To be the best, you need the best.
So don’t skimp on the small stuff.
Like choosing a Chinese keyboard for your Android phone.
After all, communication is king in language learning.
And social media, along with other new technology, can play a crucial role in how we, as learners, interact with Mandarin speakers—which makes it more important than ever to have the right Chinese keyboard for your device.
However, what the best Chinese keyboard for your Android is depends on what type of user and learner you are.
There are so many keyboards on the market it’s crazy!
This post will help you navigate the madness of the market and find the Chinese keyboard that’s right for you.
But before we get to the keyboards themselves, let’s look at how you can get the most out of using a Chinese keyboard for your phone.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of a Chinese Keyboard on Your Phone
- Consider whether you want to type in simplified or traditional Chinese. Choosing to learn and write in simplified and/or traditional Chinese comes down to your needs and your locations of interest. For instance, if you’ll be conversing with speakers from the Chinese mainland, you should be using simplified characters. If your interests are in Taiwan, Hong Kong or Macau, traditional characters would be more appropriate.
- Be sure to use proper grammar and etiquette when writing emails and texts. Using a Chinese keyboard is a game changer that will empower you to not just participate in Chinese social media from your phone, but also write emails and texts in Chinese. Be sure to remember appropriate etiquette based on who you’re speaking with, whether you’re communicating with your client or 朋友 (péng yǒu) — friend, and be sure to check your grammar when texting or writing an email in Chinese.
- Consider how different keyboard features can help you with your Chinese learning. When considering the many different keyboard features available, think about what layout would be most comfortable for you. Do you want a simple keyboard layout? Or would you prefer something more advanced, more robust? Some advanced keyboards may be too congested and confusing to the casual user or a beginning learner.
- Practice your typing and texting skills with FluentU.
Simply the Best: 4 Cool Chinese Keyboards for Your Android
Google Pinyin Input
The Google Pinyin keyboard is a great product for flexible use. It includes both simplified and traditional Chinese characters, making its users well-equipped regardless of which character set they want to use. The input keyboard is free, and comes with generous features. Using Google’s powerful predictive capabilities, you can type in whole sentences rather than single words.
While there are plenty of solid options around and the keyboards we’re covering here all do a good job, Google Pinyin is arguably the best overall for any type of user. The features, ease of use and power all add up to a truly spectacular product. Important features that make this one of the best options include a powerful and extensive English input and Chinese gesture input. It’s easy enough to use as a beginner and advanced enough to satisfy more seasoned learners.
SwiftKey, a Microsoft product, is another Chinese keyboard option that has impressive customization features, allowing the user to shape it around their individual needs. Like Google Pinyin, it allows for both traditional and simplified Chinese characters. SwiftKey actually has seven input options.
Some people may find SwiftKey to be the best option after tweaking it extensively, but others may be put off by the number of features and prefer the more intuitive Gboard (below). SwiftKey isn’t for everyone, but the added features and customization will be useful for some.
Advanced features include typing enhancements, an expandable toolbar, location sharing and calendar sharing. You can also change the function of the keys.
Gboard, another Google product, also has impressive features and is aesthetically pleasing, with customizable background themes. While it’s not the most advanced keyboard, it has everything the casual user should need.
Keep in mind that Gboard has been found to be more restrictive in some respects than competitors like Swift Key. That is, Gboard doesn’t allow for as much technical tinkering as Swift Key, but does provide a lot of screen customization.
Gboard has also now begun to support both simplified and traditional Chinese.
It’s a more user-friendly app and doesn’t take much setup to get what you need. The defaults should cover most of your needs without you having to mess with the settings, making it an easy-to-use tool for those who want to type in Chinese.
Sogou is widely popular among the Chinese themselves, and is certainly an option worth considering. The Sogou keyboard has a robust wealth of Chinese words built in that makes it particularly advantageous to use as a Chinese keyboard on your Android device.
The power of Sogou is in its vast trove of Chinese words, making it an excellent choice for the advanced learner. However, those just beginning to learn Chinese shouldn’t be intimidated. The massive array of available Chinese words on Sogou can help build your vocabulary quite rapidly.
In practicing and increasing your vocabulary, you should be reading and writing a lot as well as sounding out the words and speaking the language.
In general, when you encounter Chinese words that you don’t know, don’t panic or let it hold you back. There are lots of tricks you can learn to make it easier to read.
Again, those looking for an option with both traditional and simplified Chinese will be happy to know that Sogou supports both.
The Bottom Line
Each one of the Chinese keyboards above could be argued to be the best. Each one has different advantages and disadvantages, leaving it up to you and your individual needs as a learner of Chinese.
Gboard is probably going to be the best for the casual user. It’s easy to use and has a very smooth look and feel. There may also be a higher comfort level with it. As an Android user, Gboard will likely feel the most familiar to you. After all, you’re learning a language, not the intricacies of input keyboards. Easy to master, and fun to use, Gboard is a solid option.
Google Pinyin has additional features that would benefit the more serious user. It’s the combination of additional features like the Chinese swipe input and a robust array of English input that makes Google Pinyin possibly the best option overall. The English input is much more complete than on other keyboards. Overall, Google Pinyin is an excellent choice for almost any user.
Sogou can be great for the advanced learner who wants to build their vocabulary and use a tool that’s used by Chinese native speakers.
Swift Key is best for individuals with very specific requirements. It can be seen as clunky, but it can be tailored to suit your needs. Additionally, Swift Key has less aesthetic appeal but more power under the hood.
So choose the best keyboard for your situation and don’t be afraid to experiment with it!
Using Chinese keyboards on your Android will help you learn Chinese.
The more you write and communicate in Chinese, the more comfortable you’ll feel, with both the keyboard and the language.
Harrison Bryan is a professional writer and IT specialist. He covers tech, travel, and everything in between.
And One More Thing...
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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.
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