If the old adage that a picture says a thousand words hold true, then getting emoji on your smartphone should not only save you time, but also a fair chunk of your tariff’s text allowance. In this feature we’ll show you how to check if your device already has them, and what to do if it doesn’t.

See also: How to add emoji stickers to snapchat and How to type emoji on Android

How to get emoji on Android: Is your handset compatible?

It might come as a surprise that some phones can’t actually decipher emojis at all. The old technique of typing ;-) required no translation, as those characters were already present in the dictionaries the phones used. Emoji are different, as they are essentially images rather than text.

Apple recently included emoji on the iPhone as standard, which meant that some Android users started receiving text messages from these Apple wielding chums that were frequented with small squares. These shapes were where originally there had been emoji, but the Android phone had not understood them and inserted a square instead. This omission doesn’t mean that your phone is emoji-less though, as there are various solutions that can bring the symbols into your messages.

If you have a mid-level or higher smartphone from the past couple of years, such as the Samsung S7, Sony Xperia Z5, or LG G5, then the chances are very strong that your device is not only compatible, but may even have emoji already present. The Google Keyboard available in the Google Play Store has emoji built-in for any smartphone running Android 4.4 KitKat or above. Samsung has also included emoji as part of its keyboard for a while now, as have Sony, LG, and many others.

how to get emoji on Android

How to get emoji on Android: Changing your keyboard

If the default keyboard on your phone doesn’t have emoji options then you are free to change it to another. Visit the Google Play Store and search for keyboards. The Google Keyboard is free, as is another favourite SwiftKey which offers additional themes and keyboards as in-app purchases.

When you’ve found one you like, install it on your handset and then open up Settings>Language and Input>Current Keyboard and then select the new one as the default. The next time you open a text field you should see the new keyboard appear. 

How to get emoji on Android

How to get emoji on Android: Using the Google Keyboard

If you use the Google Keyboard on your phone then it won’t be immediately apparent how you access the emoji. To do so simply hold down the Search icon in the bottom right corner and a smiley face icon will appear. Slide up to this and the emoji menu will now be available.

How to get emoji on Android

Alternatively, as keyboard on Android are contextual, when you’re in a messaging app you might find that the smiley face icon is already present in the bottom corner, just requiring you to tap it when you want to open the emoji symbols.

How to get emoji on Android: Using the SwiftKey keyboard

In much the same way as the Google Keyboard works, SwiftKey places the emoji option in the bottom right corner, seen as a little smiley face above the Search icon. Long pressing Search (the magnifying glass icon) opens up the emoji menu where you can select from the various symbols available. Be sure to experiment with scrolling through the submenus at the bottom that offer different emoji themes, then tap the abc key to return to the regular QWERTY setting.

How to get emoji on Android

How to get emoji on Android: Using the Samsung keyboard

On a modern Samsung device you can access the emoji options by long pressing on the microphone button that appears to the left of the space bar. On some phones the microphone is replaced by a smiley face that gives you direct access to the emoji instead.

How to get emoji on Android: If your phone doesn’t support emoji

While all of the above solutions make emoji available across all your device’s messaging apps, if your phone doesn’t appear to support them, and can’t use the latest keyboards, you can still get in on the action. WhatsApp has emoji built into the app itself, allowing you to communicate using the symbols with other friends on the service.

The one thing to remember about this though is when you’re not in that particular app you’ll be back to the standard keyboard. Still, not a bad excuse for treating yourself to a new handset. Why not take a peruse of our guide to the 20 Best Android phones for 2016? It might just put a smile on your face.