[Opinion] Is Xiaomi MIUI resorting to gimmicks to keep up with One UI, ColorOS, & other Android skins?

Stock Android is not everyone’s cup of tea. It definitely has its shortcomings, especially when it comes to features that are quite revered by many across the smartphone world.

But it also has some good stuff going on, including the clean UI, how well things are organized and easy to find, and of course, the seamless integration with Google apps.

Android 12 is the next big release. It could probably roll out in a week or so, but only for eligible Google Pixel phones. The rest of the Android world will have another few weeks or even months of waiting.

Material-You-Android-12

Lots of good stuff have been said about Android 12. It is Google’s biggest overhaul of the popular smartphone OS in years. And at the heart of it all is Material You.

Material You brings a colorful redesign of Android as you know it, picking up from where a journey that started in 2014 with Material Design left off.

Other Android vendors are also expected to buy into this idea, but given they also have their own ideas thanks to in-house custom skins, it’ll be interesting to see what tweaks they have in store.

miui-12.5-fi

It is through these custom skins that 3rd-party Android OEMs showcase their mastery of software development, going as far as changing significant parts of how Google envisioned the OS.

This has over the years made each of these vendors stand out. Samsung, after years of perfecting the skin that involved several name changes from Touchwiz to Samsung Experience, today has one of the best Android skins in One UI.

Unlike before, the current One UI 3.1.1 boasts a feature-rich experience that isn’t as bloated and is expected to get even better when One UI 4.0 brings along Android 12 later this year.

Samsung even did away with ads in stock apps, an experience that no one wants on a device that cost a small fortune.

The icing on the cake with Samsung Galaxy phones is you also get one of the best software update promises the industry has to offer, with up to 3 version upgrades and another year of security patches.

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Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3

The story isn’t so different when Oppo, another company that has had to go through a lot of criticism with its software choices, comes to mind. ColorOS is the skin in question here, and like One UI, it’s one of the best today.

I’d be a big liar if I said I thought one day I’ll admit to ColorOS being a good Android skin. But truth be told, Oppo is no longer the iOS copycat it was widely said to be back in the day.

The latest ColorOS 11, which has Android 11 at the base, has some interesting stuff that you should definitely check out, if not already. It moves closer to stock Android while retaining all the juicy stuff.

Like Google Pixels, you get to swipe right to reveal the Google Feed. The official Google apps are now being fully embraced, and you are also signing up for faster, reliable system updates and security patches with Oppo devices.

coloros-11

Even better is that you also get reduced bloatware and like Samsung, there are no annoying ads to deal with compared to well, Xiaomi’s MIUI.

Heck, even OnePlus, a company that came to prominence owing to its perfect balance of hardware and software, the latter offering fans of stock Android an escape route from the pricey and hardly accessible Pixels, is now embracing ColorOS.

We’ve also seen some of our Realme readers flirting with the idea of the sub-brand switching from Realme UI to ColorOS in order to speed up the release of major and minor OS updates.

This is a testament to how far ColorOS has come and how good of an experience it has become, something that perhaps explains the great reception of ColorOS 11 in the west. I am eager to see what ColorOS 12 has in store.

No doubt Xiaomi may be winning the hardware battle against the big boys, but it seems to be lagging behind the likes of One UI, ColorOS, and OxygenOS.

Xiaomi-smartphone-market-share

These skins have in recent times seen major revamps, but all Xiaomi keeps promising is MIUI bug fixes and enhancements — things that hardly get to materialize despite the many updates that keep rolling out.

Xiaomi MIUI 12 was mostly a buggy affair for many, and Xiaomi elected to postpone MIUI 13 development and instead focus on improving stability and performance of MIUI 12 through an updated MIUI 12.5.

It’s been months since MIUI 12.5 came out and not even this update has solved MIUI woes experienced by its predecessor. You can check out our dedicated MIUI 12.5 bug tracker for verification.

With no progress made, Xiaomi – it appears – tried to grab the attention of its fanbase with yet another MIUI 12 iteration, this time dubbed MIUI 12.5 Enhanced Edition. Again, like the standard edition, this version promises to address bugs and issues as well as bring performance improvements.

The Enhanced Edition also came at the expense of MIUI 13, which is now set to be unveiled later this year or sometime in Q1 2022.

However, not much in terms of end results is being noticed on devices, with bugs and other nagging issues already showing up on the newer MIUI 12.5 Enhanced Edition.

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(Source)

Perhaps to stay afloat, Xiaomi has seemingly resorted to what are mostly gimmicks. Recently, the company announced Pure Mode to restrict users from accidentally sideloading apps. Android already comes with a tool (Unknown sources) that prevents sideloading apps.

Xiaomi also launched RAM extension, a feature that is also available on some Oppo and Vivo devices.

It won’t reduce the work done by the physical RAM, but it only provides extra storage space to keep apps running in the background and easily available when called upon. This gives the impression that the phone is fast.

We’ve also seen the addition of features like Performance Mode and even establishment of initiatives like MIUI Pioneer Group, all aimed at improving the software experience on Xiaomi devices.

With all the activity in the MIUI camp, especially when compared to other Android skins, one wonders what Xiaomi is always working on. No doubt the skin is still lagging behind, and many agree (check replies under this tweet) that not even the Enhanced Edition enhances anything about MIUI.

Xiaomi’s MIUI is known for being a flashy skin full of features you won’t easily find on other skins. Through regular updates, the company always made some impressive changes and improvements, but things have slowed down recently.

Whether the good stuff is being kept aside for the big MIUI 13 update is still unknown to us. But looking at the recent developments, this looks likely to be the case.

This time even Google is making a massive revamp to Android 12 with Material You, something that has gotten Pixel owners more excited than ever in recent times.

And I hope that Xiaomi will soon follow suit with some equally big UI changes and new features. Unfortunately, this may mean waiting until MIUI 13 comes around later this year or somewhere in 2022.

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Hillary Keverenge

A techy. Besides phones, I also enjoy the farm, music, football, and, of course, food.