Xiaomi has just released a major overhaul of its custom ROM, MIUI version 6. Calling it "visually stunning, stunningly simple", the Chinese manufacturer has opted to drop the aging skeumorphic design of the past decade and embraced the more minimalistic and flatter look. Just in time to catch up with iOS' own transition to the new design language.
Those who criticize Samsung's TouchWiz for being bloated and heavily modified should probably try to take a peek at MIUI and see how TouchWiz might look a tad less insane compared to it. To be honest, it is almost difficult to identify MIUI as an Android skin. In fact, one could probably say it looks closer to iOS than Android, which might have been the goal, of course. Or to be exact, it looks closer to iOS 6 and earlier, back when Apple, during Jobs' tenure, aimed for a visual appearance that mimicked the physical objects they represented. But Apple has gone away from that aesthetic and now MIUI has too.
MIUI 6 now adopts the minimalistic and flat design that is becoming pervasive in both mobile and web skins. Gone are the 3D buttons and raised icons, replaced by a more toned-down design and, in some cases, just text that are almost unidentifiable as interactive buttons. MIUI still sticks to the predominantly orange color scheme though, which serves to distinguish it a bit from certain similar themes and designs. Of course, Apple doesn't have the monopoly of flat design and Android itself has progressively been adopting such a language, especially with the most recent Material Design. That said, MIUI 6 doesn't even come close to adopting those principles and it is clearly evident that they are going their own route, which may not be a bad thing as far as its fans are concerned.
The new version of the custom Android experience of course also brings some behavioral changes. The notification center, quick toggles, and search are now available from anywhere via gestures, even inside apps and the lockscreen. Power saving modes have been introduced, with options to schedule which modes are active at which times. The Mi Browser now syncs to the Mi Cloud so that you can seamlessly switch browsing between Xiaomi devices. The Phone app has also been given some teeth, allowing users to identify and block unwanted calls.
MIUI 6 is, of course, primarily available for Xiaomi's smartphones, particularly the Mi 3 and the newly announced Mi 4. The ports for supported devices haven't been updated yet and still remain at v5 and the MiHome Launcher has not yet been updated to this new visual style. It isn't known if or when these other download options will be available with MIUI 6.