A couple of weeks ago, my mother wanted to buy a new phone under Rs 30,000 and after she took my suggestions, she went for the Redmi K20 Pro. Yes, the same K20 Pro that was deemed overpriced back in 2020 but won hearts later with its robust performance and a design that still stands out. Along with the great hardware, it is MIUI interface that makes this phone feel special. However, once my mother started setting it up, she started struggling soon with the interface. Also Read - Xiaomi Mi 11, Mi 11 Lite launching in India but no date confirmed yet
Coming from the stock Android interface of the Mi A1, my mother, who is more invested in phones herself than I ever will be, often came up with the phrase, “why is it unnecessarily complex?” After trying to explain to her via video calls how to get stuff done, I did realize she was right. As beautiful and flairy the new MIUI 12 system is, it is surely complicated. For tech-savvy people ready to explore, it is nirvana but for the majority of “normal” people, MIUI comes across as overdone. Also Read - Redmi Note 10 series India launch plans for February 2021 leaked
And when I say a majority of people, I mean hundreds of people who use these products on a daily basis. The group includes youngsters, middle-aged, and the elderly (count my grandma too). Also Read - Redmi gaming smartphone expected to launch this year
MIUI is trying too hard to be iOS now than ever
The last Xiaomi phone I used was the Mi 10T Pro flagship, which was highly impressive as a package. I loved the MIUI interface as well, despite some of the undesired pre-loaded apps (both first and third-party). However, coming from the OnePlus 8T, the software felt kind of forced for some of the simplest stuff. Let me give an example.
Let’s try changing a wallpaper on a current Xiaomi smartphone running MIUI 12. You long-tap on the homescreen and an option to change Wallpaper pops-up. Instead of showing the options to choose the wallpaper, it now opens up the Themes app, which itself is a mess at best. You now need to find the tab that suggests “Your Profile” and then choose the Wallpaper option from there. Once you are in, you now have options to choose from static, video and Super Live Wallpapers. That’s a lot of clicks for just changing the wallpaper.
In comparison, you do the same on a Realme or OnePlus smartphones, and at most, you are in for a 3-step process. Why does Xiaomi need to open the Themes app for just changing the wallpaper? I feel the process is unnecessarily complicated. Also, try to set a custom wallpaper for the lockscreen and I bet you will head over to Google, searching for some video guide to do so. I still do it everytime I review a Xiaomi device.
This is just one instance of the point I am trying to make. Similarly, dealing with notifications isn’t as easy as you would find on a stock Android interface. Swiping down on a notification still requires utmost precision and you have to swipe right only in order to dismiss one. Swiping left from the homescreen opens up a Google Discover-Feed-esque page that does everything apart from any actual help. There are certain shortcuts to system functions and the entire layout is messy and doesn’t quite match with the rest of MIUI 12’s design flair.
Moreover, I still find the concept of two app stores preloaded on a phone weird. After all, if I have Google Play, why do I need GetApps that forces me to download the same stuff from it while setting up a new phone? Xiaomi will argue that you can always skip it but it shouldn’t be there in the first place. Let me choose whether I want another app store for my apps over Google Play.
There’s a lot more of those niggles that us reviewers skip while reviewing a Xiaomi devices, given that we look at the big picture. That said, once you live long enough with them, you do wish for a simpler and easy way to do things. MIUI is trying harder than ever to ape Apple’s iOS and as a result, it is complicating things further than simplifying. All that flair and design of the interface is fancy for sure but it becomes annoying if you have to Google Search a simple task that should ideally be at arm’s length. Moreover, this is an issue that cannot be solved by installing a third-party launcher.
Android itself is a nicely designed operating system in its stock form and despite using an iPhone as my own phone, I still love the simplicity Android offers. iOS itself is still complicated and when an Android phone tries to ape it, the result is mostly a “khichdi” that is often less desirable. I do credit Xiaomi’s designers for the efforts they put in MIUI but there’s simply too much going on to absorb.
Simplify MIUI, Xiaomi
The next release of MIUI, dubbed MIUI 13 is months away and as of now, there’s no clue as to what could we expect from this newer version. Given that Xiaomi’s designers love taking inspiration from iOS, I won’t be surprised to see iOS-style first-party widgets and a revamped App Drawer coming in the next release. While I welcome such cheeky design changes, it wouldn’t hurt Xiaomi to make the MIUI interface easy.
It couldn’t be a bad idea to have a simpler homescreen setup with easy access to basic settings while the all customization stuff is buried a layer underneath. Basic things like dealing with notifications, changing wallpapers, and others. Given the efforts and resources Xiaomi puts into software development, some simplification is surely not too much to ask, right?