MIUI 8 is the largest update to Xiaomi's operating system in several years, introducing much-needed visual flair in the form of a bold color palette and a host of new features. The operating system has over 200 million users globally, and with Xiaomi soliciting feedback from its community for new features, it is a continually evolving platform.
This update rolled out earlier this year for several devices, including the Mi 5, Redmi Note 3, Mi Max, and others, and with most Xiaomi phones now making their way to Marshmallow, it's time to take a look at some of the new features on offer.
- Dual Apps
- Second Space
- New gallery features
- Caller ID and messaging
- Scrolling screenshot
- Quick Ball
- Updated notification panel
Dual Apps lets you run two separate instances of the same app. Both versions are independent of one another, and as such you'll be able to use two WhatsApp accounts on the same phone. There are apps available in the Play Store that offer the same functionality, but in MIUI 8 the feature is built into the OS.
Second Space lets you easily create a secondary profile on your device. If you're using a single phone for both work and personal use — as is becoming more and more common — you'll be able to create two separate profiles with Second Space.
The feature lets you set up a password when creating the secondary profile, and once done you can easily switch profiles from the toggle on the notification panel. The phone's settings are shared between profiles, but you'll see a distinct home screen layout in each mode. You'll also be able to transfer data between the two profiles with the built-in Move Data utility. To delete a profile, you'll need to enter your Mi account credentials.
New gallery features
MIUI 8 brings a slew of new features to the gallery. There's a new video editor that lets you trim videos, add filters, text, and background music. The gallery also has quick sharing options through which you can share your images on social media platforms with a swipe up gesture.
Xiaomi has been offering a cloud sync option for some time now, but MIUI 8 now gives you the ability to free up storage by deleting photos that have already been backed up. You'll be able to see thumbnails of the images stored in the cloud. Finally, all panoramas taken on the phone are displayed in their native format horizontally across the screen.
Caller ID and messaging
Spam calling is a major nuisance in emerging markets, and Xiaomi is tackling it by crowd-sourcing caller information. If enough users blacklist a particular number, it will show up as a spam call. Xiaomi has partnered with the likes of Amazon and Domino's to feed numbers of their delivery fleets into the caller ID service. You can take notes when in the middle of a call, or start recording a call from the options listed in the dialer. As is the case with MIUI in general, there are plenty of ways to customize incoming call settings, including flashing the notification light whenever you receive a call.
There's also an automatic call record feature that can be enabled from the settings. Doing so records all outgoing and incoming calls, and there's the option to filter with contact numbers or create lists. For instance, you can just enable automatic call recording for all unknown numbers.
Similarly, the default messaging app has third-party integration that provides additional functionality. For texts that include details about movie tickets or events, you'll be prompted to add a reminder to your calendar. Furthermore, texts from popular businesses will include their logos.
With scrolling screenshot, you'll be able to take an extended screenshot of a page. You won't be able to use the feature in Chrome, but if you're using the default browser on MIUI 8 or if you're interested in taking a screenshot of the settings, the feature comes in handy.
Quick Ball has similar functionality to iOS' Assistive Touch. You'll get an overlay with five shortcuts for home, back, recents, lock, and screenshot. You can position the Quick Ball anywhere on the screen, hide it altogether in certain apps, set your preferred gesture to launch it, and customize its shortcuts. You can also enable Quick Ball to show up on the lock screen.
Updated notification panel
The notification panel on MIUI 8 has been overhauled. For one thing, notifications and quick settings are now bundled in the same pane, and you also get a weather widget. The update makes working with notifications significantly easier, and access to shortcuts is a welcome addition.
You can customize the toggles based on your preferences, and there's a brightness slider that lets you manually tweak the overall brightness. Push notifications have been a major issue on earlier versions of MIUI, but with MIUI 8, that has largely been rectified. If you're still facing issues, there's an easy fix.
The calculator in MIUI 8 has picked up several new tricks. It now has the ability to convert currencies on the fly, with the service relying on an external provider (Hexun) for real-time exchange rates. There's also temperature and unit conversion, as well as a mortgage calculator.
You tell us
That's just a quick look at what's possible on MIUI 8. You also get a built-in QR code reader, a great theming engine, and with most Xiaomi phones offering an IR blaster, the Mi Remote utility comes in handy for controlling your TV, set-top box, air conditioner, and more. Then there's the default note-taking client, which can now be password-protected.
What is your favorite feature in MIUI 8?
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Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.