How many words do you think you type in a day?
How fast do you think you can really type?
According to Ratatype, the average typing speed is generally between 37 and 44 words per minute. The fastest English typist in the world holds the world record of 216 words per minute.
Now, let’s flip the script. How fast do you think you’d be able to type in Chinese? Probably not nearly as quickly, right?
There’s only one way to fix that: get a Chinese keyboard and practice, practice, practice.
There are quite a lot of digital keyboards out there for iPhones, but many of them are somewhat lackluster. Many iPhone users don’t even know that one of the best Chinese keyboards you can find for the device is already hidden away on the iPhone.
Our list of the best Mandarin keyboards for iPhones will definitely make it easier for you to start tick-tacking away on your device as soon as possible. Let’s look into what else a Chinese keyboard can do for you.
Why Do I Need a Chinese Keyboard?
- Digital Chinese keyboards allow you to connect with other Chinese speakers via the internet. The best way to improve your Chinese language skills is to connect with a native speaker. If you aren’t consistently immersing yourself in the language with at least one other person, it gets really hard to become fluent. Chinese keyboards will make it easier for you to meet and connect with Mandarin speakers through your iPhone.
- They’ll help you match Chinese characters with their proper pronunciation. Most Chinese keyboards use 拼音 (pīn yīn) — Chinese romanization input, so you can get used to associating 拼音 with 汉字 (hàn zì) — Chinese characters.
- If you plan on taking online courses that require you to type, you’ll definitely need a Chinese keyboard. You can’t write an essay or email in Chinese without some sort of keyboard to make the process quick and accurate.
The 5 Best Chinese Keyboards for iPhone for Typing at Lightspeed
Your iPhone is a fantastic source for learning Chinese! Along with one or two Mandarin keyboards, we recommend downloading Chinese learning apps so you can study on the go.
One stellar iPhone app for learning Chinese is FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
FluentU naturally eases you into learning the Mandarin language, and you’ll learn Chinese as it’s spoken in real life.
The program has a wide range of contemporary videos that cover a wide range of interests and levels, as you can see here:
FluentU brings these native Chinese videos within reach via interactive captions. You can tap on any word to instantly look it up.
All words have carefully written definitions and examples that will help you understand how a word is used. Tap to add words you’d like to review to a vocab list.
From the description page, you can access interactive transcripts under the Dialogue tab, or review words and phrases under Vocab.
FluentU’s quizzes turn every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part is that FluentU always keeps track of your learning, then suggests content and examples based on what you’ve already learned. In other words, you get a 100% personalized experience.
Try FluentU in your browser or, better yet, download the FluentU iOS or Android app today!
iPhone Chinese Input
This is, first and foremost, the keyboard you should try out on your iPhone before the rest. It’s simple, accurate and easy to use. Plus, you don’t have to install anything from the app store to get it.
- Go to the “Settings” app.
- Select “Keyboard,” then “Keyboards.”
- Select “Add New Keyboard.”
- Scroll down until you see the “Chinese – Simplified” options. Select the one with the tagline “Pinyin.”
- Hit the “Home” button to exit.
To use your keyboard, open it and switch between the English and Chinese input methods. To start typing in Chinese characters, start by typing out the word in 拼音. A selection of Chinese characters will pop up that share the same 拼音. Select the correct one and it will automatically be added to your message.
In a lot of ways, Easy Mailer Chinese Keyboard is almost identical to the Chinese input that is pre-installed on iOS devices. However, there are a few differences and perks that make this keyboard worth purchasing.
The biggest perk is that Chinese punctuation such as colons, commas and periods are always on hand. You don’t have to click a different section on your keyboard to use them, making fluid and accurate sentences much easier to achieve. This keyboard also features arrow keys for swift text editing, as well as autocorrect. If you really want to pump out grammatically correct Chinese text, especially for essays or formal emails, this is a keyboard you simply must try out.
Easy Mailer Chinese Keyboard is only $0.99 in the iTunes store. This may be a downside for those who are only interested in downloading free apps.
This is one of the most unique Chinese keyboards for iPhones on our list. The Voice Translation Keyboard is a voice-to-text app that is surprisingly accurate in converting English into Chinese characters.
With Voice Translation Keyboard, you can use the voice recognition feature to translate spoken English words into Chinese text, which is handy if you’d like to take a break from typing or if your Chinese typing skills aren’t quite up to par. The only downside is that spoken Chinese can’t be translated into English, but if you’re an absolute beginner, this can still be very useful.
If English isn’t your first language, there are a few other available languages that can be translated into Chinese, including Spanish, Russian, French and many more. Voice Translation Keyboard also features quick emoji access, customizable key programming and a “swiping” feature for quickly erasing words or switching capitalization.
It’s also free! You may have to pay a bit here and there if you want additional features or languages, but for what you get with this keyboard, it’s definitely worth it. You can also pick unique themes and colors for your keyboard!
Here’s another free keyboard with a ton of bells and whistles!
Invivo’s Chinese keyboard is based on the iOS Chinese input keyboard but certainly has a special kind of quality to it. You can easily switch back and forth between Chinese and English without having to go into your phone’s settings to pick your main input. You can also select iOS emojis without leaving the keyboard. Like Easy Mailer Chinese Keyboard, you can pinpoint areas in your message to correct for a more accurate and grammatically sound message.
This keyboard has a special “small hand” feature for, well, people with small hands and a large iPhone. It’s a specific mode you can select in the keyboard’s settings to make one-handed typing less of a struggle. No more hand cramps for those of you out there with iPhone 7 and baby hands!
Invivo Chinese Input Keyboard also boasts a user dictionary, autocorrect and automatic punctuation prediction.
Like most of the keyboards on this list, Live Keyboard Plus is based in both design and function around your iPhone’s pre-installed keyboard. But if you want a serious powerhouse of extra features, you may want to give this one a download!
Live Keyboard Plus provides the following features:
- Multiple language input options, including Chinese-to-English, pinyin-to-hanzi and English-to-Chinese
- Customizable themes
- Autocorrect and predictive text
- Stickers, animated GIFs, emoji and kaomoji (Japanese emoticons)
- Location sharing
- Customizable shortcuts for quick access to personalized features
- Voice dictation and translation (From English to Chinese and vice-versa)
- An immersive tutorial on how to use each and every feature
- Extra stability and round-the-clock updates to improve usability
The only downside to this keyboard is that the typing speed can be a bit slow, which can be frustrating when you’re already slowed down by translating English to pinyin to hanzi.
Live Keyboard Plus is free to use for its basic features and offers in-app purchases for the fancier stuff.
Keyboards sure are useful, aren’t they?
Who knew there were so many great Chinese keyboards out there with different functions and benefits? We bet you’ll find at least a couple of these five best Chinese keyboards for iPhone useful additions to your collection.
Em Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist who writes about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Chinese with real-world videos.