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Xiaomi is on its way to becoming the biggest smartphone vendor in the world. With the absence of Huawei on the market, the Chinese company has already overtaken Apple in certain metrics to become the world’s second-largest OEM. That means Xiaomi’s Android skin known as MIUI is more popular than ever.
Primer: Everything you need to know about Xiaomi
If you are just learning about Xiaomi — or even if you’ve been a long-time fan — you might have some questions about its smartphone software. In this article, we’re going to give you all the information you need on MIUI!
Editor’s note: This article is updated as of October 2021. We will add/remove content as Xiaomi reveals more information about MIUI.
Like Oppo’s Color OS, Xiaomi’s smartphone skin is substantially different from stock Android. It’s a lot more colorful, cartoonish, and playful. Some people love this fun take on the core operating system, while others long for the simplicity of stock.
Originally, Xiaomi designed MIUI to heavily emulate the look of Apple’s iOS. This earned it a lot of detractions early on. Over time, though, the company has found its own footing and its skin has a bit more of its own unique identity. We talk about this more in a later section of the article.
See also: What is Android?
One of the most contentious issues related to MIUI, though, is its reliance on ads. Xiaomi has gone on the record numerous times to say it is not a hardware company. It considers itself a software company first that incidentally makes hardware. As such, its low-cost devices are heavily subsidized by advertisements littered throughout MIUI.
Still, these issues haven’t stopped Xiaomi from very quickly rising to be one of the biggest electronics companies on the planet. Clearly, MIUI is a huge part of that success.
Do note that Xiaomi has many sub-brands. As such, MIUI also appears on phones from BlackShark, Redmi, and some Poco phones.
Xiaomi is not well-known for delivering fast and stable software updates to its phones. Oftentimes, older Xiaomi phones languish on outdated versions of Android/MIUI. However, over the past few years, the company has done well towards fixing this problem. Still, if fast and frequent software updates are important to you, Xiaomi might not be your brand.
The latest version of MIUI is version 12, which confusingly could be based on anything from Android 9 Pie to Android 11. Since your MIUI version covers multiple versions of Android, you need to check both to know which features you’ll have access to.
Also, do note that Xiaomi’s software differs from country to country. For example, MIUI ships without access to Google apps in mainland China, but does in other parts of the world.
We have steps on how to check your version/Android number in the next section.
If you don’t know which version of MIUI/Android is on your Xiaomi-made device, you can easily check. Here are the steps:
If you’re running an older version of MIUI/Android, there’s a chance an update could be waiting for you. You can check for software updates using the following steps:
If your software is up-to-date but you know you don’t have the latest version of MIUI/Android, that means your phone hasn’t received the update yet. It’s also possible your phone is too old to get new updates.
Believe it or not, MIUI was the very first product from Xiaomi. It launched the Android skin before it even launched a smartphone.
The first version of MIUI was based on Android 2.1 Eclair and launched in 2010. Xiaomi used this as a showcase for early investors. After procuring millions of dollars in funding, the company in 2011 launched its first smartphone, the Mi 1.
See also: MIUI is very inconsistent, but Xiaomi is doing something about it
As mentioned earlier in this article, the early iterations of MIUI owed a lot to Apple’s iOS. Notably, early versions of the skin had no app drawer, just as iOS doesn’t have one. Even today, lots of Xiaomi phones ship without an app drawer active, although you can turn it on in Android Settings if you choose.
Over time, though, MIUI has started looking less like iOS and more like a variant of Android that borrows a lot of the design elements of iOS. With each new iteration, the company seems to create more of an individual identity for its Android skin, which is helping with its popularity and adoption.
Here is a gallery of screenshots that should give you an idea of what to expect from MIUI.
Every Android skin is unique. There are some things you can do with Pixel UI that you can’t do with Oxygen OS and vice versa. With that in mind, here are some features that appear in MIUI that you sometimes can’t find elsewhere.
Normally, when you swipe down on your home screen, you see the typical Android notification shade. On Xiaomi phones, though, you can instead opt to see Control Center. As its name suggests, this is a blatant copy of the Control Center you find in iOS. It looks like the iOS Control Center and has the same function, which is easy access to the controls you care about most. This includes turning off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, turning on the flashlight, changing the display brightness, etc.
Although the name suggests this is a Xiaomi exclusive, it’s actually not. Mi Share works with other phones in the BBK Electronics family, including Vivo, Oppo, and Realme (although those brands all call it by a different name). All you do is find an image, video, or document you want to share, tap on Mi Share, and then connect with a nearby phone. In a matter of seconds, what you share appears on the other device(s). Of course, Android’s native Nearby Share does the same thing, but Mi Share is a bit simpler and faster for the phones it supports.
This feature is very similar to Zen Mode, which you find on OnePlus phones. You set a period of time in which you want to focus on something, whether it be work, school, or even family. Once you start Focus Mode, it renders your phone inoperable for that set period of time. Aside from the camera and the dialer, you are essentially locked out of your phone. Even a restart won’t stop it. If you’re the kind of person who gets distracted easily, this could be a really useful tool.
If you use your phone a lot (and we know you do), you likely have problems keeping the battery full. With the Ultra Battery Saver mode, you can push your battery to the limit and possibly add hours of usage time. The mode saves battery by restricting most app features and focusing only on the essentials: calls, SMS, etc. It also turns on dark mode and turns off several other features. It might not be useful to have this on all the time, but it is a good tool to have if you notice you’re getting low and won’t be near an outlet anytime soon.
That’s everything you need to know about Xiaomi’s MIUI! Be sure to bookmark this page as we will update it as Xiaomi changes the Android skin.
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