Xiaomi officially announced the global version of its custom Android interface, MIUI 12. The announcement comes almost after a month it was announced for its hometown China. The new interface comes with the same features that we saw during the Chinese announcement including updated visuals, improved dark mode, better privacy controls as well as those amazing Super Wallpapers.
The new MIUI 12 ROM is based on Android 10 and primarily focuses on visual changes. It is flatter and more minimalistic, with new and slicker animations all around. There’s a new Dark Mode 2.0 with wallpaper dimming along with new navigation gestures that now match with Android 10. The Settings section has also seen some changes, especially the Storage and My Device sections.
Other features include improvements in privacy controls, where the OS will now notify the users everytime an app is accessing a sensitive feature like your location, cameras, microphone, and so on. There is also a new Ultra Battery Saver mode that activates a new homescreen with only a few essential apps. This mode can turn on automatically when the battery drops below five percent. The updated dark mode has the ability to expand the black theme to third-party apps.
The update also brings Super live wallpaper as well as Always-on Display screens which are inspired by the Earth, Moon, and Mars. The best feature is when you unlock the phone wherein the live wallpaper zooms in from space right to the surface level, depending on which celestial body you’ve chosen.
As for the rollout, Xiaomi has announced that the new MIUI 12 update will be coming first to the Mi 9, the Redmi K20, and Redmi K20 Pro (also known as the Mi 9T and the Mi 9T Pro globally) in June. This includes Redmi K20 series users in India.
The update is also expected to launch on the Redmi Note 5, Redmi Note 6 Pro, Redmi Note 7, Redmi Note 8, Redmi Note 9 Pro, and Mi 10 series. Other phones include the Mi Note 10, Mi 8, Mi 8 Pro, Mi Mix 3, Mi Mix 2S, Mi 9 SE, Mi 9 Lite, Mi Note 3, Mi Mix 2, Mi Max 3, Mi 8 Lite, Redmi Y2, Redmi S2, Redmi Y3, Redmi 8A, and Redmi 8A Dual. The company sub-brand (now a separate entity) Poco will also be rolling out the update to the Poco F1, Poco F2 Pro, and Poco X2. The company however, hasn’t confirmed the exact rollout date for these devices.
Xiaomi has already tested MIUI 12 among testers in India, and it remains to be seen if the custom Android interface features any India specific touches.
Last Updated: May 19, 2020, 10:55 AM IST
Xiaomi MIUI 12 is set to be launched officially today, after making its first official appearance last month. Having been under pilot testing for some time, MIUI 12 is now ready for prime time action among the legions of Xiaomi users in India. The latest version of Xiaomi’s custom Android interface comes with a number of improvements, as well as new features to aid difficulties in usage. The live action from Xiaomi’s official unveiling of the global MIUI 12 ROM can be caught online later today, and here’s everything you need to know about it.
The Xiaomi MIUI 12 global ROM launch will be held via an online live stream later today, at 8PM Beijing Time. Indian users can catch the launch live by accessing the YouTube live stream on Xiaomi’s official channel. In India, the live stream will begin at 5:30PM IST. The live stream of the MIUI 12 unveil will also take place on Xiaomi’s official social media handles, and interested parties can catch it live on the company’s Facebook and Twitter accounts as well.
Expected new features
Among the highlights of MIUI 12 are three main features — Dark Mode 2.0, AI calling and live transcript, and a security feature called ‘barbed wire’. With Dark Mode 2.0, Xiaomi is introducing an always-on display for its phones for possibly the first time, bringing it up to speed with various implementations of always-on displays by the likes of OnePlus, Samsung and others. It will be interesting to see how Xiaomi’s take on the always-on display differs from its competitors.
The second major new feature are enhanced privacy features, where reports suggest that Xiaomi is taking a randomised virtual ID approach towards installed apps. This will seemingly protect users from directly sharing their email addresses. Simultaneously, MIUI 12 will reportedly maintain logs of app data requests and data accesses on phones, in a bid to reinstate user faith in the company’s data privacy practices. This will be particularly important to observe, since Xiaomi has recently faced considerable backlash over roguish data collection practices through its browser apps.
The other security feature is called ‘barbed wire’, and is Xiaomi’s implementation of the limited app permission access feature on Android. This will allow users to let an app access a particular permission for only a limited period of time, therefore limiting which app can misuse user data.
Other features aboard MIUI 12 will include a new AI calling feature, which will live transcribe incoming calls and offer preset responses as answers. The feature may prove to be particularly important for users with hearing disabilities. The full list of features, including any India-specific new features (if any), will be revealed in a few hours. To view it live, tune in to the live stream above.
The Poco brand has taken some wild decisions in the recent past like ‘parting ways’ with parent brand Xiaomi and launching a mid-range smartphone which was essentially a Redmi device. The company originally started off well with its first handset, the Poco F1, about 2 years ago. But it seems that it is now just going to re-purpose handsets made by Xiaomi.
The new Poco F2 Pro is finally here, and as rumours and speculations said, it is the same device as the Redmi K30 Pro. While that might disappoint some fans, it is definitely a big upgrade over the Poco F1. Let’s just hope the company lets you load third-party Android ROMs.
POCO F2 PRO SPECIFICATIONS
Getting to the specifications then, there is a 6.67-inch Full-HD (2400×1080) AMOLED display with a claimed peak brightness of 1,200 nits and support for HDR10. Powering the phone is the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 SoC, and the company is offering it with either 6GB of LPDDR4X RAM or 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM. Storage goes up to 256GB (UFS 3.1) but there is no support for further storage expansion via microSD card.
At the back, there is a quad rear camera setup featuring a 64-megapixel Sony IMX686 primary sensor, a 5-megapixel telephoto camera, a 13-megapixel wide-angle camera, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. For selfies, there is a 20-megapixel pop-up camera. The handset comes with a 4,700mAh battery with support for 33W fast charging.
Rest of the features include dual-SIM card slots, dual-mode 5G (NSA SA), 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth v5.1, GPS/ A-GPS, NFC, USB Type-C, IR blaster port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The handset runs on MIUI for Poco based on Android 10 and comes pre-loaded with the Poco launcher. The handset comes in four colour options – Cyber Grey, Electric Purple, Neon Blue, Phantom White.
The handset was announced for the European market yesterday with pricing starting at EUR 499 (Rs 41,500 approx) for the 6GB + 128GB variant, and EUR 599 (Rs 50,000 approx) for the 8GB + 256GB variant. While there is no confirmation for the Indian market, we are expecting the launch to happen soon with prices being comparatively lower.
Xiaomi is in the line of fire. A recent report pointed out a major security flaw where the company’s phones send a large amount of user data to remote servers outsourced by certain Chinese partners. The report said that data collected through preinstalled apps on Xiaomi’s MIUI interface include browsing history, accessed services, app usage behaviour as well as music listening preferences.
Xiaomi India did respond to the allegations in an official statement, saying that the claims are “incorrect and not true.” While the long statement might be enough to reassure consumers’ faith in the brand, the information given out by independent cybersecurity researcher Gabi Cirlig cannot be ignored. Considering I have reviewed a few Xiaomi smartphones in the past, there are certain things that do give the undeniable feeling that the company’s MIUI interface is flawed. And it is a consistent experience which makes me say that. I am absolutely not alleging that Xiaomi is saving user data to some remote servers, but there are certain things that make it pretty evident that some data is being collected. Even if it isn’t, doesn’t help with the privacy sentiment which consumers are now becoming more aware of. Also, there is a lot of clutter and preloaded stuff on the custom Android ROM that is a bit of a nuisance.
Xiaomi Users, Beware: Your Data is Being Read by Chinese Servers
I did a quick experiment by resetting a Redmi Note 9 Pro and going through the setup procedure in detail. Things look pretty much in order, the phone asks me to sign into my Google account and the regular set of permissions. Things start to get interesting once I get a prompt to log into my Xiaomi account. There is an Additional Settings page asking you to enable certain services. These include Location as well as prompts for User Experience Programme, sending diagnostic data automatically, personalized ads and Glance for Mi.
While the first one is straightforward, the user experience and diagnostic data is essential information sent to Xiaomi so they can analyze it and improve on bugs and issues in future updates. Now, this is something that a lot of manufacturers do and it doesn’t seem suspicious to a large extent.
Lastly, there is the Glance for Mi which is an information tab sitting on the left-most home screen of the phone. This gathers information to offer personalized content including app shortcuts, news, sports updates, calendar events, as well as suggestions to download apps.
In my opinion, you should switch off the personalized ads toggle during the setup, especially if you don’t want to be spammed with annoying notifications and pop-ups. If you plan to use the Glance with Mi feature, then keep the toggle on, else switch it off as well. As for the company accessing your data for User Experience and diagnostic data shouldn’t be an issue, but if you are privy of your data, you can turn them off and they shouldn’t affect the functioning of the device.
Xiaomi India Says it is Not Collecting Any More of Your Data Than What You Allowed
The issues don’t stop here. The phone setup then asks whether you want to download additional apps, specifically from Xiaomi’s own app store. This is a problem in itself as a bunch of recommended apps having a size of over 1GB are pre-selected. I highly recommend to deselect all of them or skip this step altogether to avoid your device to load up unnecessary apps. Through this, Xiaomi is technically force-feeding its own app store called ‘GetApps’ to customers. Xiaomi has confirmed that the app store has security certification based on tests carried out by Avast, Tencent, and Kingsoft. Having said that, Xiaomi’s app store still has certain apps that run in the background, display full-screen ads, and even monitor screen unlocking functionality. On top of that, unless you revoke notification access, the app store also throws random suggestions of apps for you to download. It is best to completely block all notification access form the GetApps store.
Despite skipping the optional installation of apps, you will notice that some apps are already installed on the phone. In my case apps like Facebook, Amazon India, Helo, Zili, Opera Browser, and so on. Thankfully you have the option of completely removing these apps.
As for the pre-installed Xiaomi apps, which cannot be completely removed from the device, are yet again a nuisance. Apps like Mi Music and even the Clock app seek permission and ask you to agree to certain privacy policies. Unless you agree to them, you cannot use the app. The Music app, just like the GetApps store, will generate many notifications, hence revoking all notification access is advised.
Last but not the least, the default Xiaomi browser app. I suggest you completely disable this app. Long press on the app icon, and revoke all permissions, notification access, clear data, and uninstall updates. Not only does this browser send you unnecessary notifications, but it also potentially sends user data to Chinese servers, even in Incognito Mode.
In case you own a Xiaomi smartphone, especially any of the Redmi or, a Poco device that runs on the company’s MIUI interface, chances are that you will face a similar experience. It is best to remove or disable the apps that you are less likely to use. Additionally, make sure that you disable notification access from all such apps. There shouldn’t be any issues with the company’s A-series phones as well as the Redmi Go, as they come with stock Android, although the ‘Mint Browser’ is a Xiaomi product.