The Xiaomi Mi 4 is my first experience with MIUI, the custom user interface that Xiaomi lays over Android OS in its phones. MIUI looks and feels very much like the user interface of iOS. In other words, at first glance, you think of the elegance and simplicity of the iPhone. The icons and entire UI scream “iOS” all through. As a matter of fact, icons on the homescreen also get the red iPhonesque red notification badges. It is quite beautiful.
However, that look and feel is a mask. MIUI is not simple. It is so packed full of customisation options that it almost requires a degree in rocket science to make proper use of it. What makes matters worse is that some of the default settings result in less than stellar performance by the phone.
For example, out of the box, using the Mi 4 meant that apps were sometimes sluggish and tended to pause. More careful observation showed that this happened whenever I unlocked the phone to continue something I was doing earlier. I later found out that by default, MIUI shuts down apps when the screen is locked. So, in reality, when I unlocked the Mi 4’s display and tapped say BBM, the app launched afresh, hence the sluggishness and pauses that I experienced. Buried deep in the phone Settings is the option to exempt some apps from this forced termination by MIUI. I added BBM and other essential apps to the exemption list and that problem went away.
There are other scenarios like that in which the way MIUI works by default actually messes up with the user experience. You have to tweak and tweak and tweak to make it work right. I remember that Chukwudi Udegbunam had given me a heads up about the need to tweak the OS, but I didn’t think it was going to be this deep. I learnt eventually. The hard way.
Also, I found that MIUI is a RAM hog. I’d have three apps running and have only 1GB of RAM left available. Ehis mentioned earlier that was his experience with MIUI too.
Anyway, after a few weeks of using the Mi 4 (and reading help files here and there), I finally have MIUI tweaked to perfection and it now works as smooth as I want. Tweaked this way, it is a flawless smartphone. But out the box, it was a pain in the neck.
For all of Xiaomi’s copying of the design lines and interface of the world’s easiest to use smartphone, MIUI has complicated layers allowing the user to tweak things. These extensive customisation layers are great for people who love to tweak, so there is a market for this – a vibrant one made up of techies and the like.
But if you are an everyday user who isn’t interested in peeling layer after layer of settings, Xiaomi’s phones will have you irritated and annoyed. If, however, you have the time, knowledge and patience and desire to customise your smartphone on and on, this is the chosen one.
After weeks of annoyance and complaints, I am finally enjoying the Mi 4, and I honestly enjoy using it so much that my SIM is going to stay in it. Everyone here at Mobility Arena are surprised at my new-found deep love of the Xiaomi Mi 4. Yes; we find love in strange places.