There are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of custom ROMs out there for your various Android devices. Every phone and tablet has different developers working on different mods and ROMs that you can apply to make your phone more efficient, more powerful and make it through the day. Of all of the different ROMs, there are two out there that are more widely supported than most others: CyanogenMod and MIUI.
This time around, I will be giving you a look into MIUI, originally a Chinese ROM that has been translated into various languages. It has some unique features and looks completely different from any other ROM out there. In fact, a lot of the time it doesn't even feel like Android.
Without further ado, here is a look into the world of MIUI:
Much like the CyanogenMod team that works around the clock, MIUI is frequently updated. That said, most versions of CM are pushed out in “nightlies,” meaning the software is updated daily. MIUI, on the other hand, is not updated as often, but more so than stock firmware. I have had MIUI on my Nexus S for roughly two weeks and there have been exactly two updates. I'm not entirely sure if that is coincidental or a schedule that they are pushing. Either way, it's updated often enough to give you the flexibility to update the software at your own leisure. If you want faster updates, there's only one place to look.
Look, feel and themes
The first thing you will notice after flashing the ROM and making your way through the initial boot process is that MIUI is unlike any other ROM out there. It looks totally different from stock Android or any other flavor out there (Sense UI, TouchWiz, etc.). For starters, it does not have an app drawer. That's right, no app drawer. So all of your apps are on your home screens like the iOS interface. Personally, I find this a bit annoying and drag the ones I do not use very often into folders (you can also download an app drawer from Market). It acts pretty similar to an app drawer, but new applications that you install or download will automatically appear on your home screen.
Another major difference from stock software that you will quickly notice in MIUI is the difference in the notification window. There are two versions that you can choose between: Compact and Page. Page splits your notification window into two tabbed panes; one pane has your notifications, the other is an entire page of toggle switches. Compact puts the notifications and toggle switches into a single page.
The other major difference in MIUI is how easy it is to change the appearance even further. If you do not like the icons, wallpaper, or colors of literally anything in the stock MIUI theme, no worries. There is an included theme manager which allows you to download and apply thousands of readily available themes. Some are drastic themes, like the one in the middle pictured above, and others are subtle. What makes the MIUI theming system better than any other is the ability to mix and match. If you like the icons from one theme, notification window of another and the lock screen of a third theme, you can download them all and apply the individual aspects of each theme that you like. And as you can see, the options are endless.
Hotkeys and shortcuts
Out of all of the awesome features of the ROM, this is potentially my favorite part of MIUI. Taking screenshots has always been less than stellar on Android. Unlike iOS devices where you can click the home and power buttons at the same time, you would normally have to download an application that takes the screenshots for you – either by a timer, shake trigger or whatever other clever method the developer comes up with – using Android. And the majority of Android screenshot apps require you to be rooted.
With MIUI, however, you quickly take a screenshot by holding the menu button and clicking the volume down button. Two other shortcuts occur on the lock screen. Before unlocking your phone, if you long press the home button, the Torch application will launch. In other words, you phone becomes an instant flashlight, using the LED flash on the back of the phone. Also, if you double tap the lock icon on the lock screen, a music control widget will appear. The only other shortcut I could find was within the notification window, if you long press on an icon, it will take you to the settings page associated with that icon (i.e.: long press on the brightness toggle and you will be directed to Display Settings.). All of these are both neat and extremely useful, and quite often the reason I continually come back to MIUI.
Previously known as “Visitor Mode,” this toggle lets you hide calls and text messages and disable the editing of the home screen, just in the case someone needs to borrow your phone to make a call or to mess around. I don't use this feature too often, but when I do, I'm more than happy that it's there.
MIUI comes with next to no bloatware. There are a few applications that are included like the MIUI.us forums application, Notes, Torch, File Explorer, etc. But there is nothing the extent of what you will find on a stock device loaded down with carrier “value” apps. And a lot of the native apps like Music, Camera and Gallery have been completely revamped, for the better. The problem, however, is that not all of your Google services will work. For instance, no Picasa web albums in the Gallery app and no Google Music Beta (which is slowly killing me) – a small price to pay for such an awesome ROM.
Performance and battery life
Running MIUI on my G2x was obviously a little more fluid than what I've experienced thus far on my Nexus S, but it has generally been just as smooth as CyanogenMod. Battery life, surprisingly, has been better than I expected. I am currently approaching 24 hours of light to moderate use (about 6 of those hours were standby while I slept) and I still have 29 percent remaining. Lag is minimal and battery life is reasonable, so consider me impressed with performance.
All in all, MIUI is a fresh change to the run-of-the-mill Android ROM. If you're looking for extreme customizability, smooth performance and decent battery life, MIUI may be the ROM for you. It is different, though, and takes a little getting used to at first. If you decide to try it, give it a chance before saying, “Oh, this is weird. I don't like it,” and moving on to something else. It took me a few rounds with MIUI before it grew on me. Given the opportunity, you might find MIUI to be a ROM you can't live without.
For a look into CyanogenMod, click here.
**As always, flashing isn't endorsed by PhoneDog and should be done at your own risk. PhoneDog assumes no responsibility for damages or any other issues that may arise.**