MIUI: A Beautiful And Functional Custom ROM For Android

Of all the ways to customize your Android phone, the geekiest way has to be rooting your phone, wiping it clean and installing a new ROM. Most of these custom ROMs are functionally better than your default ROMs and are rid of all the unnecessarily features that slow down your phone. One such ROM is Cyanogenmod and another one is MIUI.

I have been a follower of Cyanogenmod since CM5 (running Android 2.1). The latest version of Cyanogenmod (CM7) is based on Android Gingerbread and is full of awesomeness. However, after I get to know about MIUI, I decided to give it a try. I never looked back. Not only is it beautiful, elegant and stable, it is also blazingly fast and comes with plenty of great features not found in any other ROM.

Note: To install MIUI, you will need to root your Android phone (we’ll not be going through that in this article), wipe your existing ROM and flash the MIUI ROM. I am using ClockworkMod’s ROM Manager to do it.

miui-homescreen

The design of MIUI is inspired by the iPhone UI, so you will find a lot of similarity. First of all, there is no app drawer. All the installed apps are arranged in the home screen in the iPhone style. The more apps you install, the more home screen you have in your phone. In addition, the Settings page is an exact clone of the iPhone’s Settings UI.

Unique Lockscreen

The first thing that you will see after flashing the ROM is the lockscreen. There is a strip containing the phone icon, time and the message icon. Dragging down the time unlocks the screen while dragging down the phone or message icon brings you to the Dialer or SMS apps respectively.

miuui-lockscreen

An improved notification bar

In MIUI, the notification bar is more than just showing notification message. It is also the control point for various settings. From the notification bar, you can toggle WIFI, data connection, volume, bluetooth, flight mode, screen rotation, brightness and many more settings.

miui-notification-toggles

Monitor

The monitor app is built into the MIUI ROM and it allows you to monitor your call time, mobile traffic and message count. It also allows you to set firewall for your app so they don’t connect to the Internet unnecessarily.

miui-monitor

Backup

The inbuilt Backup app allows you to backup your phone settings and apps to either your SD card or to MIUI cloud backup services. Personally, I prefer to backup to my SD card than to the MIUI cloud.

miuui-backup

System Update and MIUI Market

The default MIUI ROM comes with a system update app and a MIUI market (both are in Chinese). They are supposedly useful apps, but they disappeared after I installed the language pack. It could just be me that are having this problem. I would love to have them back.

Theme Manager

MIUI comes with a theme manager where you can select the themes you want for your phone. If the existing themes are not sufficient for you, you can even go online and download fanciful themes.

miui-theme-manager

Battery Monitor

The previous version of MIUI is said to have bad battery life. However, this latest version of MIUI (based on Gingerbread) seems to have fixed the issue. It now comes with a power saving mode that can underclock the CPU and close most apps when a certain percentage is reached.

miui-power-saving

Do Not Disturb (DND) mode

MIUI comes with a DND mode that can reject all incoming calls, message, alarms or even notification. This is useful if you are in a meeting or you need absolute concentration.

miui-dnd-setting

MIUI Music player – much better than the stock music player

The MIUI music player is pretty impressive. It sort your music by artists, albums, playlists and folders (it doesn’t support genres). While playing a song, it will automatically download the album arts and lyrics and show it on the screen, karaoke style.

miui-music-player

File Explorer

The File Explorer app is very useful. It is one of the best that I have ever come across. The app automatically sort your files by file type and you can also connect to the FTP server to manage your files. It is not as feature-rich as Astro, but for pure file browsing and simple file management (copy, move, send), it is far more capable to handle it.

miui-file-explorer

No matter how good a ROM is, it bounds to come with some caveats:

1. iPhone style UI

There are many people that hated the iPhone’s UI and that is the reason why they switched to Android. Personally, I don’t like the iPhone’s UI as it provides me with limited choices of customization. Luckily, MIUI, like any other Android ROM, supports folder. I created several folders and dump all the applications in the respective folders. The action of opening the folder is similar to opening the app drawer, which is fine for me.

miui-folder

2. Inconsistency in the language

MIUI ROM is basically a Chinese ROM and has been translated into several languages. The bad thing is, some of the translation is not properly done. You can still see some Chinese characters around. For me, since I understand Chinese, that is not a big problem. It might be a problem for those who don’t understand Chinese characters.

3. Inability to add shortcuts to the home screen

Unlike the various homescreen replacement app that allows you to create shortcuts to various apps/settings on the home screen, it is not supported in MIUI ROM (unless you install a third party app from the market). Currently, you can only add folders or widget to the home screen.

You can only add shortcuts to the various apps, but not the settings within. Other home screen app like LauncherPro or Go Launcher does better at this.

Personally I like MIUI and I would recommend it to everyone. I have used it for several days and the speed and performance have been impressive. I have not experience any crash or lag, something that I have not experienced for a long time. While there are some caveats, they are often minor and I think its functionalities have far out-weighted its cons.

What do you think?

MIUI (Chinese site) | MIUI (English site) | MIUI.us (another popular place for MIUI discussion)

11 comments

  1. Thanks for the review, I’ll have to try it (once I got my phone).
    MIUI looks closed source (at least I haven’t found the source) while CyanogenMod is open source. That’s a shame (and what about the GPL on Android ?).

    Is there some incompatibility between these two roms like apps and stuff ? (maybe a stupid question, I haven’t played much with android yet)

    • I am not sure if it is open or closed source. Even if it is closed source, I don’t see why it is a shame too.

      I did not try all the apps in the market, but for the 80+ apps that I used, there is no compatibility issue at all.

    •  No app compatibility issue that I have found outside of SuperPower v0.80, a non-essential but sort of cool battery saving app created by chainfire at XDA. Other than that I have used over 200 different apps since I began using MIUI 8+ months ago and never had an issue.

      MIUI is in fact closed source, just like Sense, Touch Wiz or any other carrier/manufacturer’s OS overlay. It’s not really that big a deal. It would certainly be nice to have MIUI be open-sourced, but the drag on the awesomeness of the ROM is minimal.

  2. Great review Damien. Bear in mind that this ROM is updated weekly so things change quickly, but your review was good and accurate.

    The Caveats:
    The iOS look is the most often heard complaint and also the easiest to remedy either via the native, amazingly detailed and incredibly simple theming options or via third party launcher. If you haven’t tried any of the dark themes yet, definitely give them a shot. No iOS confusion there.
    There really shouldn’t be any Chinese left in your ROM. If there is you should contact your dev so that they can make an update pack. :)
    All of the apps are on the homescreen so there isn’t anything to create a shortcut for. If you are thinking of shortcuts for contacts or bookmarks or that sort of thing, then yes you are correct, but again easily resolved with a number of free apps.

    Also, the ROM is supported internationally and it would be a good idea to add a third link to your links. The two you have up are China and UK which are two of the three larger forums.  MIUI.us is the third large forum with most of the original devs who ported MIUI in the beginning. 

    You can find it here >> http://forums.miui.us/forum.php There are also sites in Germany, Italy, Spain and Australia with links on the main site MIUI China.

    • Hi js,,

      Thanks for the clarification. I have updated the article to include miui.us

      btw, i have tried the dark theme. It rocks! Thanks.

  3. You actually CAN add shrotcuts to the home screen. When you are in Edit Mode, tap the menu button and then tap “Add” – this will allow you to add shrotcuts to the homes screen!

  4. I dont at all like the iOS-look but thats very easily resolved but installing another launcher on top of this rom, like ADW, Launcherpro och any other neat thing. You still get all the sweet functions and flow in MIUI så call it best of two worlds :)

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