One of the best things about the Android operating system is its flexibility. One could even make the argument that this is the operating system’s best feature. You can change as much or as little as you like from just adding a particular widget that you want to your homescreen to something a bit more adventurous. If you’re looking for a more challenging overhaul, installing a completely different ROM would be the best (and most fun) thing to do. To do this, you must achieve root on your device (which does void warranty in almost all cases) and find a ROM that appeals to your particular style and interests. In this regard, MIUI has become one of my favorite ROMs on my HTC Evo, though it is available on several other platforms. Check in after the break to find out why.
Of all of the ROMs I’ve tried, MIUI has had the most distinctive look to it. With cooked Sense-based ROMs, you get the Sense UI, albeit generally much smoother, quicker, and a bit customized. With most cooked AOSP ROMs, you get unadulterated stock Android, usually with some extra goodies thrown in and again, much quicker than stock. None of these are bad at all, but MIUI is something different altogether, and its latest iteration is also Gingerbread-based. Every inch of this ROM is themed and repurposed, typically with a more iOS feel, but with Android functionality thrown in. The launcher is a good example of this.
Like iOS, all of the app icons, both downloaded and pre-installed, are located on the desktop. There is no pop-up grid of apps, though you can organize the apps any way you life via folders (again like iOS). The Android functionality comes in with the fact that you still have those marvelously useful widgets to pin about and the dock bar can house whatever apps you like, up to five. Folders can also be placed on the dock, which is what I did, placing my internet folder in the middle with the Browser app and shortcuts to my most used sites. On the far right side of the docking bar, I placed a folder with a dozen or so of my most used apps. Everything else I threw into folders of matching purposes placed on another desktop.
Pinching on the launcher screen or pressing the home button on the home launcher screen brings up each pane of the launcher. From this screen, you can also manage these screens, adding and deleting them or choosing the default home screen. One plus here is that you can add as many screens as you like.
On almost any Android ROM, the pull-down notification bar is a standard feature. MIUI is no exception and has even thrown in a few caveats. You’ll notice that along the bottom there are three buttons for Notices, Apps, and Toggles. Above is the picture for the Notices tab, which shows you notifications, while clicking on Apps…
…brings you a list of your most recently used apps (and a built-in app killer) and clicking on Toggles…
…brings you a handy grid of on/off buttons for radios, sound, display, flashlight (torch), and phone power options. A semi-hidden feature here is that holding down most buttons will take you to the full settings of that particular item (i.e. Bluetooth settings). Very handy.
The lockscreen of MIUI is very well designed. Pulling down on the center of the bar simply unlocks your phone, like your typical lockscreen. On the left and right sides of the bar however, you may notice icons for phone and text messaging, and these serve two purposes. First, missed calls or text messages will be indicated on the related icon by a red circle and the number of calls or messages missed. Pressing and holding on the icon will reveal missed caller information and any message text, and letting go will clear the notifications. The second purpose of these icons is that dragging from them unlocks the phone directly to the default app used for your phone or messaging. Another nice feature of the lockscreen is that its wallpaper is separate from the launcher screen. Also, when listening to music (more on this later), the lockscreen displays the song title and an animated EQ.
The music app on MIUI is so good that many devs have started including it in their own ROMs. Included in the app is a lyrics downloader, a cover art downloader, a favorites feature, a playlist manager, and lots of really pretty eye candy. It runs extremely smooth and also comes with two widgets, a 4×1 and a 4×4. Even if you don’t end up installing the MIUI ROM, I highly recommend finding the MIUI Music app and giving it a try.
One nifty feature of MIUI is a built-in theme manager and downloader. You can access this through an app icon or through the settings menu. Previous to the newest update, these changed everything from icons and wallpapers, to the lockscreen lockbar, system menus, and even certain apps. Now the main things changed are icons and wallpapers, however I’m sure once the theme developers update their themes to accommodate the new Gingerbread framework, these will once again be themeable as well.
MIUI is an incredibly slick ROM. It’s smooth in its execution and animations and its entire UI is very pleasing, both aesthetically and functionally. It may not be for everyone’s tastes, but if you haven’t tried it out yet, I would definitely recommend it. You can find MIUI in the XDA Developers forums (depending on your phone) or in their very own MIUI forum. In the meantime, check out the gallery below for a better look at the pictures used in the article plus some extras.
-The dock bar will hold 6 icons/apps.
-The theme manager still provides you with the ability to change every aspect individually (text style, wallpapaer, lockscreen, icons, boot animation, boot audio, ringtone, notification ringtone, alarm, and font) or to simply apply a complete theme or create your own. You can also backup your theme settings right in the theme manager.