Need a Swype-like Keyboard For a Low-Memory Device? Your Quest is Over

Swype and Swiftkey are good, but they are memory hogs, and aren’t shy about permissions either. If you are looking for a keyboard that respects your privacy and is very thrifty on memory, meet Multiling. This keyboard is tiny, free, customizable, and barely requires any permissions. Too good to be true?

Reality Check: Permissions and Memory

Before we get into the features and interface, let me show you just what I mean when I talk of memory consumption. Multiling on the left, Swype on the right, both screenshots taken on the same device:

keyboard 9   Need a Swype like Keyboard For a Low Memory Device? Your Quest is Over

So that’s 7 MB of RAM for Multiling, vs. 36 MB for Swype — in other words, Multiling needs less than 20% of what Swype needs. And that’s a fresh installation of Swype, versus an installation of Multiling that I’ve been using for several days now. Memory-hogging keyboards are a real problem, as readers told me in the comments for my recent review of the excellent Touchpal X keyboard.

Next let’s tackle permissions:

keyboard 10   Need a Swype like Keyboard For a Low Memory Device? Your Quest is Over

Again, Multiling on the left, Swype on the right. This is not a trick screenshot: There wasn’t anything more to scroll on the Multiling side — those are all of the permissions it requires (all three of them). Note that Multiling does not require Internet access to work. The Swype screenshot, on the other hand, shows only a few of the permission Swype requires — it needs so many, the list fills more than one screen.

Not to single Swype out, but it seems that in our rush to get a keyboard that works well, we threw memory consumption and privacy out the window.

Functionality: Surprisingly Rich

With that sort of memory footprint and low permissions, it would be understandable if Multiling didn’t do very much. Well, it actually does just about everything you’d expect from a modern Android keyboard: Multiple languages, multiple layouts per language, and yes, Swype-like sliding text entry. It also has dedicated numeric and Emoji layouts:

keyboard 7   Need a Swype like Keyboard For a Low Memory Device? Your Quest is Over

Multiling uses an interesting UI for switching between layouts and triggering different features:

keyboard 6   Need a Swype like Keyboard For a Low Memory Device? Your Quest is Over

You can see the “button pad” on the left above. Press and hold the Space key, and you can swipe your way to one of several layout and language options. On the right you can see the English layouts the keyboard ships with – my personal favorite, Colemak, is on the list, but so are many other unique layouts. Note that Colemak is optimized for hardware keyboards – on my phone I use QWERTY, and it works just fine for me since swiping with one finger is very different from typing on a physical keyboard with all ten.

Extreme Customization

Here’s the same keyboard – left is after some slight customization, and on the right you can see it midway through a transformation to a dark theme (I hadn’t changed the suggestion bar font color yet).

keyboard 8   Need a Swype like Keyboard For a Low Memory Device? Your Quest is Over

And here it is, again:

keyboard 3   Need a Swype like Keyboard For a Low Memory Device? Your Quest is Over

In a nutshell, you can customize everything. I’ve yet to find a keyboard that let me change so many things: From the color of each individual interface element (buttons, keyboard background, text, suggestion bar), to the key height, gap between keys, and even how round the keys are. Oh, and let’s not forget the position and size settings:

keyboard 5   Need a Swype like Keyboard For a Low Memory Device? Your Quest is Over

If you have a larger phone, such as the previously-reviewed Galaxy Note 3, you may appreciate the option for a one-handed keyboard. You can just shrink the width to whatever works for you, and move the keyboard off to one side of the screen. SwiftKey (another keyboard we like) also lets you do this, but requires far more memory and permissions (and isn’t free, either).

In Actual Use: It Works

Multiling is unique in several key respects: It’s very lean, requires almost no permissions, and is incredibly customizable. All of this would have been worthless if the keyboard itself didn’t work well. Fortunately, it’s just fine. Swiping input worked relatively well, despite the developer’s warning that it’s currently considered Beta. I wouldn’t say it rivals Swype, but then again, if your device can’t run Swype, this becomes a moot point. If you’re sick of bloated, permission-hogging Android keyboards, try Multiling out today. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts about it in the comments, especially if you write the actual comment using Multiling.

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15 Comments -

Cristian P

DVORAK keyboard rules :D (actually writing on multiling). However, i must say swype does it better at guessing my words.

Still nice though, i’ll test it some more :).

Erez Z

Upvoted your comment for writing it on multiling! :)

And yes, Swype is better at recognizing swipes, which is why the developer here mentions it’s a beta feature for multiling.

Cristian P

*DVORAK layout…..

Joel L

My first impression is that this might be the ideal keyboard for me. I’m going to give it a try and see if it’s as good as it seems. The low resource requirements? Just icing on the cake! :D

likefunbutnot

Just to defend Swype for a second: the speech recognition engine it uses is extremely accurate, and the online user dictionary sync feature is worth a few megabytes of RAM all by itself, particularly for someone who has to input a lot of jargon-heavy text.

I’ll have to try out Multiling on an old phone or something, but I suspect dictionary sync is where a lot of Swype’s permissions issues are and it’s something I find invaluable.

Erez Z

I love Dragon’s speech recognition – it really is very good. But the user dictionary feature absolutely failed for me — it just wouldn’t sync my data between devices, or from my old phone to the new phone… So, didn’t really count it as a helpful feature. That’s just my experience though.

lts_meheart

which devices its this

Brian Gray

I have as yet to find a swype product that works nearly as well as Swype itself. I have but one question. If I shell out the *big* bucks to buy the Swype/Dragon products on my current android product, I assume I can transfer it over to a new android product that I buy (say I take it from my S3 to a new S5), is that correct?

Erez Z

Yup – you only have to buy an app once, and then you can use it on all of your compatible devices in the future. I can’t actually recall when I bought Swiftkey and Swype, but I can still access them just fine several devices/Android versions later.

kafir

When will we ever get this type of app for the iPhone!?!?!?

Grant

@kafir:

Never. Apple has stated that its keyboard is not an app, but a deeply rooted part of the operating system. Therefore, they will never allow an app to be created that will replace iOS’s keyboard. And it makes me mad, because I’m forced to use an iPhone for work.

There are swipe style keyboard apps out there for iOS (TouchPal, for example), but they require you to type in your content, and then “send” your content over to the app you actually want to type in. So they are worthless.

If you want customization, go with a different operating system. Windows, Android, etc.

Emma L

You have no idea how happy me and my HTC Desire are to try this out. I’ve used swiping keyboards before and loved them, but sooner or later the memory frustrations had me going back to the stock keyboard, which is quite less than ideal.

Erez Z

Awesome! :) That’s very nice to hear, Emma.

Nolan

Thank you so much for the heads up on Multiling. I have a Sony Xperia Ray running Android 4.4 with ART enabled and necessary applications installed. Even with that level of optimization, I still have stuttering occurring when I type on the stock (!) keyboard. Multiling flies. This will help me extend the use of the phone until I can afford a new one.

Aaron Cavanaugh

Hi,
Would you compare Google keyboard ram usage to these two apps?
Thanks. God bless.
Aaron