Quick thoughts on the MIUI Android rom

A new rom has been developed by the chinese. It’s called “Miui” and it’s Android based. Be careful, unless you like 80ies power-ballads, you may want to turn down the volume:

Since I’ve been very harsh to HTC Sense and Android skins in general, I’ve been politely asked my thoughts on this one. And while I’m still preparing a larger rant on the skin situation, I’d like to give a few quick notes on what I think about this particular flavor.

— I love that it’s possible. I love that because of Android being open source, such an OS image can be put together.

miui_lockscreen

— I like the lock screen, insofar as you can open the phone, messages or the device in general by swiping three different icons. I’m less thrilled that the direction to swipe/unlock is vertical. Which doesn’t work so well for HTC Sense.

miui-add-to-home

— The homescreen / launcher seems as uninventive as every other homescreen out there (save for Windows Phone 7 which looks to bring something new to the table), but it’s a formula that works reasonably well. There’s a customizable dock for those shortcuts you use all the time, and there’s the rest of the screen for littering with various apps you use.

— In the spirit of Samsung TouchWiz (ugh), every icon gets an iOS-like rounded-corner box. Which does bring a grid-like look to the apps, but feels dated. Also, since the icons weren’t designed to be shown in such boxes (unlike iOS icons), I doubt the viability of this framing of all icons.

— Android has numerous ways to quickly toggle GPS, Bluetooth, Wifi and other “quick settings”, and it’s an interesting approach for MIUI to place these in the notification drawer. But like task-killers, some of these features really shouldn’t be “quick toggles”, but rather completely automatic and built in such a way that they don’t kill your battery. Like Android 2.2 killed task killers (( Yes, really! Task killers no longer work in Android 2.2, and you don’t need them either. )), I’m hoping future Android releases will better manage these settings for me.

— The ability to quickly rearrange the sequence of homescreens is nice, if one likes the way Android homescreens work. I’m not convinced. On the one hand, I love the completely sandbox-esque feel of being able to tweak every homescreen and their widget and app layouts. On the other hand, I like iOS completely automatic and fascist homescreen regime wherein the leftmost homescreen is the search screen, and homescreens are simply added to the right when you need them. In the case of iOS, however, the otherwise brilliantly unified “there are no app shortcuts” metaphor lends itself to what I like to call the “stocks-app homescreen syndrome”, which refers to right-most iOS homescreen which is usually the debris garden for unwanted yet un-uninstallable apps.

— The app/widget trash can that has gotten prime real estate right at the top of the screen is rather silly. Sure it makes it easy when you need to move apps from one homescreen to the other, but in the ongoing crusade against the filesystem, the trash can will be first against the wall. And so it’s a UI metaphor that we should start to shy away from, no matter the kooky and fun way we decide to use it. The trash can is broken goods.

— In the folders vs. stacks fight that goes on, I’m actually in the stacks side of the arena, even if I think the stacks implementation of “max. 12 apps per stack” on iOS is dumb. This MIUI implementation of having folders that just look like stacks but behave like folders, is unimpressive.

— Most central in my argument against skins is that there are some aspects that are fair game, and some that you just don’t mess with. With HTC Sense, it’s primarily the bundled apps. Overall, I think it’ll be the same with MIUI, whose contact list is so stupid. How stupid is it? It’s so stupid, it copied Apples patently stupid interface mechanism where if you swipe right on a contact, it reveals a delete button (see the video, 3 minutes in exactly). Which, if it isn’t clear, is such a vicious example of mystery meat navigation that only bad bicyclists can get my blood to boil more.

— So you don’t mess with core apps is my mantra. Browser, calendar, mail, contacts, phone … those are off limits. Do not touch. What’s left in MIUI? Well there’s the lock screen, the homescreen (with custom icons and widgets), the app drawer and the notification drawer. Did you know that all those aspects of the Android interface, can be replaced by Android apps? In fact, MIUI could’ve been simply an Android app instead of a fullblown rom.

Did I mention I love open source? My friendly criticism aside, I love that MIUI exists. I may even try it, and I will no doubt like it more than HTC Sense. But it all boils down to the fact that we’re still dealing with a phone, which needs to be stable, easy to update with security patches. And the core experience — phone, browser, contacts, email — needs to be razor sharp. With that in mind, I think it’s a real pity that MIUI isn’t just an Android Market app that replaced my homescreen, lock screen, app drawer and notification bar. After all, that’s not only entirely possible, but it’s likely I’d pay for it. I could say the same for HTC Sense.

10 thoughts on “Quick thoughts on the MIUI Android rom”

  1. Ulf says:

    I read somewhere that the MIUI-team is also working on a stand-alone launcher, akin to launcherpro or ADW – or perhaps a “suite” of apps. We can only hope, because I’d love to be able to pick out the cool elements and leave the crappy ones. 🙂

    1. Joen says:

      Ulf,

      Exactly. I’m a fan of apps, and a big fan of open and expansive APIs that allow apps to completely change the experience.

      The only problem is when the core OS gets touched. It makes everything slow to a standstill. That’s one thing we learned from Linux.

  2. tIMG says:

    How about your write a UI?
    Your inlove with the new win 7 bar? puhlease…

  3. Nick says:

    On my HTC Incredible, the MIUI ported ROM flies. Faster than CM6, Stock Sense, Stripped Sense with only core apps, faster than everything I’ve used. I’m sorry you don’t appreciate it the way I do, but everyone is entitled to his opinion. It was a very well written review, I might add.

    Oh and that Windows 7 UI? It’s ridiculously easy to mimick that on Android with Launcher Pro/ADW Launcher and Desktop Visualizer. I’ve done it, and after a while it gets old.

    1. Joen says:

      On my HTC Incredible, the MIUI ported ROM flies. Faster than CM6, Stock Sense, Stripped Sense with only core apps, faster than everything I’ve used. I’m sorry you don’t appreciate it the way I do, but everyone is entitled to his opinion. It was a very well written review, I might add.

      Did you miss the part where I mentioned that “I love that MIUI exists”? I do. And I think it’s great that you’re liking it. And I think it’s great that good Android ROMs are made.

      My point is, the way Google is running this open source project, they release the source code to their major releases *after* releasing it on the Nexus One themselves. Case in point: Gingerbread. MIUI can’t run Gingerbread, because they don’t have access to it, yet rumors point to an unveiling next week.

      I’m sure MIUI will adopt Gingerbread. And Honeycomb. And Ice Cream. And Jelly Bean. But because MIUI is a ROM, it’s always going to take them a while to get a new release out, powered by the latest and greatest Android base.

      Now what if MIUI was a combination lockscreen, launcher and widget collection? Except for the notification bar (which I’m sure will eventually be skinnable in Stock), it is my impression that 80%, the important 80%, of what MIUI is at the moment, could be app-based.

      So what I’m saying is, I want a MIUI app. I’d pay for it. I don’t mind that a MIUI ROM exists. I just don’t want that.

      By the way, I don’t believe I said I was in love with the new Windows Phone 7 UI. I haven’t even tried a WP7 device, for crying out loud. What I said was that it DOES look like it’s bringing something new to the table.

  4. Nick says:

    I never said you were in love with the Windows Phone 7 UI, just simply that the visual aspects can already be easily duplicated.

    And yeah, MIUI could be an app based UI. So could Sense, and TouchWiz, and MotoBlur, and every other custom skin the companies put on their devices. What’s wrong with developers working hard to code new features into stock Android and produce ROMs?

    Again, it’s all opinion, and I feel like my phone runs much smoother when I don’t have a lot of 3rd party apps designated to replace system apps. The cleaner the better.

    1. Joen says:

      I never said you were in love with the Windows Phone 7 UI, just simply that the visual aspects can already be easily duplicated.

      I’m sorry, I was referring to the other guy in this thread.

      I completely disagree that the WP7 UI can _easily_ be duplicated, though. I doubt mr. and ms. every man will know how to make their newly acquired Evo 4G look and act like a WinPhone 7.

      And yeah, MIUI could be an app based UI. So could Sense, and TouchWiz, and MotoBlur, and every other custom skin the companies put on their devices. What’s wrong with developers working hard to code new features into stock Android and produce ROMs?

      Should?

      Android is open source. Those companies can pretty much do whatever they want! And so can MIUI. I love that, I love open source. Am I not getting through here?

      What I’m saying is that *I* loathe every custom ROM I’ve tried, because so far the stock Android experience is the only one I’ve tried which has a quantum of coherence. Which is why I’m going to just not buy a Sense, TouchWiz or MotoBlur phone.

      I’m really, really fine, with you buying one.

  5. Ultraman-C says:

    I’m a Chinese ,I used it ,and now i have a HD2 ,also it works

  6. MIUIAndroid says:

    Hi everyone,

    If your looking or the latest ROM updates please visit our web site at http://miuiandroid.com/ ROMS can be found at http://miuiandroid.com/roms/

    Thanks,

    MIUI Android Team

  7. jdharm says:

    I just tried downloading the latest miui Rom from miuiandroid as suggested in the previous comment and it was mostly in Chinese!!! 🙁 It looks like all the developers went over to http://miui.us and I was able to download 1.6.3 for my evo. Their website looks a lot better too. White text on black is an eye sore.

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