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alternative rom androidThere are two types of Android users. Those who use their devices as their providers meant them to, and those who see their devices as flexible hardware platforms to be customized with abandon. I count myself among the latter group, and I constantly install new ROMs on my Galaxy S2 phone. A few weeks ago I decided to try out MIUI,  a free, alternative ROM, and so far I have been blown away by how slick and beautiful it is.

In this post I will take you through some of its features and give you an overall tour, so you can decide for yourself if you want to try it out. I will not be explaining how to install MIUI, because the official site contains complete guides tailored by phone.

Default Launcher

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MIUI’s default launcher looks very much like an iPhone home screen. This is one thing I don’t like about MIUI, but it is the first thing you will see, and some people do like that. Specifically, there is no app drawer, but just an endless parade of more and more screens containing all of your applications. When it comes to my phone, it looks like this:

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And there’s another page of home screens after this one. If you like this style, great. If you don’t, you will be happy to hear that MIUI lets you use any launcher you want to use. I am addicted to Go Launcher 5 Gorgeous Go Launcher EX Themes To Make Your Droid Sexier Than Ever [Android 2.0+] 5 Gorgeous Go Launcher EX Themes To Make Your Droid Sexier Than Ever [Android 2.0+] It can be said that the app launcher is the defining app for the Android user experience. If you’re stuck with a crappy launcher, you may feel the entire Android experience is lacking. Fortunately, there’s... Read More , so I kept using it after installing MIUI.

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The Settings Screen

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This is MIUI’s Settings screen. It is a completely different implementation of the stock Android options screen – not just a skin. You can access all of the settings you can normally access, but MIUI adds lots of extras. Note that the dialog is divided into three tabs, allowing you to change “personal” settings (look-and-feel, mainly), system settings, and application settings. We’ll take a quick look at each of these.

Note the “Toggle Settings” at the bottom of the Personalization list. This refers to MIUI’s notification bar, which looks like this:

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This slick interface lets you easily control many common settings from the comfort of your notification bar. This is somewhat similar to what you see on CyanogenMod, but Cyanogen usually places these toggles at the top of the notification bar and not on a separate tab. If you prefer that, you can always tell MIUI in the Settings dialog:

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And you can also choose what toggles would be shown on the toggle screen, and in what order:

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The Torch toggle activates the device’s flash LED, letting you use it as a flashlight. This is something you can do with Cyanogen too, but the point is that MIUI offers at least as many features as Cyanogen. And while we’re on the notification bar, here’s another slick feature:

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That little toggle at the top lets you instantly turn on USB Storage once you connect your phone to a computer. No need to go into a separate screen – just a single tap.

Okay, let’s move on to System Settings, and pick a random panel:

fff[17]

If an application hangs, you can kill it by long-pressing the Back button on your device. You can also wake the device by pressing one of the volume keys, if your phone’s case makes it hard to reach the power button.

The last thing I want to show you in the configuration interface is the Programs panel:

fff[19]

This clever panel emulates iOS’s central configuration interface. It is basically a list of shortcuts that lead you right into the Settings dialog of each application. Again, not one of my favorite things about MIUI (I like the way Android deals with settings natively), but certainly an interesting twist.

Themes

As you may have noticed, MIUI puts a lot of emphasis on visuals and look-and-feel. It has a powerful theme engine, and a theme “store” that looks like this:

fff[21]

Chinese is very much in evidence in the store, because MIUI is originally Chinese. The ROM is well localized, but when it comes to themes, you will see lots of Chinese. Let’s drill down into one of these themes:

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You can see exactly how each theme looks, with plenty of screenshots. You can tap a screenshot to see it full-screen and get a sense of what it would look like on your device. And if you’re curious to see exactly what a theme contains, scroll down to see:

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This theme skins the lock screen, status bar, wallpaper, notifications, and more. Not all themes are this comprehensive, but many are. Once you decide you want a theme, you can grab it with a simple tap of the Download button. This may take a few moments, because themes are often large (13.8MB, above) and the connection is very slow, at least based on my experience.

Once you grab a theme, applying it is very easy: Just tap the Apply button.

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The phone then dims out while the theme is applied:

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And here is my launcher, with the new theme (note the status bar – you can compare with the previous screenshots):

fff[31]

Lock Screens

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MIUI is renowned for its awesome-looking lock screens, and there are some truly eye-catching designs. Above is just one; here’s another one:

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Since the lock screens are integrated right into the ROM, they work much better than third-party apps I’ve tried before. You never get a second lock screen once you unlock your device, as sometimes happens with other apps.

MIUI lets you pick and choose theme components. You can take the lock screen from one theme, and the status bar from another theme:

fff[37]

See how I am using elements from three different themes, above? In short, if you like playing with your phone’s look-and-feel, MIUI is as good as it gets.

DND Mode

MIUI has a lot of other features, but I’d like to mention just one more: DND Mode.

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This built-in mode lets you filter calls and text messages according to a “black list” of known annoying callers, against a white list (approve only certain people to contact you), or easily block all unknown callers:

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Final Thoughts

I could go on, but I don’t want to belabor the point: MIUI rocks. If you’ve ever wished for a more customizable, slicker, sexier Android experience – you owe it to yourself to give MIUI a shot. And share your screenshots in the comments!

  1. Lee
    March 12, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    I have been
    using MIUI 2.3.7 for over 4 months and I am super happy with it! And this comes
    from a former iPhone user! :-)
    While playing with the settings I have somehow
    set the home screen to a different screen than I am used to (usually the middle/center
    one). On your launcher screens picture, your home page is the first one. Do you happen to know how to choose/set the screen and the location ( first, 3rd..) of the home page/screen? Tx!

    • Erez Zukerman
      March 13, 2012 at 8:57 am

       Hi Lee!

      First, I'm glad you like the ROM!

      Second, I must admit I don't know how to change that... When I used MIUI I quickly switched to Go Launcher, and now I am using Ice Cream Sandwich which isn't MIUI at all.

      I would suggest asking this question in MakeUseOf Answers -- perhaps one of our other community members could help!

  2. Appster Jb
    February 20, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Hey,

    I downloaded this app and couldn’t stop
    laughing….
    http://market.android.com/search?q=pname:com.topmarketapps.farter.newapps

    It clever way of tricking people-what do you
    think?hehehe
     

  3. Andrea Morgera
    January 30, 2012 at 8:59 am

    Installed MIUI 2.1.20 on Samsung Galaxy S on 2012.01.28.
    Very fashinating interface, more options than native Android 2.3.4 and expecially very fast. Not so bad on power consumption also. I think I'll take it definitively on my phone.

    • Erez Zukerman
      January 30, 2012 at 12:40 pm

      I'm glad you liked it, Andrea!

  4. Aibek
    January 12, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    cool app. great review!

    • Erez Zukerman
      January 30, 2012 at 12:40 pm

      Wow, thanks Aibek! :D

  5. Igue
    January 11, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    I bought MyTouch 4G phone with MIUI already installed and it kicks ass. My wife has the same stock and she wants mine so bad. MIUI rocks hard. Everything works perfect on my phone and its faster and easier to use. I love it!

  6. Juraj Belina
    January 11, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    Just a note that you can organize all your Apps in Folders....long press on Homescreen, drag&drop folder on it, rename and pull Apps inside.

    • Erez Zukerman
      January 11, 2012 at 12:55 pm

      Thanks Juraj!

  7. Replexx
    January 11, 2012 at 9:58 am

    run MIUI 2.3.7 on my old Motorola Droid (Milestone) and I live it

    battery livetime  got much much better used cyanogenMod bevore

  8. Chris B
    January 6, 2012 at 7:32 am

    Looks great and would love to give it a go. Just wonder though, and can't tell from your description or from MIUI site - what happens to all the apps already installed? Do they need to be reinstalled?

    • Erez Zukerman
      January 6, 2012 at 3:20 pm

      That's a very good question! YES -- it's a complete wipe of your device.

      Using Titanium Backup (reviewed here it took me just a few taps, and ten minutes later I had all my apps installed and configured just as they were before.

  9. Anonymous
    January 6, 2012 at 5:03 am

    I tried this ROM on my ATT Galaxy S2 but it still unstable my least favorite part was all the iOS elements. I really can't stand iOS.

    But all the menus and notification bar, etc look so much more beautiful than stock Android I'm gonna give it another go once it gets better.

    I'm currently using. Unnamed ROM 2.2.1.

    PS: it's almost impossible to comment on disqus using a mobile browser. Is anyone having problems?

    PS: It's almost

  10. Palmw51
    January 5, 2012 at 6:56 am

    Hello Sir Erez. I was wondering if this kind of ROM can be installed on a Samsung Galaxy Y(Young).

    • Erez Zukerman
      January 5, 2012 at 11:55 am

      Hi there! I'm not even sure what device that is, to be honest. :) You may want to try MakeUseOf Answers.

  11. Chase Michael Vandiver
    January 5, 2012 at 3:44 am

    I tried this a couple of weeks ago and I really liked it but I didn't like the calendar and that the email app didn't let you zoom in on emails so right now I'm running ICScrewD.

    • Erez Zukerman
      January 5, 2012 at 11:55 am

      Haha, that's a funny name for a ROM. :) What's your device?

  12. Hetal
    January 4, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Would be good if you could post a tutorial on how to install the ROM onto Galaxy S2

    • Erez Zukerman
      January 5, 2012 at 11:54 am

      I explained why I opted not to do this, and linked to MIUI's official tutorial in the original post. Good luck! :)

  13. Sharninder
    January 4, 2012 at 10:53 am

    I tried MIUI for a while and flashy as it looks I found it has a lot of loose ends still. Also the battery life compared to the CM build I was running earlier was pretty bad. 

  14. Anonymous
    January 3, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    I went from Redemption to Redemption rEVOlution then to Magnolia on my HTC DInc and then to MIUI. MIUI hands down is the fastest, most stable, and most customizable out of all 4 Ive played with.

  15. Joel Lee
    January 3, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    That looks awesome! I've never modded my Android before but MIUI looks so good that I'm going to give it a shot. Wish me luck (and hope that I don't brick my phone...)!

    • Erez Zukerman
      January 3, 2012 at 8:35 pm

      Haha! Good luck indeed. I'm sure it will go fine!

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