MIUI: iOS for Android?

MIUI is a very visually appealing ROM for Android, borrowing a vast number of aesthetic elements from iOS. If you’ve been missing (or yearning after) the look and feel of iOS, then MIUI is definitely for you. But, how does it stack up against the other options available?

I will, again, be using my HTC Desire running stock settings for this review.

First Impressions

It looks a lot like the iPhone’s interface, but with a very large, ugly clock. Moving around between screens is nice, it has the same visual effect of the iPhone too, as well as behaving the same when you move applications around.

homescreen

Lockscreen under charge, the default home screen, and managing screens

Supported Devices

  • Nexus One
  • Nexus S
  • Desire
  • Desire HD
  • Evo 4G
  • Evo Shift
  • G2
  • HD2
  • Incredible
  • MyTouch 4G
  • Motorola Droid
  • Motorola Milestone
  • Galaxy S
  • Vibrant

Out of the Box Features

  • MIUI Backup
  • Data Monitor
  • File Manager, including FTP Service.
  • System Update
  • MIUI AppStore
  • Theme Manager
  • MIUI Music (mentioned here)
  • AdFree
  • Apps2SD*
  • Power Widget Bar
  • Rotation Disablement
  • Dedicated Silent Switch
  • Power Save Mode
  • Quick Boot
  • Fancy Widget

Battery Life & Power Saving

Average. I had heard that MIUI was meant to provide better battery life than other ROMs, but I found that getting more than 16 hours out of a charge was almost impossible. Unsatisfied, I installed SetCPU and applied the same settings that I used with Oxygen: 245MHz minimum and 806MHz maximum. It didn’t have the same profound impact with MIUI; I have to charge my phone every night, so an effective 19 hours battery time at the most.

MIUI incudes a number of power saving options and gives three choices of battery monitoring for the notification bar.

battery settings

Battery Settings and Monitoring

Here are the power saving options, which, by default, activate at 20% battery remaining. It does disable a vast number of processes and can underclock the CPU, but the battery savings wouldn’t be that great if the phone was sitting idle on your desk or in your pocket.

Power Saving Options

Power Saving Options

MIUI Backup

MIUI Backup is a great app for backing up everything. SMS, Call Records, Wi-Fi settings, desktop screens, contacts, call records, and all of your applications. It’s main purpose is when you’re going from one version of MIUI to another.

Backup Settings

Backup Settings

Data Monitor

Another brilliant utility built in to MIUI. It allows you to monitor and control anything that could cost you more money. First up is Data Usage: check how many minutes you’ve had on inward- and outward-bound calls, how many SMSes you’ve sent, and an overall summary of data used. You can limit how much data and SMS you send and receive. I could imagine this being very useful if you had a small data cap and needed to limit it. The tracking can even be enabled to be in line with your billing cycle

Data Monitor and Configuration

Data Monitor and Configuration

Next is the Apps Monitor. You have control over how the applications connect to the internet (wireless or 3G) and you can view how much data they have used in the last day, week, current month and last month.

Application Monitor

Application Monitor

Overall the Data Monitor is fairly impressive, but I still wonder how useful it truly is, especially if you are fairly good with your SMS, data and calls. Not to mention that a wide range of mobile plans come with included SMS now.

File Manager

The File Manager is in essence another file management program, but on steroids. You’ve really got complete control over every file, from here you can open or delete, move, copy and send anything on your internal storage or SD Card.

The most impressive feature of File Manager is the built in FTP Service. Naturally, you have to be on Wi-Fi for this. However, it will allow you to connect to your device over Wi-Fi.

File Manager and FTP Service

File Manager and FTP Service

System Update

Doesn’t work. Though, it’d be impressive if it did! This particular feature of custom ROMs not working seems to be a trend.

Update Manager

Update Manager

MIUI AppStore

An alternate app store — although, as MIUI was originally built in Simplified Chinese, you’ll find that the vast majority of apps are in that language. The benefit is that it allows you to update the custom apps that come with MIUI, such as the Camera. It also suggests apps for you to install, though I wasn’t game enough to install any that I wasn’t sure what they were.

MIUI AppStore

MIUI AppStore

Theme Manager

Probably one of the most impressive features of MIUI is the enormous amount of themes available (we’ve seen some of them here).

There are two ways you can go about installing custom themes. Using the Theme Manager is the easiest way, though again you may have to take some chances installing themes that you don’t know, because of the massive Chinese user and developer community. As you can see in the screenshots below, most themes come with a large element of Simplified Chinese.

Theme Manager

Theme Manager

A large strength that is built in to the Theme Manager is being able to swap parts of other themes into your current setup. I am wholly impressed by the level of customization available to the user on MIUI. You can specifically search for any of the items listed, as in the screenshot below.

Downloading Themes

Downloading Themes

The second method is to search for themes online; there’s a lot of places to go but my top choice is MIUIthemes.com. There are almost 100 themes on this site and it’s only going to keep growing. There are also many themes on the sites for each localized version of MIUI, though this will be covered later.

MIUI Music

As I said in the beginning, MIUI Music was covered earlier on Android.AppStorm, and whilst the standalone player receives great reviews, the actual MIUI Music bundled with the ROM is one of the worst music applications I’ve ever used. I tested this player extensively over a few days, and every time I found that the player crashed after 20 minutes.

As MIUI comes with the regular music player, I wasn’t too phased; using that was sufficient. This is where it gets worse. Sometimes when playing music with the stock Android player, the MIUI player would randomly start playing. Furthermore, the use of lock screen controls would also trigger MIUI Music to start playing.

It’s pretty, and has some great features such as lyrics and fetching album art for you, but it lacks the fundamental ability to reliably play music.

AdFree

AdFree, on the other hand, is amazing. Simply put, it will remove ads from appearing on your device. This is particularly fantastic for those free apps where the ads are very intrusive. It is bundled with MIUI though available for free from the Android Market. However, it’s important to remember that in using this, there’s a possibility that you are potentially stopping some developers from earning money for their work.

AdFree

AdFree

Apps2SD

This is one of the best and worst features of MIUI, because of a dependency. Apps2SD is completely automated, however, you must have an ext3 partition on your SD card. If you do not, then you can still install an Apps2SD program and manually transfer everything over, but you won’t be able to use it to its full extent and it wont be automatic. If you aren’t sure what an ext3 partition is or you’d just like some more information, there’s a great explanation on the XDA Forums covering how ext3 and Apps2SD work.

Power Widget Bar

Similar to the Oxygen ROM, MIUI has a Power Bar Widget in the notifications slide down. I would say that it’s better than the bar in Oxygen as it provides a myriad of selections. One of the most handy is being able to toggle the auto-rotation.

Powerbar Options

Powerbar Options

Fancy Widget

Fancy Widget is a weather and clock widget rolled into one, very similar to the one provided with HTC Sense, but with a high level of control. From the settings you can dictate what the widget will do when you tap certain areas, and even what application will open when you tap it. Also, you can change settings of the clock, like if you would prefer to use 24 hour time, and so on.

Fancy Widget

Fancy Widget

Other Localizations of MIUI

Because MIUI is one of the most popular ROMs available, it has been translated into many languages, as well as localized.

I believe that there’s also a Portuguese and French version of MIUI too, but I haven’t been able to track their locations.

Final Thoughts

It is pretty but there are some very fundamental flaws with this ROM. It reminds me of Steam when it was released: a great idea with poor implementation. I found that it also reminded me of using an iOS device, and getting away from that feeling is one of my favorite things about Android. I’m sure in versions to come, MIUI will be a great ROM. However, even though new versions of this ROM are released with great frequency, it isn’t becoming great as fast as you would expect.