How to use Pinyin to Type Chinese (iPhone)

One of my favorite things about my iPhone is how easy it is to configure the keyboard for Chinese input without installing any apps. Follow these steps to add Chinese pinyin input in minutes (or less)!

Don’t know pinyin? Learn pinyin on your iPhone or iPad.

Adding Chinese pinyin input methods on iPhone

To enable Chinese pinyin or other input methods on your iPhone, first navigate to the Settings App.
From there, find and tap the Keyboard row. Then find and tap Keyboards, followed by Add New Keyboard… and finally scroll down to and tap the input method of choice.

iPhone Settings Menu - General
1. Settings > General
iPhone Settings Menu - Keyboards
2. General > Keyboards

iPhone Keyboards Settings Menu - Add width=
3. Keyboards > Add New Keyboard…
iPhone Add New Keyboard Menu
4. Tap Chinese input method (Pinyin)

My suggestion is of course to select the pinyin input method as it is the fastest and most widely-used Chinese input method. However, on the iPhone I like to have the handwriting method available as well. Both Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese methods are available, so pick the one you prefer (or both).

That’s it! You can tap the Home button to exit the Settings app and start using typing (and/or writing) in Chinese!

Switching between input methods

You’ll find that the next time you use your keyboard you have a new key available to the left of the spacebar.

Tapping on this key once will switch between the available input methods. However, since I usually have several keyboards enabled on my iPhone I usually tap-and-hold this key to reveal the input selector. Once revealed, drag your finger over the desired input method and release to enable it.

How to Change iPhone Keyboard input method (Chinese Pinyin)
1. Tap or tap-and-hold to select input
How to use pinyin to type in Chinese
2. Use pinyin to type Chinese characters

If you found this article helpful, please take a moment to share it! Also, let me know if you have any questions.


  1. patrick - reply

    I am an OS7 iPhone 4S user.
    It seems there has just been a change in the way the simplified pinyin chinese keyboard works (does not seem to be linked to the upgrade to OS7, but there must have been some sort of forced update a couple days ago).
    Th eproblem is when typing a syllable in pnying, the list of hanzi which correspond to what I just typed no longer shows.
    The bar just above the QWERTY keyboard just shows the roman letters I just types… which is pretty disappointing!

    • steven - reply

      Hi Patrick, I’ve run into this problem as well with iOS 7 and it appears to be a bug. There may be a more elegant solution, but resetting my phone fixed the issue for me (holding the home and lock buttons until the phone restarted).

      Also, it may be worth noting that I haven’t run into the issue on the latest version yet (7.0.2). Hope this helps!

  2. good - reply

    Hi dear,

    Thanks for details on how to setting new input method and switching between them. Really useful for me 🙂

  3. bret - reply

    thanks for guidance

    • steven - reply

      No problem, glad I could help 🙂

  4. Kevin Low - reply

    How to type Nu Ren in pin yin?
    I type Nu, it came out different characters.
    Just like Lu se.. The pin yin cannot prompt

    • steven - reply

      Hi Kevin, this is a great question! For pinyin that are normally written with a ‘ü’ character, replace the ‘ü’ with a ‘v’:

      nv => 女
      lv => 绿 / 綠

      Hope that helps!

  5. Nicolas - reply

    Thanks Steven, quite useful 😉

  6. Penelope - reply

    Very helpful and simple. Thanks for all the input.

  7. Yan - reply

    Thanks! It works!

  8. Sharon - reply

    Do you know of any other phones that have this feature??? Or is it just the iphone???

  9. Kev - reply

    Hi my iPhone 6 does not have chinese on the keyboard list, only handwriting, do I need to download anything?

  10. Wenxi - reply

    Thank you very much!

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