My Android Experience part 2 – MIUI

Following on from last week where I tested the Nexus version of Gingerbread on my HD2, I wanted to see a second Android rom, and one that was very different from stock Android. I found a few but have been using one for several days now which I quite like. In fact, this is one you will soon be able to buy as the firmware of a new device as the makers of the rom are making a phone.

MIUI looks very different from stock Android and frankly, it is different. In some ways it’s a bit iPhone-ish to be honest, but at the same time, quite unique. You can get several versions and variants of this from both the MIUI Android site, the MIUI official site and xda-developers has several variations in its HTC HD2 forum.

So here goes my run through this rom, and remember, this is just a review of an Android rom running on a Windows Mobile device and the rom has been modified from the original MIUI rom.

NDT MIUI Stable

This rom is based on the stable rom by MIUI.  There are development rom’s available too, with several variants including an iPhone, Sense and Galaxy inspired themes.  I chose a more standard MIUI rom, partly for the stability (after all, this is the stable not development version). The version I have can be found in this thread on the xda-developers forum (HD2_NDT_MIUI_Stable_V1.0_MAGLDR) and it looks like the 2.0 version has been released today. So what’s it like…

Homescreen and menu’s

 

So the look and feel of this is in some ways, more rigid, with the very square icons, and the 4 large square icons at the bottom.  In some ways it is.  For instance, there is no app menu so every app will be added to the last home screen, until that is full.  Basically, everything becomes very square.  And yet, we have great transitions (the cube one stays cube like, however many home-screens you have), we have nice widgets too.

Removing shortcuts from the home-screens uninstalls the app, and adding new shortcuts is made more complex by the long press on the home-screen takes you to an edit view with custom controls to add widgets or remove things, but not add shortcuts or contacts – this is still reachable by pressing the menu key when in edit mode, but it took 2 days to realize this.  The new method of adding widgets allows for quick addition of widgets on many screens quickly, at the expense of precise placement (at least initially) being more difficult.

Although the app menu is gone, the settings menu is still there and we have a host of new settings (now split to 4 categories).

Multitasking

This is done similarly to Nexus Android, but with the addition of a “Kill apps” button, which kills all running apps.

It’s still an unintuitive system to me and the methods used to manage apps in Maemo, MeeGo and Symbian, and even Windows Phone, are better.  I assume the green border means these apps are running still while the rest have been closed down by the system already. However, I discovered one new thing today, a long press of the back button can be set to kill the individual app you are in.  I don’t think that was there in stock Android but I could be wrong.

Phone and communications

No real change here from normal Android, just a different theme. However, on the lock screen you can get quickly to texts or calls, and pressing the message icon on the lock screen will preview messages for you.

Music and Media

Here there has been quite an overhaul of the music player and the MIUI music player is much more pleasing to look at, if a little less intuitive at times.  However, the nice thing is that you have the main player, a small widget, a big widget and the lock screen all able to control your media. I really like it when the lock screen can be used like this.

Camera

They have overhauled the camera Ui a bit too, but it still takes average photos. The main differences here are the Camera/Video mode button and several other settings have been pushed back into the camera menu’s.

Other Apps and features

MIUI comes well stocked out of the box and most apps are just a themed version of the stock android app.  These include Email, Gmail, the Browser and more.  It arrived with clients installed for twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Maps, Google Talk, Torch and many more.  The biggest other difference I wanted to mention here really is the notifications pull down, which now has 2 tabs, one being “Notifications” which we know about, the other being “Toggles”.  This is exceptionally useful and is basically a quick way to access and toggle various settings.

Performance

Generally excellent, and I have found this to be a stable rom and good to use.  Like with the stock android rom, I did have one crash though, this time not with Angry Birds, but something else, though I’ve no idea what.

Conclusion

MIUI have created an excellent Android version, and although the lack of an apps menu took some getting used to, and the menu to add shortcuts and contacts to the home screen was sneakily tucked away, it was a more useful implementation for me than stock Android.  If I were to quit using Nokia devices and use Android long-term (which I’m not about to do, but it’s fun to check out this stuff while I am without my N900), I would want to use MIUI with it.  If you like the screenshots here, keep a look out for the MI Phone – just $310.

Also worth noting that my travels through the world of Android roms have shown me how flexible the OS is, at least in terms of its interface.  With the ability to customize a lot of features, the UI can become complex and unintuitive at times and Android is far from exempt from those things.  However, some things in both the Nexus and MIUI versions of Android are very useful and I might miss them switching away from Android again. Now, let’s get Windows Phone Mango on this thing…

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About bluechrism

I am a software developer with most professional experience in the Windows .Net realm and I'm currently a WPF developer with Starkey Labs. However, I have wanted for some time to start the mobile developer journey properly and being an N900 owner, this was to be in the realm of QT. Job hunting, moving to Minnesota and changing jobs put my plans on hold 6-12 months but things are starting to settle now, just as I'm getting sorted to start some things, Microsoft and Nokia merge. This blog is about my novice mobile development experiences and hopefully will end up complete with links to download some apps on various platforms, but obviously by the name, Sybian, Maemo/Meego and Windows Mobile. In other stuff, I am English, I support Everton FC, I have visited Glastonbury music festival 5 times and recommend it to anyone. I am married and my wife and i have a dog called Friday.
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