MIUI – Xiaomi’s mobile interface – is controversial because it is fully functional. While many praise it for bringing a lot of cool features, others prefer to avoid it because it “duplicates” a lot of iOS and has some pretty annoying aspects to its settings.
But there’s no denying that Chinese skins are nice to look at, and with each release, there’s more to come – some even before they’re officially released on Android.
But is it worth buying a Xiaomi phone and using the OS on a daily basis? Is the interface intuitive and easy to use for those who are migrating from other brands or even the iPhone?
In this review, I present the main points of MIUI 13 and show you the most interesting features and, of course, the shortcomings. However, it is important to note that not all features are new in MIUI 13, but can be carried over from earlier versions of the software.
The fact that MIUI is so customizable is another attraction of the user interface. This is a very positive point for those who tend to quickly tire of the appearance of their devices, something that iOS or Android devices like Motorola or Realme lack.
Xiaomi smartphones have a native theme store that includes a wide variety of wallpapers, fonts, icon packs, themes and even ringtones for system alerts and sounds.
Some theme options also allow menus to appear transparent, with dedicated wallpapers not necessarily the same as user-defined wallpapers. So don’t be surprised, for example, if the Control Center has one background image and the phone usually has another.
One of the great advantages of the MIUI Theme Store is that most of the options available are free. In the meantime, if you want to find a good, free theme in One UI, for example, you need to be patient enough to search.
In addition to the customizations available in the theme store, users can change the number of apps that appear on the home screen, in the apps menu, and even the orientation of recent apps, showing everything vertically or horizontally.
Appearance is always a matter of taste, which can be quite questionable, but the MIUI interface promises to conquer a lot with its beauty. Very similar to iOS in some ways, the skin has elegant icons and a very simple and intuitive menu.
Like iPhones, Xiaomi separates the notification area from the parts where we can access quick settings, such as buttons for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, mobile networks or the flashlight. “Coincidentally”, this part is called the Control Center – the same name Apple adopted.
Allows you to find some definitions faster and easier without mixing with messages or alerts received. In this regard, Xiaomi’s interface has a good advantage over competitors like Samsung’s One UI, Motorola’s MyUx or Realme UI.
The section is so simple and intuitive that the interface even “teaches” how to use it on first activation: open notifications, swipe down from the top left corner and swipe right to access the Control Center.
On this screen, in addition to the quick settings shortcuts, you will find controls for connecting your home devices.
Here’s another advantage over Samsung: on Korean phones, you need to open the notification screen and click “Devices” to get a list of smart devices. With MIUI, just swipe down for full control.
Like other brands, China also gives users the option to use the app drawer or expand it directly from the home screen – the latter is like the iPhone. If you choose to use the menu, it will have vertical navigation that will eventually make finding apps in a list more useful.
security and privacy
MIUI basically follows Android’s native security and privacy standards without any major changes. That means the interface offers the same interface as most competitors, but it lags behind Samsung, which uses Knox as an extra layer of protection.
On most devices, the operating system offers a variety of biometric options such as face unlock or fingerprint unlock – the latter being the most secure.
There is also an option to keep the device unlocked when the device is within range of a Bluetooth device such as a smartwatch. However, the feature is only compatible with Xiaomi wearables.
However, what Xiaomi claims is for security, but ends up being a little annoying – especially if you’re used to the interface – is the presence of a confirmation timer on the device.
With them, you’ll need to wait 10-15 seconds before clicking “OK” before confirming any more important settings – like setting a lock password for the first time or trying to format your phone.
In theory, this is to ensure users can easily read on-screen warnings. In practice, however, it gets pretty tedious, especially if you already know what you’re doing.
Apps, features and differentiators
In terms of security and privacy, MIUI is pretty standard, basically following the functions of native Android, but the specific functions of the interface are different. The Chinese skin has some interesting differences, which guarantees the loyalty of the fans.
Still, some things can bother users a little. This varies by model, but it’s not uncommon for devices to ship with TikTok, Facebook, Spotify, Netflix, PUBG Mobile, WPS Office, LinkedIn, AliExpress, Amazon Shopping, and other apps loaded into the interface.
It’s also worth noting that despite the frequency of receiving updates – that is, on higher-end and newer models – MIUI can also cause some post-update annoyances. This can include app crashes, general system errors, or even a significant drop in battery performance over time.
Still, its unique features and differences are pretty decent. Check out the main ones:
Super wallpapers – or super backgrounds – are a new feature in MIUI 12 that provides better tones for lock screens and wallpapers for branded phones.
Using them, you can set dynamic images for lock screen and main area. That way, when you unlock the phone, an animation with the wallpaper will appear.
Typically these options apply to planets (such as Earth, Mars or Saturn) and the lock screen photo shows an overview of the Earth and when unlocked the image is focused on a specific area.
However, it’s important to note that this feature isn’t available on all devices, and Xiaomi reserves the action on high-end or mid-range models only.
Mi Remote is a Chinese remote control app for all phones with built-in infrared sensors. This way you can control almost any TV, stereo, air conditioner or other electronic device as long as they are IR controlled.
Flashlights are already included in any smartphone these days, which is nothing new, nor a great feature. However, the MIUI difference – and something I missed when using another phone – is the option to use the power key to turn it off without unlocking the device.
On other devices, it can only be toggled on and off via an icon in the notification shade. That way, if you want to delete it, you have to unlock your phone and access the shortcut on the bar. On MIUI, just press the power key twice (with an interval between each press) to turn off the lights.
Second Space works as a new “user” on Xiaomi phones. With it, for example, it is possible to separate all files and applications from a professional account from a personal use account.
In this way, confidential or work data – such as messengers or social media accounts – are not confused with personal matters and give users more freedom when they do not want to be interrupted by professional matters.
The secondary space and the main area are completely separate, and the user sets two unique passwords to access each one. It is also possible to define different fingerprints for each region.
In terms of accessibility, MIUI doesn’t bring anything different from other Android phones. Regardless, the interface doesn’t disappoint in that regard. Xiaomi devices have several features to improve the experience for users with visual, hearing or physical impairments.
There’s even an option to include an accessibility menu on every screen. In this way, by tapping its icon, the user can access a series of options, such as Google Assistant, the recent apps screen, the lock screen or turning the device on and off.
MIUI 13: Beautiful interface, but with some necessary improvements
MIUI 13 is a visually stunning interface. The fact that it is so customizable makes it very attractive to those who like to change their OS design frequently.
Its unique features – such as Control Center, Super Wallpaper and Second Space – make it even more unique and interesting for anyone looking to move away from the “standard Android”.
However, there are some major improvements to the interface. After each update, the number of users complaining about general operating system failures is clearly visible. Also, MIUI doesn’t do a good power management with each update to avoid a fast discharge.
With these improvements, however, the interface will likely gain more support in future updates, but it’s a question of whether the Chinese will improve the skin.