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How to Make an Emoji Keyboard App?

ℹ️ 📖

That means I wrote a new blog post.

And surprise! It’s about emojis

When was the last time you’ve used an emoji in your text? Yesterday, two hours ago, two minutes ago?

Right. They are everywhere.

Why Emojis and Stickers Are a Huge Industry

Emogi, an emotional marketing platform did a massive study on the use of emoji among online consumers. The implications for businesses will likely surprise you.

Take a quick look at the data:

  • 2.3 trillion messages containing emojis were sent in 2016.
  • People, who tend to use messaging apps infrequently (from several times per year to weekly) still feel interested in having alternative emojis beyond the standard ones.


  • When choosing a mobile messaging app, almost 20% of “Heavy Users” mentioned having emojis as an extremely important feature.
  • And guess what – most users still want even more custom emojis ☺ That’s a good case to make an emoji keyboard app, right?



Okay, so that clearly indicates the demand for emojis in mobile chat apps.

But is there any other reasoning to make a custom emoji app for businesses?

Again, here’s some data:

Paid/freemium emoji apps can be hugely profitable.

MuvaMoji app (commissioned by Amber Rose) has made $2 million on the release day alone, and $4 million total as for April 2016. Lines, another popular messaging app generates $270 million annually from sticker sales.

So, it’s safe to say the money is there.

Yet, apart from direct revenues, custom emojis can serve as a powerful branded message and a sleek marketing tactic for promoting new products.

Vivian Rosenthal from Snaps has shared a few examples of how brands can leverage this opportunity:

“Burger King brought back the much-loved Chicken Fries to its menu and reintroduced them in the form of emojis while Mr. Robot gave fans emoji versions of their favorite characters to share and drive tune-in. Dove launched curly-haired emojis for their #loveyourcurls campaign which helped boost confidence in women with curly hair and drive product sales”.

And there’s even more to that.

You can build an emoji keyboard app with shoppable stickers or emoticons, which are deep linked to a commerce experience. So, if a user sends a branded bag sticker to their friend, she can buy the exact same version by simply clicking the received image.

Wait. Here’s the best part.

Most consumers like using branded emojis to express themselves better. According to the same data from Emogi:

  • 45% of respondents are moderately, very, or extremely likely to use one of the Pepsi-branded smileys.
  • 59% would also be moderately, very, or extremely likely to use a branded beer emoji.

Let me illustrate this further with a few successful emoji campaigns from the top brands:


So does it make more sense to create your own emoji app now?

You betcha!

And here goes a quick guide on how to make an emoji app.

Which Platforms Do You Plan To Support?

Let’s make it clear from the start.

You can either create an emoji keyboard app that would replace/appear along with the standard one on iOS or Android gadgets.

Or you can build an app for emojis on iOS or Android that would make those appear only in supported messaging platforms e.g. Viber, iMessages, Tango etc.

By the way, here are the most frequently used messaging apps in the US:


Earlier in 2016, iMessage has opened up access to third-party developers, meaning anyone can now build and deploy a custom app extension.

iMessage apps are really getting the momentum right now, and our agency even went as far as naming them among the top iOS app development trends for 2017.

But….there’s one unpleasant kicker with custom stickers and emojis in iOS 10.

Unlike the standard emojis, custom ones cannot be mixed with text and function more like photos that you add to the conversation. Here’s an illustration:


You should also check the official guidelines for designing stickers for this platform and mind the respective sizes and image formats.

Or you can take the alternative route and create a custom emoji keyboard for iPhone. That’s how popular celebrity emoji apps work.

The emoji app development costs would be a bit higher in this case. But you can compensate it if you choose to make your content/app premium. For starters, check out the official design guidelines for custom keyboards from Apple.

If you plan to develop an Android emoji app, you can only choose to have those displayed as a keyboard.

Arguably, one of the best emoji apps for Android is YourMoji, which allows creating custom emojis, memes, stickers and other content from your phone or browse the pre-made collections.

Launching a paid Android emoji app may not be the best route for fast user adoption and instant profits. Typically, the most popular apps are free, but feature premium content or generate revenues through advertising.

Yet, if your company wants to tap into a larger audience segment with branded content, Android definitely offers access to a larger user base.

Define Your Target Audience


The most successful emoji apps target a very specific niche audience.

Let’s take a closer look on those.

  • Celebrity fans – apps featuring stickers/emojis created based on popular personalities have gained a huge momentum last year. Think Kim Kardashian app, funny Trump, and Hillary Clinton stickers etc.
  • Users of a specific platform Bitmoji (recently acquired by Snapchat) allows users to create your own cartoon-ish avatar and receive a collection of stickers featuring you. Ok, so obviously it targeted Snapchat users.
  • Seasonal/Occasionspecific emoji sets e.g. a set of birthday greeting emojis or a pack geared towards the annual fall Pumpkin Spice Latte craze (you are welcome Starbucks for the idea )
  • Underrepresented groups of users. Until recently both Apple and Android really failed to account for diversity. Apart from offering emojis of color, you can create custom stickers that would allow people with disabilities or LGBT folks to express themselves better.

If you are creating a branded set of emojis, the best option is to assign them to a certain marketing campaign. For instance, a new product launch or to create the first set of most commonly shopped goods for users to share.

Build With Growth in Mind

Want to expose your product to more users? Here one clever trick to consider:


When clicked, the blue attribution link (DogStickers) will instantly redirect another user to the sticker install page. Meaning your product can go viral faster!

If you have branded stickers for products, you can attribute them to respective product pages and direct the potential customers there. Quick and effective!

A Note on User Privacy

While emoji and sticker, apps could be a great way to collect more data about your users and their shopping/conversational preferences, proceed carefully here.

Sephojis – an emoji keyboard by Sephora, already received a bunch of negative comments from users arguing why on earth should the app should be granted full access to their iPhones.

What’s your way around this?

  • Avoid requesting full keyboard access from the users (as it can severely alienate a lot of them)
  • Provide a very valid explanation of why you need it in the first place and how you’ll store/use that data.

You should make it clear that you will not record the keystroke and gather private data such as addresses or credit card numbers.

The best option is to include a custom permission request screen that would explain the key reasoning and provide instructions.

That’s how SwiftKey app handles that:


In a nutshell, that’s how to develop an emoji app. If you are interested in more technical details for the project or would like to chat about your idea and the costs involved, reach out to Alty!

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