
A team to develop your emoji app
Managing the emoji app development project
The emoji app development cost

Top emoji keyboard apps


A keyboard with different emojis

A quick look at top emoji keyboard apps might help you in your journey to build an emoji keyboard app. You will likely come away with a few great design ideas.

Kika Keyboard

An illustration of the Kika Keyboard app

Kika Keyboard is one of the most popular emoji keyboard apps, and it’s available both on Android and iOS. It’s an intuitive and expressive app, additionally, it’s popular everywhere. At the time of writing this article, they have 60 million monthly active users (MAUs) and has the top ranking in ‘Google Play’ in this category.

The app features many themes and stickers. It supports over 150 languages, furthermore, it has an auto-correct feature. Users can send animated GIFs.

SwiftKey Keyboard

A SwiftKey Keyboard example

SwiftKey Keyboard is available on both Android and iOS. The app allows typing with a swipe. It spots typos and helps in correcting them. Users can send stickers, GIFs, and emojis. The app adjusts to your writing style and suggests the next words. Users can type in 5 languages without adjusting settings, however, the app supports over 200 languages.


Three mobile screens illustrating the Gboard app

Gboard is from Google. It’s a fast app, furthermore, it offers several features. Gesture typing, voice typing, and word suggestions are some of the features. Even more important is that the app offers hundreds of emojis, sticker, and GIFs. Searching emojis is very easy. You can download the Android app here, whereas the iOS app can be downloaded from here.


A hand holding a smartphone with settings for designing a Bitmoji avatar on its screen

A highly popular app, Bitmoji enables users to create their own emojis. It can be used with other apps, furthermore, there are both Android and iOS versions. After users create their own emojis, they can send them to others using the Gboard app. Users can link it to iMessage of iOS. Linking with Snapchat provides additional features.


Different icons illustrating the Facemoji Keyboard

With Facemoji, one can turn his face into an emoji! There are over 3,600 emojis available in this app. There are also emoticons, stickers, and GIFs. The app also has other interesting features like ‘emoji prediction’ and ‘emoji combo’. Download the Android app here, whereas you can get the iOS app here.

How to make a custom emoji app: The approach

I recommend a full-fledged custom development. When you create your own emoji keyboard app this, way, you can introduce differentiated features. That’s important. All the examples I mentioned above are free, therefore, you can see that it’s a competitive landscape. You need stand-out features to make a difference.

A summary of the recommended approach is as follows:

  1. Design and develop the mobile app ‘User Interface’ (UI) and front-end.
  2. Get access to a comprehensive emoji library.
  3. Use ‘Software Development Kits’ (SDKs) and ‘Application Programming Interfaces’ (APIs) to address common functionalities.
  4. Get a ‘Mobile Backend as a Service’ provider for the mobile backend.
  5. Manage the project as an ‘Agile’ project since that’s suitable for iterative mobile app development. I had earlier described Agile in “How to build an Agile development team”, which you can consult for more details.

The importance of the mobile app UI

An illustration showing a blueprint for a smartphone and a smartphone

You certainly need great features however, you also need a great UI to be successful in the crowded mobile app market. You need skilled UI/UX designers, e.g.:

Access a comprehensive emoji library

While you will develop your app UI, use SDKs/APIs for development, and use an MBaaS provider, you need the emojis! After all, you will need to use them in your app, and you may need to customize them. You need to get access to a comprehensive emoji library.

I recommend EmojiOne. They have a comprehensive emoji library, and they are 100% Unicode compliant. The library contains 2,827 emojis. They have a free plan, where you can get all emojis for personal use without attribution. This free plan requires attribution for commercial use.

The premium plan comes with several key features, for e.g., you will get the SVG files for vectors and large (512 pixels) PNG files. The company also has an enterprise plan, and you can compare their plans here.

SDK/API options to create your own emoji app

At this point, I will explain a few SDK/API options. These can take away quite a bit of development work. This expedites creating that best emoji app for Android, alternatively, you can create an app for emojis on iOS using these.

Makemoji SDK: The 1st SDK/API option

Makemoji offers their SDKs, using which you can create your own emoji app. You can build in the following features:

  • You can build in conversation-level emojis. These emojis will work in-line with texts.
  • Users don’t need to copy-paste. They can click on emojis to share.
  • Searching for emojis is easy.
  • The search function can work even in offline mode.
  • Support of 20 most popular languages will be available.
  • It’s possible to create custom emojis and add them.
  • You will have access to the analytics dashboard to measure user engagement.

How to develop an emoji app using the Makemoji SDK? For this, you need to take the following steps:

  1. Sign-up with Makemoji.
  2. The company provides you with access to the admin dashboard, therefore, you can customize your own emoji library. This gives you full control over emojis in your own app.
  3. Using the same dashboard, you can also add new emojis and GIFs.

The SDK works with the Makemoji APIs seamlessly. You can access the SDK documentation here. The Makemoji SDK is free, however, you need to address the mobile backend functions. For e.g., Makemoji doesn’t provide push notifications, therefore, you need to provide for it.

Karmies SDK/API: The 2nd option

Karmies provides SDKs for Android and iOS, which can expedite your emoji app development. The SDKs offer the following advantages:

  • Drop-in keyboard;
  • Smart auto-suggest bar;
  • Automatic emoji replacement;
  • Analytics, to measure user engagement;
  • Monetization options.

Karmies integration is possible across several platforms, for e.g., Android, iOS, iMessage, and Facebook Messenger. The company also offers REST APIs. Check out their documentation in their GitHub repository. The SDKs are free.

EmojiTap SDK: The 3rd option

EmojiTap is a mobile marketing platform. They offer iOS and Android SDKs, which you can integrate into your app. These can help you with developing your emoji app. Your users can easily insert emojis in their messages. Smartphone messaging apps like WhatsApp, as well as apps like Facebook,  are supported.

The company offers an FAQ page, where you can gather more information about their product. You need to reach them via their websites’ contact page, to get their pricing information.

The mobile backend of the emoji app

To launch your app quickly enough, you need to expedite development. SDKs and APIs help in that, however, you also need to address the mobile backend. Management of a mobile backend encompasses quite a few aspects.

You need to manage the infrastructure, and persistent storage. The app needs a database, which you need to provision. Security of the mobile app is important, and you need to manage that. User management and user authentication are some of the other key aspects. Mobile apps also need provision for push notifications to improve user engagement, and this is another aspect for you to manage.

MBaaS providers do all these for you, therefore, you can focus on the front-end. This helps in a quick ‘Time to market’. There are several reputed MBaaS providers, for e.g., AWS Mobile, Google Firebase, Kinvey, SashiDo, and Kumulos. Our guide “How to choose the best mobile backend as a service (MBaaS)?” explains why using an MBaaS provider is better than a ‘Do-It-Yourself’ DIY approach.

Development and testing tools

A mobile app development typically uses an iterative approach. The development team first releases a ‘Minimum Viable Product’ (MVP), subsequently, there are multiple enhancements. Releases are frequent.

This requires a robust build management, testing, and code deployment framework. As you can see, frequent releases don’t leave too much time for the developers, testers, and the deployment team. Automation is very important for mobile app development. Given this context, DevOps practices and tools assume a high importance.

A robust DevOps framework offers continuous integration, continuous delivery, test automation, deployment automation, etc. There are several reputed DevOps frameworks. For e.g., you can consider the AWS DevOps framework. It includes valuable tools, for e.g., AWS CodePipeline, AWS CodeBuild, AWS CodeDeploy, and AWS CodeStar.

Localization of your emoji mobile app

Most of the popular emoji apps support multiple languages. Even if you plan to launch your app supporting only English at first, you may need to expand in other markets. It’s better to plan for this eventuality upfront.

Translating your app into another language and making its’ content suitable for another market falls within the ambit of ‘app localization’. Whether you will localize your app depends on your app marketing strategy.

However, using appropriate development processes and methodologies to remain ready for that localization is called ‘app internationalization’. You should ideally be ready with that. Consult our guide “7 tips for mobile app localization” for more details.

A team to develop your emoji app

I recommend you build a team with the following skills:

  • Business analysists;
  • UI/UX designers;
  • iOS developers;
  • Android developers;
  • Testers;
  • A project manager (PM).

This being an iterative project using the Agile methodology, my recommendation is that you use the tried-and-tested ‘Scrum’ technique. It’s eminently suited to iterative development, where a compact and cross-functional team works on iterations called the ‘Sprint’. A ‘Scrum’ team has the following roles:

  • A ‘Scrum master’, who is the PM. The PM should be conversant with the project management best practices.
  • A ‘Product owner’ (PO), who provides with the features and requirements, in a document, called the ‘Product backlog’.
  • The cross-functional ‘Scrum team’, preferably co-located.

Managing the emoji app development project

The scrum team estimates the features in the product backlog. This provides sufficient information to plan each sprint. The scrum master then plans the sprints along with the rest of the team, by assigning features to individual sprints.

As the work of the sprint progresses, the team conducts a ‘Daily stand-up meeting’. This allows everyone to report the status of his or her work. This also enables the scrum master to make note of issues and resolve them.

At the end of the sprint, the features should be demonstrably ready. The scrum team then conducts a ‘Sprint review meeting’. They demonstrate the features to the project stakeholders. Provided the features are working as per the requirements, the project stakeholders approve the sprint.

There is also a lessons-learned exercise at the end of the sprint, which is called the ‘Sprint retrospective meeting’. Our guide “How to build a Scrum development team” can provide you with detailed instructions.

A project like this also requires an effective project management tool. You can consider “Asana”, which is a popular tool to manage Agile projects. Check more examples in our guide “The 10 best Agile project management tools in 2018”.

The emoji app development cost

Among the cost components in this project, a few are easily estimate, for e.g., the emoji library, and the MBaaS cost. The concerned providers publish their pricing plans on their website. DevOps or PM tool providers do so too.

You need to contact the SDK providers for their pricing details. Then, you need to estimate the development manpower cost, which depends on your app complexity and the local labor market.

For an end-to-end development project like this, you might need to engage software development companies. You should exercise due diligence to prevent someone from copying your app idea unethically. Finding a dependable app development partner can be tricky, therefore, consult our guide “How to find the best software development company?”.

DevTeam.Space is a vetted community of expert dev teams supported by an AI-powered agile process.

Companies like Samsung, Airbus, NEC, and startups rely on us to build great online products. We can help you too, by helping you to hire and effortlessly manage expert developers.

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