Apple is set to add even more emoji to iOS with its latest update. That means more options to choose from (including new food such as dumplings and pie), but it also means you'll have to scroll past even more emoji to find the one you actually want.
The truth is, Apple doesn't make it easy to quickly pull up a specific emoji. Sure, there's the Frequently Used tab that shows the emoji you use most often. The Messages app will even suggest emoji based on the words you write, but if you're just browsing, finding the perfect little cartoon picture for your message can be a real pain. Thankfully, there are a handful of third-party apps that make it way easier.
Use Gboard to Quickly Search For the Emoji You Need
Gboard, Google's keyboard app for iOS and Android, is one of the best options around. It offers built-in access to Google search and speedy swipe-based typing. It also lets you search for emoji by typing a description if you're having trouble tracking one down.
Just open Gboard in any app and tap on the emoji button (it looks like a smiley face). You'll see the usual endless rows of emoji with a search bar right above them. Tap on it, type in what you're looking for, and Gboard will show you all the relevant emoji. Then just pick the one you want.
Organise Your Favourite Emoji With Fixmoji or EmoKey Joe
If you really want instant access to your favourite emoji there are a few other keyboard apps to consider. Fixmoji and EmoKey Joe both make it possible to create your own customised list of emoji and they both cost $1.49, but they take slightly different approaches in their design.
Fixmoji offers a clean setup with a singular focus on emoji. Pick the ones you want and arrange them in a grid. Then, when you're writing a message, pull up the Fixmoji keyboard and you'll have instant access to your favourite emoji.
EmoKey Joe is a bit more robust -- or noisy depending on your preferences. Like Fixmoji, it lets you organise your favourite emoji and access them using a third-party keyboard, but it also includes other options such as stickers, GIFs and video clips. You can even use the app to create new sticker images. It's great if you want quick access to a bunch of different types of media, but if you really just care about emoji this isn't the app for you.
Apple Already Lets You Organise Your Favourite Emoji on Mac
Finding the right emoji in Apple's Messages app may be tough, but it's surprisingly easy on your Mac computer. The macOS built-in emoji picker features a search bar, and it also lets you create a customised list of your favourite emoji.
To get started, just launch the Mac emoji menu (Control + Command + Space) and click on the small button in the top right corner. This will open a new menu where you can pick any emoji you want and save it by clicking "Add to Favourites".
Once you've added a few emoji, you can click on Favourites in the left column to confirm it worked. Then click the top right button again to return to the regular emoji picker menu. You should see a new row of your favourite emoji right below your frequently used options.
Considering that you can do it on Mac, I don't really understand why Apple doesn't offer the same option for iOS. Hopefully we'll get a built-in favourite emoji feature by the time iOS 12 rolls around, but for now there are plenty of third-party apps that can do the same thing today.