Xiaomi MIUI 9 launch is almost here: here's what's coming

News of Lenovo giving up on its own "Pure Vibe" skin in favor of a stock Android experience is being hailed as a victory for pure Android experiences. While that may be true, it is just one of almost a dozen OEM-customized experiences available. One of them, Xiaomi's MIUI, has just gotten its sweet version 9 late last month and will be rolling out to the Xiaomi Mi 6 and Redmi Note 4X this week. If you own one of these phones or are generally curious what it has to offer, read on for a brief survey of the MIUI 9 land.Smart Optimization

Xiaomi's keynote when it announced MIUI 9 and the Mi 5X focused a lot on machine learning features. Unsurprising given the global trend, even in smartphones. While Xiaomi did introduced its own smart assistant, one of the more subtler ways it injected machine learning into MIUI 9 is through system resource optimization. Rather than distributed resources equally among running processes and apps, MIUI 9 will give a larger allocation to apps and processes that, based on user behavior, it deems to be more important. This gives the impression that the phone is snappier and faster, simply because it smartly predicts what's important to the user.

Smart Assistant

Also unsurprising, Xiaomi revealed its own Smart Assistant, its answer to Google Assistant, at least in the Chinese market. For now, however, it seems that Xiaomi's assistant is more like Google Now than Google Assistant.

Smart App Launcher

The last bit of smartness comes in the form of a Smart App Launcher, which is a bit of a misnomer. It's not your traditional app launcher. Instead, it's more like the Smart Text Selection that Google is introducing in Android O, where a user can select text in, say, a message in a chat app and the system will suggest an app to open it with. Definitely easier than doing a copy-pasta dance.

Live Icons

Another misnamed feature, it's more like animated icons than anything. It honestly doesn't add any concrete functionality and only changes the icon's appearance in the moments before an app's window opens and after it closes. It's more aesthetic in purpose but Xiaomi insists it makes the phone feel more alive.

Lock Screen Shortcuts

Google has long banished widgets from Android lock screens, but that doesn't mean they weren't useful. Fortunately for Xiaomi fans, the company is bringing some of those back. Well, the usefulness, not the widgets. The lock screen will have a special page just for access to some Xiaomi-specific services. Sadly, that seems to be all that's there.

Key and Gesture Shortcuts

MIUI 9 does make up for it by allowing for a large number of shortcuts triggered by buttons and gestures to activate this or that functionality. And, no, you don't even need a dedicated button for that or to squeeze your phone.

Silent/DND Quick Access

Believe it or now, volume controls have been, and still is, one of the most hotly debated user interfaces on Android. How should users silence their phones quickly? How should Do Not Disturb (DND) be triggered? That part of Android's UI has changed almost every release. In MIUI 9, Xiaomi is giving users more direct control over those settings without having to dive into the settings app. They can easily set DND mode and for how long, just by swiping down.

Android 7.0 Nougat features

MIUI 9 is not just a significant change because of those features. It's also a huge one because, at long last, Xiaomi owners will be able to enjoy the benefits of Android 7.0 Nougat. One of the biggest changes is the addition of split screen, which works even on smartphones.

When and Where It's Coming

In addition to being a long time coming, Xiaomi fans are excited for MIUI 9 because of the wide range of smartphones that will be supported with it. The Xiaomi Mi 5X, Mi 6, and Redmi Note 4X will be getting the update on Friday, August 11. On August 25, Chinese models of the Mi MIX, Mi Note 2, Mi 5, Mi 5s, Mi 5s Plus, Mi 5c, Mi Max 2, Mi Max 32G, Mi Max 64G/128G, Mi 4S, Mi 4c, Mi Note Pro, and Redmi 4X. Then all other Xiaomi and Redmi phones, except for the Mi 1, Mi 1S, and Mi 2A will follow.

The one caveat with this roll out is that these mostly covers the Developer ROMs. But more importantly, Xiaomi warns that there will be some features in the Chinese MIUI 9 version that won't be present in the Global ROM. This will most likely be features that tie in directly to Xiaomi-exclusive services which, fortunately or unfortunately, probably includes the Smart Assistant and Smart App Launcher.