Top Emoji Keyboards for Android and iOS

By Tracey Dowdy 

If you’ve ever scrolled through your emoji and wished for a little more variety, you’re in luck. There’s no need to be stuck in a rut – there are scores of emoji keyboards users can download for both operating systems with everything from animated emoji to gifs to stickers to themes. 

Here are a few emoji keyboards for iPhone and Android users to check out and change up their text messaging. Enjoy! 

Bitmoji will be familiar to Snapchat users but is compatible with other apps as well. Users can create a cartoon avatar that looks just like you and adds another personalization level as your Bitmoji is incorporated into most stickers. For Android, you have the option to install it manually or through the Bitmoji app. Once you sign up within the app, tap the Globe icon to open the Keyboard tab and follow the prompts to enable the keyboard. To manually set it up, install the app and go to Settings. From there, tap Languages and input > Virtual (or On-screen keyboard) > Manage Keyboards > toggle on Bitmoji Keyboard. Free for iOS and Android.

Kika’s keyboard offers a jillion – okay, maybe just thousands – of emoji, fonts, gifs, stickers, and custom keyboard themes. It even has Kika predictive emoji and an emoji dictionary. The gifs work on social media platforms, and users can upload photos as the background to your keyboard. For Android, go to Settings > Languages and input > Virtual (or On-screen keyboard) > Manage Keyboards. For iOS, download the app, then choose Settings > General > Keyboard > Turn on Kika. You’ll also need to allow full access to use all the keyboard’s features. Free for iOS and Android.

Gboard (free for Android and iOS) lets you search for specific emoji, track your most-used emoji, add stickers to your texts, and use gifs and old-fashioned emoticons. To use Gboard, download it from the App Store or Google Play. Go into your Settings and tap Enable (Android) or Get Started (iOS). Note, Apple is notoriously proprietary about third-party apps, so you’ll need to manually enable permissions to use most of the features. 

The most intuitive keyboard on this list, Microsoft’s SwiftKey learns your writing style, including slang, nicknames, and favorite emoji. It’s also the most customizable. Users can add themes, features emoji prediction (that can be turned on and off in Settings), and “type with swipe” capability and seamlessly type in up to five languages without switching settings. Choose from 400+ supported languages. On Android, go to Settings > Language & input > SwiftKey. For iOS, tap General > Keyboard > Add New Keyboard. You’ll see all the keyboards you have installed on your device; choose SwiftKey to enable. If you want it to be your default keyboard, click Edit, then drag it to the top of the list.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Clean Your Phone Without Damaging the Screen

By Tracey Dowdy

I think it’s safe to say we’re all a lot more aware of how easily germs and viruses can be transmitted than we were a year ago. As a result, we’re also quicker to sanitize surfaces, and that includes our phones. Some guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control have changed over the past several months as we learn more about the risk of contracting COVID-19 through surface-to-skin contact. We now know that coronavirus can last from hours up to several days on surfaces and objects but has not been shown to survive past seven days. 

There are many ways to clean your phone, including Phone Soap, but if you’re looking for a less expensive option, not all cleaning methods are safe. Follow these guidelines to ensure your phone is sanitized without damaging your screen.

Disinfect

Never use straight alcohol on your phone screen as it can strip the oleophobic and hydrophobic coatings that protect your display and other ports. There are DIY solutions such as creating your own mix of alcohol and water, but if you get the concentration wrong, you’re likely to damage your screen or fail to sanitize the device. Instead, use disinfectant wipes containing 70% isopropyl alcohol or Clorox wipes (Apple initially advised against Clorox or similar wipes on your phone, but they now say it’s okay). Another option is to spray a nonabrasive or alcohol-based (70% isopropyl) disinfectant on a soft lint-free cloth – not directly on the device itself – then wipe down while the device is powered down and unplugged.

Of course, the safest way to clean the screen and remove those greasy fingerprints and smudges is with a microfiber cloth. If it’s particularly dirty, wet the cloth – not the device – even though the latest phones from manufacturers like Apple and Samsung are water-resistant. Others are a mixed bag, with only specific models passing tests. You can also try a Microfiber Screen Cleaner Sticker designed to adhere to the back of devices, so you’re never without a cleaning wipe. 

If you have lint or other debris in the ports, use Scotch tape to lift it out. Lay it along the crevices or roll it up to reach into the charging port. You use a small tool like a toothpick or a micro vacuum tool to remove dirt from hard-to-reach places like the speaker port. 

Avoid using hand sanitizer, glass cleaners, anything with abrasive properties, vinegar, bleach, or any kitchen or household cleansers to disinfect your phone. Paper towels are a no-no as they too can scratch the surface over time, and compressed ait will only drive debris further into the device. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Move your Kids from “Screen” to “Green”

By Tracey Dowdy 

After what seems like forever, the weather here in the mid-Atlantic and much of the rest of the country, it’s time to move your little ones from “screen” to “green” – in other words, let’s go outside and play!

Don’t panic, I’m not suggesting you try to force your kids to go “cold turkey” and drop their devices altogether, but these free apps will show your kids what’s offscreen is just as magical as what’s onscreen. 

Wondering what kind of bird is perched on your porch? Merlin Bird ID can help! Simply answer a few identifying questions or snap a quick photo, and the app will pull up a list of possible matches based on your region. Once you’ve identified your feathered friend, the app helps them learn more about how the bird sounds and where it lives with easy-to-read facts and information.

Photo Stuff with Ruff is a camera app complete with a photo gallery and built-in selfie moments, because what self-respecting Gen Z or Gen Alpha isn’t obsessed with selfies? Based on The Ruff Ruffman Show, the app encourages children to explore science in the world around them by taking photos of different natural and man-made items to complete silly scenes.

If nature isn’t really your child’s “thing,” perhaps the fun of a scavenger hunt will be enough to lure them outdoors. Monkey Spot Scavenger Hunt has a host of different hunts, each with unique tasks, even in the free version. The app is more than just an outdoor adventure.  For example, there are art museum and zoo adventures that will make your family field trip more exciting as well as storytelling hunts they can create with their friends. Each hunt features a list of clues to find and solve by taking and labeling pictures. Get ready to discover, create, perform, personalize, and inquire with clues like “Ask the favorite food of someone at your table,” or “Find a machine that uses gears.”

The Play and Learn Science app was developed alongside early childhood experts to provide families new ways to explore science together through play. The app includes fifteen games and activities like playing with shadows, choosing the best materials for an umbrella, and controlling the weather. The helpful parent section provides you with tips for parent-child engagement and activities for extending the learning into the real world. 

Plum’s Creaturizer is based on PBS Kids’ Plum Landing. The app encourages kids to dive into their imagination by creating their own creepy-crawly creature. Kids can then go from screen to green and back again by taking their creature outdoors to explore habitats where they think they might live. Kids can even take photos of their creatures superimposed onto real-world scenes within the app. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.