[Week 4.5] – Tiago Marques’ Review

MIUI 6 ported by Wuxianlin (Relic242 mod)

Introducing the ROM

After three CM based ROM reviews (triple kill!) all based on 5.1.1 Lollipop, where I am with something different. In fact and using the 1971 Monty Python’s movie title “And Now for Something Completely Different”, here I am about to review a non-CM and non-Lollipop ROM and…(pause for extra suspense)…a Chinese ROM. Last week you might have thought that I had a problem with non-CM based ROM’s so today I bring to you a review of MIUI 6 for the Oneplus One.

MIUI it’s the operating system developed by Xiaomi, a somewhat new but big player on the Asian markets. In their view, this is what android software should be and you can clearly see that they try to copy what iOS does on Apple mobile products, but more on that later. A few months back we had a very nice surprise with MIUI 6 (the latest version) being officially ported to the Oneplus One and now, on the download section of MIUI website (here) you can find the ported version by X_s. Unfortunately, this is still based on android 4.4.4 Kitkat but at least it allowed me to revisited my “childhood” (well, a few months back) and see if I ended up missing any Lollipop core feature.

The ROM reviewed here is not the X_s version because there are more than one ported version. By the time I’ve decided to test this ROM, the X_s version had Google Play Services issues and because I needed to be stable enough to be my daily driver I went with Wuxialin ported version. If you do understand mandarin (or willing to “abuse” the capabilities of Google Translate) you can check here and here for X_s and Wuxianlin respectively. The key difference is that X_s is CM based while Wuxianlin is based on ColorOS.

But hold your horses before scrolling through this part because the version tested here is a modified variant of Wuxianlin made by the Oneplus forum user @relic242 and you can check the versions on this forum thread. I will go through the mods in the customizations’ chapter.

Now, let’s put our hands to work and see if MIUI 6 can convince someone like me (near stock android lover) to change my mind on these Chinese OEM’s “vision” on android (“iOSwish” style). Long story short: no, but it was a nice attempt and a very different experience for me these last days.

You can check the video below for an overview of MIUI 6. It gives you an overall impression of what this ROM is capable of but you should’t skip the written part bellow the video for a more in-depth review.

 

1. UI impressions: did I flash iOS?

Like the vast majority of Chinese ROM’s, the first thing that you notice is the completely absence of the app drawer. What you see is what you get and that’s the better description I can give you regarding this aspect. I praise organization and the first minutes on this ROM my “tidiness” addictiveness was going crazy but after a while and having my apps organized on the home screens, I was able to be just “ok” with it. Of course, I could always install a custom launcher to solve this but for this review I wanted the full MIUI 6 experience. I passed my frustration and went with it.

On the main home screen you can add your widgets and apps (there is no shortcuts here, it’s the apps plain and simple), scroll to the right gets you to all your apps where you can organize them whatever you want, either by changing the location of the app or creating folders. You pinch to zoom to access the menu to add/move apps and widgets, change the wallpaper and change the scrolling effects.

If you tend to use lots of apps you will probably end up spending a lot of time scrolling through the home screens looking for the app (you organize the apps the way you want and there is no automatic alphabetic organization). Xiaomi thought about it and give us a nifty search tool by swiping up from the home button to access the search engine where you dive right into the app you are looking for. Moreover, you can set the search function too also find information within certain apps but, unfortunately, it does not always work properly so I only use it for apps search.

The notification drawer follows the same design as the rest of the UI (yeah, that iOS thing). You pull down the notification and you are greeted with a transparent design with everything behind looking fuzzy. Scrolling to the right you meet the quick toggles that can be arranged in an order of your like. The thing that was pushing my buttons here was the absence of a quick toggle/shortcut to the battery stats and whenever I wanted to check them I needed to go to Settings->Additional settings->Battery->Battery use. It was so frustrating but then again I was testing the ROM so that’s why I needed to check those stats more often than the average user.

Another thing that I didn’t like was the recent panel. It was just a row of the app icons that were cached and/or running. Especially when you know everything looks like iOS, I was kind of surprise they didn’t implement the same design as iOS for the recent panel. It is just a small detail but having just a preview of the app instead of the icon would be a lot better. EDIT: as pointed out after this review, you can actually zoom out on the recents panel turning the icons into thumbnails, therefore showing a preview of the content. Special thanks to @kforhorizon for brining this to my attention.

For a heavy customized skin on top of android, the UI is pretty smooth and fast. Every transition has a constant framerate with absolutely no hiccups. Multi-tasking was a breeze and jumping between applications was buttery smooth. But it was right here that I noticed a small yet noticeable key difference between this Kitkat ROM and other Lollipop based ROM’s and that is the speed of opening apps, especially when you freshly open a new app. Flashing so many ROM’s gives me the ability to see even the smallest difference and although it was a marginally I assure you that it noticeable. If it will ruin your entire experience? Of course not but if you come from a Lollipop ROM I am quite sure you will notice it. Furthermore, on Lollipop and with a better RAM management, I noticed that MIUI was not able to keep as many apps on the background (running or cached) as a Lollipop based ROM. And if you use your phone for multitasking and thus a lot of jumping through applications you will notice it, I guarantee.

If it is very (very!) “iOSish”? Yes, a lot. If I like it? No, I really didn’t but that was a matter of taste, what I do not like you could absolutely love it. But with this Apple copying, one thing they nailed it replicating was smoothness you find on iOS devices (well, most of them)! I didn’t have this kind of smoothness on CM11S for example and that is saying something, well, a lot actually.

2. Battery performance: “good” copy of iPhone battery stats

This was the biggest let down of this MIUI 6, it was a big disappointment to me. iPhone are not known for their battery endurance (laughable in some cases) and I am sure they didn’t want it but MIUI 6 copied perfectly those kind of stats. These Chinese OEM are very experienced in this “replication game” and they did a “fantastic” job translating the iOS stats to android: both are not that great.

Now, a little more serious. The performance is not that impressive and that’s putting it mildly. I did struggle to get past the 4h SOT mark on a 20h stand-by time and that was even on light to moderate use. And I only got over the 4h SOT when I started using Servicely to block power hungry apps like Facebook. My light to moderate usage involves wi-fi most of the time on, web browsing, occasional social media, youtube and not muching else. I didn’t even game on it since it would be disastrous for the battery.

After this usage, I decide to take MIUI to a more heavy usage to see what it could get me. On other cycle, I did everything that I do on moderate use but take to the extreme. Well, not extreme per se but more on the sense of using the phone a lot more (still without gaming). On a 9h stand-by I managed to get almost the same SOT as you can see on the screenshot bellow.

Most of Lollipop ROM can get me through the day no matter what kind of usage I throw at it. Maybe I am a “spoiled brat” as on most of the ROM I’ve been testing lately I was able to surpass the 5-5.30h SOT on a 20h discharge cycle. This specific ported version can’t handle that well moderate to heavy usage, at least not on my hands.

After checking the Oneplus thread, other users were saying that the Wuxianlin is not a great battery performer. The X_s ported MIU 6 on the other hand is reported to be way better on this department (maybe something to do with being based on CM11) but the Google play services problems (at the time that I started testing MIUI 6) made me choose the Wuxianlin instead of the X_s. Maybe in a near future I can revisited MIUI 6 but that time the ported X_s.

If you followed us before, you know that we do not change any settings on the kernel (fair chance to everybody) but this ROM comes with a kernel tweaker called PACPerfomance where you are able to adjust different settings in order to take that extra juice out of the battery.

Bottom line is if you want this ROM to handle moderate to heavy usage and still holds throughout the day you might end up with a “good looking brick” at half of your day. Might be better to look elsewhere (the X_s version could be an option).

3. Customizations: a couple of steroids here and there

Like I already said a bunch of times, this ROM tries to replicate the iOS experience and design on android. That is noticeable from the first to the last minute of my usage of MIUI 6. Still, it builds on the baseline of iOS but adds some features and customizations to not let my “customizations tank” completely empty.

So, digging in the settings and in the order they are presented to me here is the most important features:

  • Notifications – it allows you to manage which apps shows you notifications (either on the status bar and/or lockscreen), if they reproduce sound and vibration when they arrived and if they display the notification light; you can also rearrange the quick toggles on the notification drawer
  • Do not disturb – this is pretty handy if you want to set up a time (at night for example) where you won’t receive any notifications when the phone is locked
  • Privacy – is where you find the locations settings; you can activate guest mode where it hides messages, notes, pictures and calls while it’s activated and password protected
  • StockSetting – you can find here the added MaxxAudio settings, off screen gestures like double tab to wake or launch the camera and you can even add gestures to launch certain apps; on screen gestures where you can double-tap the home button to lock the screen, take a screenshot swiping three fingers on the screen or even a “one-hand operation” where you can swipe from the bottom left or right to the centre and it makes the screen a smaller so you can avoid the dual hand usage (yes, exactly like iOS); and you can change the LCD density ranging from 320 to 560DPI
  • Additional Settings – change the display settings, the size of the one-handed mode (3.5, 4.0 or 4.5 inches); the battery stats (yes, in here!); storage, change the color of the notification light; if you have headphones with buttons you can customize their functions; buttons giving you the power to trigger different actions of the capacitive buttons; and you will also find it here the developer option and the backup & reset (strange location!)
  • System Apps settings – under it you will find that iOS style settings like the call, contacts and messaging settings; mail, camera, gallery and so on. It is also here that you can change what the search function can use to find different information. All the MIUI services are also found in here like the music service or Mi cloud. The security settings are also present under this tab.
  • Mi Credit, App Store and Themes – MIUI services is the response to Google services as in China they don’t have access to the Play Store. But good luck with the MIUI store and themes as they are in mandarin, if you are like me and don’t understand anything of mandarin this services are pretty much useless unless you feel adventurous and download things without knowing anything about it. Might be lucky downloading a ringtone or notification sound that suits your taste! Well, I didn’t. Poor me.

After going through the settings and its customizations I reserved the upcoming lines for the MIUI 6 security suite. This suite will scan your device for apps and files that can be deleted (like temporary files), virus scanner, and memory manager that reassembles to a task killer and it even prompts you as a “problem” if you use a different messaging service other than the MIUI Messaging. But, by far, what bothers me the most is the task killer. We all know the usage of these task killers are counter-productive yet MIUI 6 brings this built-in. For example, if I run it says that I need to “clean up” (nice way to put it as it will just kill it) apps like telegram and hangouts, apps that are supposes to be running if you want to get people to contact you. Why would I want it to kill those apps? I just disable it and you should do the same, especially the task killer if you don’t know what you are doing.

Other thing the MIUI 6 “lends” from iOS is the permission settings. Under the same security settings, you have a permission manager that can be activated and it will ask for your allowance every time an app is trying to use the contacts, the SMS or any other personal information (I disable it because after some time it is so annoying asking me for everything). If you want to see Steve Jobs talking about it and defending this “constant asking from permission” you can check this video. Like iOS, MIUI also focus a lot on security but most of the times is just counter-productive so you will probably end up disabling everything.

4. Bugs – non to ruin my experience as my daily driver

This will be the shortest chapter on this review. Simply put, I didn’t encounter major bug that deteriorated my experience as daily driver. Well, having the MIUI store in mandarin didn’t let me change my ringtones for example, even when I try to change them using Zedge the ringtone or alarms were kept the same. Of course this cannot be considered a bug as it is just how things work on this ROM but it would be nice to give us an option to use other sources for your ringtones.

I must say that there are people with some Bluetooth issues but I used MIUI with a Bluetooth keyboard and it worked perfectly fine for the time being.

5. My experience on something completely different

I started this review by stating that I would test a completely different ROM from what you and I are used to. I got to tell you that MIUI 6 really gave me a completely different vision on what android should be on their eyes. Different in way that is trying to copy iOS? Sure!

After this full week on MIUI it didn’t change my opinion on these Chinese ROM’s. They struggle too much to be like iOS that completely that they forget the best feature of android has and that’s the power of customizations. I understand that on the Asian market where the average buyer won’t have enough money to buy an iPhone, this is their way to buy something as closest as it can be. And it was an effective strategy as it worked perfectly on those kind of markets. Even on the western world is showing to be an efficient strategy as many buyers like this more simplistic android system and don’t need the highly degree of customizations. The “average joe” will be happy with it.

For me I can’t even say that this experience was disappointing because it was exactly what I was expecting. I still prefer the stock feel of android and the flexibility it gives me and I feel that MIUI 6, as other Chinese OEM operating systems, takes away some of it. I mean, what is the point of using a flexible and customizable operating system and then cut some of its power? But then again this just proves how flexible android is: OEM can make it look like whatever they want and that’s a big plus for android that iOS can only dream of.

It was a nice experience and it was very nice to meet you MIUI 6. And thank you but no thank you!

You can find more about the Wuxianlin ported MIUI 6 in here: http://www.oneplusbbs.com/thread-762412-1-1.html

The mod version can be found on this Oneplus forum thread: https://forums.oneplus.net/threads/rom-miui-6-port.311588/page-66

Written by Tiago Marques

 

4 Comments

  1. DeltaSky

    A real authentic review here, I was waiting for one since a long time. An advice – you can pinch out in recents app screen on icons to make it full sized like in iOS, anyways great stuff thanks for the review.

     
    Reply
    1. Tiago Tiago

      Hello

      Thank you for your feedback. It means a lot to us!

      About the recent, yes it was a mistake done by me. That was also brought to my attention and I already added a “EDIT” stating that. But thank your for the heads up.

      Cheers

       
      Reply
  2. theshinybeast theshinybeast

    I’ve always been intrigued by this type of ROM because they seem to be esthetically beautiful but very impractical ,no app drawer?Hmmm.

    Also the fact that most of these ROMs are still on KitKat puts me off a bit as well.As you say a lot of this can be corrected with the right launcher but It seems to me that would defeat the purpose of using the ROM in the first plzce ,as if we wanted an IOS style ROM to be less IOS and more android,strange.

    In the end I think it’s a question of whether you prefer you like it or not and if you’re willing to live without a log of the more practical functions of Android.

    Nice review Tiago I imagine it was a struggle to get through a week of ‘IOSishness’

     
    Reply
    1. Tiago Tiago

      Hello there

      Yes, I totally agree with you regarding the usage of another launcher. If you do that and use, let’s say, Google Now launcher you get a massive design difference when going from the launcher to settings for example. It is not aesthetically pleasant! Besides, if you do prefer a stock feeling why would you want MIUI 6 or others alike?

      You did understand exactly what I tried to explain on the review about how I feel that “MIUI 6″ takes away some of the power android gives us. I do understand that this works for most of users but for us that like to make full usage of our operating systems, this makes no sense.

      Funny thing, yesterday and today I’ve been on HydrogenOS v6 to see what this brings to the table. Virtually nothing as it is the typical Chinese take on android but at least it adopts a little more the Lollipop design. Still, battery stats are buried in “advance settings” and I am like “why are the battery stats on “advanced”? MIUI 6 does exactly the same and it is not only for battery stats, some others settings that we are used to have them right on the first settings are buried down the menu. This is indeed a very “iOSish” style.

      It was a funny week since the last Chinese ROM that I used was ColorOS last year. Funny how MIUI 6 feels almost the same and now that I am testing HydrogenOS I see this going the same road.

      Again, thank you for your feedback. You make us feel that our work with this project is actually useful to all of you.

      Cheers

       
      Reply

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