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Android Chinese Keyboards

A Quick Survey of Free Downloads from Google Play

As promised in my introduction to Android Chinese features, here is a sampling of free Chinese input methods available on Google Play! After installation, many of these will take you directly to their settings, but if not, don't forget to go to Settings and turn on your new IME. If you have trouble doing that or changing keyboards, see my info on Android keyboard switching.

Google Pinyin IME

GBoard - the Google Keyboard Open new window — Simplified and Traditional characters with Hanyu Pinyin, Zhuyin, handwriting, stroke, Cangjie, Quick, and 9-key input. This may be all that non-native speakers need, but the separate keyboards listed below may be preferable if you work primarily in Chinese.

Add Chinese from within the keyboard by pressing and holding the globe key or space bar, selecting "Language Settings", and then "Add Keyboard".

Switch between English and any of the Chinese input methods from within the keyboard by tapping the globe key, or get the whole list pressing and holding the globe key or space bar key. See the switching keyboards page for more inforomation.

In the Gboard world, "Chinese" apparently does not include the following; they are listed separately under "Add Keyboard":
• Cantonese*
• Southern Min
• Eastern Min
• Zhuang
• and probably more to come!

*The Cantonese option did not include Jyutping or other phonetic input the last time I looked at this, so the separate "Google Cantonese Input" listed below was still more complete.

Google Pinyin IME Google Pinyin Input (谷歌拼音输入法) Open new window — Simplified and Traditional characters on Hanyu Pinyin and stroke keyboards, handwriting and voice input, plus a very good English keyboard too. The interface will be in English if your display language is English, and in Chinese if your device is set to Chinese or anything else. (The English keyboard is fairly good, but when using it the Messenger app will see Latin letters as double-byte Unicode, reducing the limit from 160 to 70 characters.)
Google Zhuyin Input Google Zhuyin Input (注音輸入法) Open new window — Traditional and Simplified characters on Zhuyin, Standard Cangjie, and Easy (Quick) Cangjie, and English keyboards, plus handwriting and voice input. Last time I checked, the Google Play website mentioned Pinyin but that was incorrect, so to input Traditional characters with Pinyin use Google Pinyin Input. See also my notes about English in the Google Pinyin Input section above.
Google Cantonese Input Google Cantonese Input (谷歌粤语输入法) Open new window — Traditional and Simplified characters on Cantonese phonetic (Yale, Linguistic Society of Hong Kong Jyutping, and HK government Cantonese Pinyin), Standard Cangjie, Easy (Quick) Cangjie, stroke, and English keyboards, and handwriting and voice input. See also discussion of English in the Google Pinyin Input section above.
Zhuyin-Cangjie Unofficial IME  android-tc-ime (注音輪入法, 倉頡輸入法) Open new window — a Google open source project for traditional characters, with Zhuyin (Bopomofo) and Cangjie input methods.

Zhuyin-Cangjie Unofficial IME Open new window — based on the same project, and released to equally good reviews by another developer because the original TC IME has not been updated.
MultiLing keyboard logo MultiLing Keyboard Open new window — attempts to support every language and keyboard in the world, including Pinyin, Wubi, Cantonese Jyutping, handwriting, even Pinyin with tone marks! Traditional and simplified characters. Plug-ins for Chinese.Pinyin Open new window, Chinese.Wubi Open new window, HanWriting Open new window, etc. MultiLing is popular with non-native Chinese speakers, especially students, due to the Latin (English) interface and those Pinyin diacritics. Handwriting input could perhaps do with some improvement.
gPen IME SCUT gPen IME (中文手写输入法) Open new window — also available with a traditional character interface (繁體版手寫輸入法) Open new window — offers handwriting input for traditional or simplified characters (each version has both), and the option of Big5 or GB2312 encoding. Adjustable to your handwriting speed, and it has nice-looking skins too. From the South China University of Technology (SCUT). A bit noisy though.
Sogou IME Sogou Mobile Input (搜狗手机输入法) Open new window — supports simplified characters in a simplified Chinese interface only, with Sogou Pinyin (the most popular Pinyin input method in mainland China) and English on standard keyboards and and 9-key keypads. It includes "fuzzy" Pinyin (s=sh, z=zh, etc.), plus handwriting, stroke, and voice input, plus a barcode scanner. Also offers access to a range of dictionaries, skins and more.
Baidu IME BaiduInput (百度手机输入法) Open new window — supports simplified characters in a simplified Chinese interface only, with Pinyin, stroke, Wubi, and English on standard keyboards and 9-key keypads, plus voice and handwriting input, scanner/image input, free-form calligraphy input and more fun stuff. Also available in a large keyboard tablet version (百度输入法pad版) Open new window
 QQ Input (QQ输入法) Open new window — supports simplified and traditional characters, with all the same input methods and other features as Baidu, plus optional "fuzzy" Pinyin input (s=sh, z=zh), but without scanner or calligraphy features (last time I checked). It also offers several features clearly added with mobile users in mind, and has what I feel is a slightly less busy design.
其他 MessageEase Open new window from Exideas offers an innovative approach to freeing us from the tyranny of QWERTY. In addition to their main IME, you'll need to download at least one Chinese language module for simplified or traditional Pinyin, Jyutping, or Cangjie. Last time I checked, this was a free download. All are available via the Google Play link above, but you can also download the .apk files and learn more about these keyboards at the Exideas Open new window website.
其他 TouchPal Open new window offers a very fast, gesture-capable keyboard with downloadable packs for Pinyin, Zhuyin, Bihua (stroke), Wubi, Cangjie, Simplified Cangjie, and handwriting input. It supports simplified and traditional characters, seems to include a larger Chinese character set than most, and even converts handwritten simplified into traditional. It also offers other fun distractions like a New Words feature. There are versions for Android, iPhone, and Windows 8 so far.
其他 The Pinyin & Tones IME Open new window Learner Keyboard requires you to input tone numbers before it will offer a candidate list. Perfect practice for students of Chinese! It is free and ad-supported, but for offline use there is an inexpensive paid version too (USD $1.49 at the time of this writing). Another unique feature allows you to resize the keyboard. This is fun !
其他 The free Chinese IMEs listed above are the most downloaded, but there are countless more available on Google Play. I am very intrigued, for example, by the Hong Kong-focused input methods by Miles Leung Open new window, including Cantonese and English-Chinese input. There are many for sale on Google Play as well, but I'm focusing on the free downloads here. Found something new and popular? Please let me know!

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