With MIUI 12.5, Xiaomi has rekindled my interest in its software.

MIUI 12.5 doesn’t bring any revolutionary improvements; instead, it solves a number of long-standing problems.

While Xiaomi is now known for producing some of the greatest Android smartphones, the company got its start with MIUI, a software interface that was influenced by iOS but had numerous unique features such as a powerful theming engine and helpful pre-installed applications. On a Nexus 4, I first encountered MIUI 5, which was a significant departure from the default Jelly Bean interface, and which provided an astounding level of customization (at the time), permission management, live icons, a music player that was superior to what you’d find on most phones, and robust security measures.

Although Xiaomi was already manufacturing phones at this point, they were only available in the company’s native market. It allowed Xiaomi to assess interest in its software interface outside of China, and the brand quickly built up a respectable userbase, clearing the way for the company’s entry into the Indian market, where it launched its first phone — the Mi 3 — in 2014 and has been there ever since.

Over the course of seven years, MIUI has seen several transformations. MIUI 6 offered a redesigned user interface with vibrant colors as well as improvements to notification handling. MIUI 7 included improved customizability and a more streamlined user interface, as well as a data-saving mode that worked throughout the entire system. Dual Apps, a video editor for the gallery, a redesigned notification pane, and spam call prevention were all included with the release of MIUI 8.

The notification pane has been further enhanced with MIUI 9, which also includes new editing capabilities in the Gallery to remove background objects, as well as many under-the-hood improvements, and the release of Mi Video. There were a few new features launched with MIUI 10 that are still available today, including rounded icons for the quick settings tiles and a brightness slider, a vertical recents menu with a card-based UI, and a picture-in-picture mode. System-wide dark mode, AOD, a sleeker look with contemporary icons, and additional battery-saving options were all added with MIUI 11’s release.

Because of the large amount of features that had been added over the years, the interface had become bloated by the time MIUI 10 was released. Due to the fact that Xiaomi has a restriction on hardware margins — which is why its phones are so inexpensive — the company has turned to advertisements within MIUI and pre-installed applications as a means of increasing revenues from its phones, which has made MIUI 10 a frustrating experience overall. As with MIUI 10, the Redmi Note 8 Pro in particular had more bloatware than any other phone I’d seen to date, and the continuous advertisements prompted a backlash from consumers in India and other Asian regions, where Xiaomi had implemented an ad-based strategy for MIUI 11.

Xiaomi attempted to make apologies last year with the release of MIUI 12. With a sleeker design that places an emphasis on privacy and security, an app drawer for the first time, Google’s recommended navigation gestures, a neater Settings page, floating windows, and exciting new animations across the UI, it was a significant upgrade for Xiaomi. But, perhaps most importantly, there was considerably less bloatware installed out of the box, and Xiaomi eliminated advertisements from the user interface.

 

Because of the improvements made to MIUI 12, the Mi 11 was the first Xiaomi phone I’d used in three years where the software wasn’t a negative factor. This is also true for the Redmi Note 10 series, which is aimed at budget-conscious consumers, as well as the Redmi series’ entry-level smartphones. It is because to community feedback that Xiaomi was able to develop MIUI. While the brand does not interact and connect with its consumers as frequently as in the past, it has succeeded in this particular case.

It is a continuation of MIUI 12; it does not include any new user-facing features, with Xiaomi instead concentrating on improving the user interface. Though it may not be the most exciting MIUI update in history, it does include one feature that I have been waiting for for quite some time: the ability to remove system apps. Aside from the seven “core” apps that Xiaomi claims are essential, you have the option to remove any and all applications in MIUI 12.5.

That’s a major issue for Xiaomi, because the Chinese maker has typically relied on software-based services to generate money in addition to hardware sales as a revenue generator. You can, however, disable Mi Music and Mi Video in MIUI 12.5 and remove nearly every Xiaomi service, including Notes, the weather forecasting app, the Scanner and Compass, the Screen Recorder, and others. Because of this, you can install MIUI on your device with no bloatware at all, and I hope that other manufacturers, particularly Samsung, will follow in Xiaomi’s footsteps.

MIUI 12.5 also features under-the-hood improvements that make using the interface a more pleasurable experience in general. When running on devices with 120Hz screens, it is designed to consume less memory and resources, and it feels significantly more responsive overall. However, the most significant improvement is that Xiaomi has addressed a large number of issues that had been present in MIUI. For the past six years, every Xiaomi phone I’ve had has had a frustrating memory management issue that prevented me from receiving push alerts from my mail client unless I enabled autostart in the mail client settings. Because I didn’t have to do that with MIUI 12.5, and I didn’t see any problems with push notifications for Newton Mail, Slack, or any other service I use on a regular basis.

I often use Xiaomi phones for many months every year, and other than some brief testing periods with different phones in recent months, the Mi 11 Ultra has been my go-to phone for the greater part of the last four months. Xiaomi had 150 million global users for MIUI 7 when it launched in 2015, but by the time MIUI 12 was released last year, the figure had risen to 400 million users worldwide.

The MIUI interface was obviously designed with Chinese consumers in mind for the most of its existence, but Xiaomi has made strides in recent years to make it more appealing to people around the world. MIUI 12.5 just serves to strengthen that impression, and with Android 12 on the horizon, I’m looking forward to seeing where Xiaomi takes MIUI in the future.

 

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