Many of us in the west have never seen the Android-based MIUI mobile device interface that Xiaomi began developing back in 2010. Xiaomi devices have been kept out of the U.S. market by the tight control that carriers like AT&T and Verizon exert.
But that might not be the case forever.
The company gave a feature update on the MIUI interface today at a press event in San Francisco.
Xiaomi global VP of operations Hugo Barra (ex-Googler) described a number of small and large innovations in both the features and functionality of the firmware, and in the aesthetics of the interface.
In the photographs app, for example, MIUI makes sure all the people in a shot are looking at the camera before the shutter clicks. Then it applies a “face beautification” process to the image to make the people in the photo look better (this feature is turned on by default — Xiaomi wants you to be beautiful).
MIUI now features a new guest mode, a browser “night mode” that’s easier on the eyes in the dark, an app-blocking mode for when guests are using the device, a home screen with an easy way to put a single icon on multiple screens, and various new 3D animations.
The firmware offers a cool IVR feature that shows you a full menu of products when you call a retailer. For example, Barra showed a screen populated with McDonald’s menu items when the McDonald’s phone number was called.
There’s a feature called Cleaner that knows what every file on your phone is for, and can delete the ones that aren’t needed to free up memory.
Xiaomi operates a MIUI app store in China, which offers things like games and animated home screen images.
Many of the upgrades Barra discussed were about design. For instance, in the weather app the animation shows rain falling straight down in the background. When the phone is turned to the side, the image shifts so that the rain continues to fall straight down toward the earth in real life.
Barra was once the head of the Android platform at Google, but left to join Xiaomi in 2013.