Jelly Bean MIUI for the Samsung Galaxy Nexus – Review

We saw the xiaomi MI-2 announcement the other day and one thing that stood out apart from the spec was the fact it would come with a Jelly Bean version of the popular MIUI ROM. My first thought was “I wonder when I can flash that on my Galaxy Nexus?” Well on Friday my question was answered.

Lucky owners of the Samsung Nexus S, Samsung Galaxy Nexus or the Google Nexus 7 can download and flash these new ROMs. I have a Galaxy Nexus and a Nexus 7 and I really couldn’t decide which to go with. My Galaxy Nexus is already rooted so I went with that.

I set about downloading the ROM from the MiuiAndroid site who take the ROM and translate it into English. Whilst that was downloading I ran every type of backup possible and booted into Clockworkmod Recovery. So that was that several minutes later I had a fancy new ROM and a few minutes later I had restored all of my apps. So what is like? Does one of the hugely popular alternative custom ROMs improve the Jelly Bean experience.

Quick answer – I don’t know.

So first of all what is MIUI? It is a custom ROM that is based on either Android 2.3, 4.0 or now 4.1. MIUI is famous for “featuring a rich user experience and user customizable themes”. They have tweaked a lot of the stock items from Android and improved them. Like the Dialler, Contacts, Messaging, Gallery, Music, Notifications and they also have added some apps of their own. MIUI for some reason has become one of those Marmite things. I.e. Loved or Hated, nothing in between, I used to love it as the themes made customising my phone so easy. Then along came Ice Cream Sandwich and some big 720p resolution devices, then MIUI kind of lost its way. I haven’t flashed a MIUI ROM in a while now. My Galaxy Nexus has been running the Jelly Bean factory image for a while now, this latest MIUI update got me wondering if I should go back to MIUI.

I am pleased to say that the problems I encountered with the ICS ROMs have all seem to have been fixed. Apps all display as they should, the lag seems to have disappeared and hooray themes work properly now as well (90% of the time). With the release of the Jelly Bean version of MIUI they have re-ignited the excitement I felt many months ago after flashing their ROMs.

Even simple things like having a much more intuitive dialler on the phone app or having an SMS popup over whatever your currently looking at just make the whole experience better. They have really bought a whole load of tweaks and amendments into their latest ROM.

It isn’t all good though. Some of the themes just do not work, I tried to get a dark theme for the messaging app, lots exist and they all sure look good. I just couldn’t get one to look right. I guess the theme manager doesn’t differentiate for screen resolutions.

One thing that always used to annoy me with MIUI is the icons. The stock Android icons are long gone, having been replaced with gorgeous new ones instead, really allowing you to create some great homescreens. Install a new app though and you sometimes are lucky and get a themed icon for it. More often than not though you end up with the orginal icon placed on top of background icon. I always end up with unpleasant non themed icons. So you end up with a device that looks like it has loaded two icon packs up and got confused somewhere along the line. Luckily I found the Vexillum Project icons which fixed a lot of my dodgy icons.

So the things that I do not like are simply cosmetic, nothing essential is broken. Just me being fussy. Oh no I forgot one last thing that I don’t like.

The Jelly Bean notifications are gone. The notifications are obviosuly still there, it’s just they aren’t as fancy as the stock Jelly Bean method, no expansion either. It isn’t a deal breaker really but a step back in my opinion. I guess they couldn’t quite combine their custom drop down power bar and notification thing with the nice new Jelly Bean one.

Over the weekend Google Now was added to the ROM which I have yet to flash. This will no doubt make the experience on the Nexus 7 a lot better.

So here are some screenshots showing the different elements.

Overall it is a great ROM offering me something drastically different to other Jelly Bean ROM’s. I haven’t found anything drastically wrong so far, apart from the Google Now problem. Battery life hasn’t noticeabley been any different to the stock ROM which is always good. I think I will be staying on this for a few weeks and waiting to see if the next update fixes my few niggles.

All that remains is to try this on my Nexus 7. As the Nexus 7 works like a big phone anyway it should be good, maybe that will be next weekends challenge.

So if you want to try this yourself then head over to the MIUIAndroid site and download the ROM for your device. If you don’t have a rooted phone, you don’t know about recovery, you never backup you phone and you still want to try this, then JUST DON’T it will end in tears.