Xiaomi MIUI 12 (Android 11) hands-on: Not ready for prime-time just yet

Xiaomi Mi 10 vs. Mi 10 Pro
Xiaomi Mi 10 vs. Mi 10 Pro (Image credit: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

Xiaomi is doing things differently in 2020. The Chinese manufacturer switched focus from the value flagship segment to the high-end category, with the Mi 10 series going up against the best Android phones. The move is working out pretty well for the brand; the Mi 10 Pro in particular is one of the best phones you can buy now.

Xiaomi is also paying more attention to software updates. MIUI 12 was introduced a few months ago with exciting new features across the board, and it is now making its way to millions of Xiaomi phones. The MIUI 12 update is based on Android 10, but Xiaomi is offering a build based on Android 11 for the Mi 10 and Mi 10 Pro, serving up a first look at how the latest features in Android 11 have been integrated into MIUI. So let's take a look at what's new with MIUI 12 based on Android 11, and when the update will be available on your Xiaomi phone.

Conversations view is here in MIUI 12

Conversations view is a marquee addition in Android 11 that puts all one-on-one and group conversations at the top of your notifications, and MIUI 12 picks up the feature. Xiaomi hasn't made any changes to Google's implementation, with the Conversations view showing up at the top of the notifications list. Like the Pixels, you get the ability to set priority for incoming messages, or deselect an app itself from showing up in the window.

Chat bubbles are also included in MIUI 12 — but with a caveat

Chat bubbles are also baked into MIUI 12, but I wasn't able to test out the feature because there aren't many services that use the feature yet. That's set to change in the coming weeks as the likes of WhatsApp and Telegram integrate the Bubbles API that's needed for chat bubbles to work in Android 11.

Control Center in MIUI 12 gets the smart home dashboard

Xiaomi is adding smart home controls into Control Center — the new dashboard that houses controls for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, brightness, and settings tiles. I haven't been able to take a look at how the feature integrates into Control Center as the current build is buggy, but I'll update this post once I switch to a more stable build.

MIUI 12 gets all the new privacy features in Android 11

Xiaomi overhauled privacy settings in MIUI 12, giving you an easy overview of all the permissions in use by apps and easy ways to manage that access. It is a much-needed change and is one of the biggest additions in MIUI 12, and with the Android 11 build, Xiaomi is integrating all the new features Google introduced.

That includes one-time permissions for things like camera and microphone access, mandatory Scoped Storage that ensures apps don't get full access to the file system, and auto-reset permissions for apps you don't use often. The Android 11 features combined with the privacy dashboard in MIUI 12 make for an incredibly powerful combination, and gives Xiaomi an edge in this area.

Should you install MIUI 12 based on Android 11?

Right now, the MIUI 12 build based on Android 11 is limited to the Mi 10 and Mi 10 Pro, and it is a closed beta. There's good reason for that, because the build itself is very buggy and not ready for consumer use just yet. I've had to use the legacy navigation buttons instead of gestures; that's because I wasn't able to get gestures working reliably on the build on my Mi 10 Pro.

The interface isn't optimized for the 90Hz panel, making animations janky, and there are constant app and system crashes. Then there's a particularly bothersome lock screen issue where the in-screen fingerprint sensor fails and the prompt to key in the PIN doesn't always show up, preventing you from logging in to the phone.

And when I tried to enable the Control Center to try out the new smart home dashboard, the UI crashed. I wasn't able to log back in, so I had to downgrade to the stable MIUI 12 build running Android 10. I'll switch back to the Android 11 build once it gets a few stability fixes and update this post with screenshots, but for now, you'll have to wait just a little bit longer to try out Android 11 on your Xiaomi phone.

When it the Android 11-based MIUI 12 update coming to my phone?

Xiaomi hasn't committed to a timeline for its Android 11-based MIUI 12 update, but it should make its way to the Mi 10 series before the end of the year. Xiaomi will deliver the Android 11 update to over 30 phones in its portfolio, so if you're using a Xiaomi, Redmi, or POCO device launched in the last 18 months, you should get the update.

Xiaomi dominates the best cheap Android phones segment in countries like India, and with the manufacturer doing a better job rolling out new software builds, we should see the Android 11-based MIUI 12 build become available in the coming weeks. I'll have more to share on this front once Xiaomi shares a timeline for Android 11 rollout.

Harish Jonnalagadda
Senior Editor - Asia

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.