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Xiaomi MI ONE with MIUI v4 ICS. The story so far…

March 18, 2012 10 comments

So I promised myself I would be good with this phone. If you’ve been following you will know that I got the MI ONE as a MIUI daily use phone (and because it is astonishingly cheap), and I would use my HTC HD2 with the more experimental ROMS. So that was the plan and I stuck with it for 3 months.  The MI ONE has been an astonishingly good daily use phone. Certainly better than the HTC HD2 if only for its battery life.

So while I was being good, I stuck with the stable stock MIUI ROMs supplied “Over The Air” by Xiaomi. The current ROM as I write is 2.3.5n. That is a Gingerbread MIUI V3 ROM and it is excellent. The one issue is that not everything is translated from Chinese. Not a huge issue for me as although I am not Chinese, it is one way or another a major part of my life. Besides, MIUI is a Chinese ROM after all. But for some it is annoying if only for the inconsistency.

However, the Xiaomi website forum has been giving tempting screenshots of MIUI v4 ICS for a while now, and the latest versions of MIUI Music, lockscreens, etc. have appeared on various sites. So it was only a matter of time before I cracked and tried a development ROM. The one thing holding me back was the translation issue. The development ROMs are exactly that. There is no guarantee with them as they are part of the development process and things can and do go wrong. Even Xiaomi say they will not be responsible for the damage caused and you will blow your warranty. So if something went wrong, it would be really helpful if it went wrong in English. And as that was not going to happen I was confident of staying good. Enter MIUIAndroid.

Owning a MI ONE outside of China is a bit of a lonely existence. I have never met another owner. When I go to China later this year I will be surprised if I meet one there either. But at least on MIUIAndroid there are a couple of people there that have the phone on the forum. What I didn’t expect was any ROM support. It is not as if there going to be a huge demand for it as opposed to a Samsung or HTC device.  So it was quite touching that they produced a translated version of the  MIUI v4 ICS development ROM (currently 2.3.16). Worse, I felt obliged to try it after all the effort put in. So how did it go?

Well first up I ignored Mark’s clear instructions and there were clear consequences. Bricked phone like clear consequences. Not to worry though as there are a multitude of ways to recover a MI ONE and provided you have used MIUI backup before hand it isn’t a disaster. I ended up putting the MI ONE in fastboot mode and used the MI-flash facility to get it back from the dead. I then applied the new ROM as instructed.

So it loads and it has issues but then that is why it is a development ROM. Mark at MIUIAndroid put in a lot of time make it usable and it pays dividends… and MIUI V4 does look stunning.

So if there is a point to this post at all it would be:

1) MIUI V4 ICS needs a bit more work but the potential is exciting

2) The Xiaomi MI ONE doesn’t seem to mind being abused by a fool like me

3) If you have a MI ONE outside of China, you are no longer alone,  and that perhaps is the nicest thing to find.

Coolpad E230 becomes erm… cool

February 12, 2012 Leave a comment

If you have been following my posts, you will know that I am a big fan of Chinese phones. But there is an elephant in the room. Not every phone is like the Xiaomi M1 and it is just that some Chinese phones are…, well frankly pretty poor….

Or are they?Imagine a particularly terrible Chinese mobile phone. Its not hard and perhaps you might be spoilt for choice. Let me help you. Here is one:

It is rather optimistically called the “Coolpad E230” Cool it aint but it was cheap. Coolpad have gone on to make rather better offerings but this wasn’t their finest moment. Just for the record its specifications were:

  • Internet Browser
  • 2.6″ TFT Touch Screen
  • 1.3 Mega Pixel Camera
  • FM Radio+Recording
  • Music Player
  • Video and Voice Recorder
  • Expandable Memory up to 4 G
  •  Ebook Reader
  • 1100 mAh Li-ion Battery
  • USB 2.0
  • Bluetooth 2.0

All this for about £70 or $110 which is about the only positive. It even got terrible reviews in China. Like a lot of cheap Chinese phones, it runs on a Symbian like Java based operating system. My iPhone 3g knockoff uses the same. It is functional but you can’t do much else with it other than what has already been pre installed.

Well that was what the  script said but Baidu (China’s main search engine) recently highlighted a thread where a guy thought different. The thread (in Chinese) can be read here. Essentially, he decided that it should be converted from Java to Android. I don’t know how he did it but the results speak for themselves:

After:

So now, of course, I want one. Thanks to J for the heads up.

Categories: Android, china, Xiaomi M1 Tags: , , ,

Xiaomi M1 phone arrives at ITDullard Towers

January 11, 2012 5 comments

Why the Xiaomi M1?

This is going to be a long one. Now the heavily trailed Xiaomi M1 phone has finally arrived at ITDullard towers I guess you might want to know a bit about it. So this is a bit of a review but not in the conventional sense. Most people just want a phone but I have got this for a very specific purpose.  So getting the emotional response of ripping off the packaging  playing with it out the way, I should reflect on how and why we got here.

As previously posted, I own an HD2 currently running a MIUI ROM. I bought it second hand and I never want another phone again. It is amazing and as you can see here it is still being usefully developed. The problem is that time is taking its toll on the poor thing. Daily use will shorten its lifespan. So to extend its life I need a daily use replacement.

The quintessential aspects that distinguished the HD2 were: it had a high spec; it could be modded; had developer support; and it was cheap (face it, a windows mobile phone just wasn’t cool at the time). So the first hurdle is what could replace that?

Enter the Xiaomi M1. Here is a phone that has a comparable spec (see here), designed to be modded, has the backing of MIUI developer base and dirt cheap.  Incidentally, if you don’t know what MIU is (no shame in that) then check this Blog which explains it pretty well.

So sorted then. Well yes but there were other hurdles to overcome.

Getting the Xiaomi

My successful experience is documented here, however things have moved on since then. The queueing ticket system is now abandoned. At time of writing you can buy directly from Xiaomi from January 15th. I posted the details here. Just to be clear, you can buy it new in China and from Xiaomi’s website at that. Any offers anywhere else are either second hand or a fraud. This is looking to change soon with the phone becoming available in Taiwan and also on contract via China Telecom.

Additionally, they are scarce. In fact they they’ve currently run out of stock for the third time because they are extremely popular in China. Xiaomi have announced that 500,000 handsets will be on sale on the 15th. My speculation is they will sell out in a matter of days if not hours if previous experience is to be followed.

This does beg the question about whether the Xiaomi M1 will ever be sold internationally. So I am going to digress at this point based on some of the feedback I’ve been getting because it is a fair point and I am not sure what the answer is. So

BEGIN SPECULATION>

I believe that Xiaomi fully intends to sell phones on an international basis. Primarily because it is a vehicle for MIUI. The coverage in the western press was no mistake. Lei Jun actively solicited this. However the M1 was pitched as a specialist phone for enthusiasts. What caught them completely by surprise was the phone went mainstream in China. Their are over 14 smartphone manufacturers in China. Can you name them all? No I can’t either. All of them are bigger than Xiaomi. Until October nobody in China had heard of Xiaomi. Besides many Chinese dislike their domestic brands. And then the iPhone 4s went on sale. This raised Chinese awareness to smart phones and they wanted one. Xiaomi’s product, price and approach could not have been better timed they have become the counter cool built upon the MIUI following. Baidu (China’s main search engine) recently featured a blog  where a guy criticised  iPhone users in the cinema for wasting money – he had a Xiaomi. What was interesting was the support he got and the Apple brand backlash. This has resulted in a run on Xiaomi phones. We can’t get them in the rest of the world but it is really really hard to get one China too as Xiaomi just didn’t have the capacity to cope. The  official Chinese Xiaomi forum has been inundated with complaints by potential customers who can’t get the phone. Xiaomi has responded but it takes time. They have moved production to Foxconn, added Toshiba along with Sharpe to make screens and recently announced a deal with a cable supplier. So they will move from only making a thousand a day to tens of thousands. Additionally, Qualcomm among others have recently invested in Xiaomi. These are not small players. However, the Chinese competition have not gone to sleep as the Huawei Ascend P1 S announced a CES yesterday clearly indicates and in turn Xiaomi will respond. So although I believe a Xiaomi phone will come to the rest of the world I wouldn’t be sure that it will be the M1. The rumoured quad core or something like it would seem more likely to me

<END SPECULATION

OK so assuming that can actually get the phone you have to get it out of China which erm… hasn’t gone quite as smoothly as I would have hoped but this had been down to a number of people who have been very helpful to me. I owe a lot of favours  and deepest thanks to all those involved.

I have pre-ambled enough… moving on.

First impressions

Contents

The packaging is very understated. A simple brown (but strong) cardboard box with a cutaway print of the phone explaining the various components. Inside, there is the handset, a luminous orange battery – you can get these in different colours if you wish, a black rear cover. USB to miniUSB data cable that doubles up as power cable, a Chinese power adaptor, instructions – in Chinese but the diagrams tell you all you need to know and a welcome card. I ordered an additional rear cover (purple since you ask) and that was also inside the package. There are no earphones. These can be ordered cheaply at the same time as a matching accessory (£5) but I prefer to use my own earphones.

The phone

The phone feels noticeably lighter than the HD2 but it still feels solid. The early prototypes received criticism over their build quality. This was my biggest concern however this has obviously been resolved and the build quality is on a par with the HD2, namely excellent. The HD2 has a partial metal casing but the plastic on Xiaomi does not feel cheep. Stylistically, the Xiaomi looks a bit anonymous and could be mistaken for many other phones out there. I guess this is where the cynics will claim that this is just another shanzai knockoff. They would be wrong. The design has been thought through. For example you can remove the SIM or SD card without having to remove the battery. This is not something you can do on the HD2. This is also phone designed to run MIUI and has a configurable button designed for this purpose. Many phones can run MIUI but none have been designed for it up to now. The Xiaomi feels better in the hand but then the screen is smaller and dimensions are smaller than the HD2. So it doesn’t feel or look cheap.

HTC HD2 and Xiaomi M1

The screen is much brighter than the HD2. You can struggle to see the HD2 screen on a sunny day. Not that sunny days are a common occurrence in the UK. So a smaller screen but you can read it when you go on holiday.

First start

The power button but is discreet to the point of being obscure. Once you turn it on the MIUI logo glows for about 10 seconds and you are in. Fortunately it offers English as an option so setting up is pretty much plain sailing from there. However not everything translates to English and a few things – like MIUI’s firewall persist in Simplified Chinese. There are a selection of popular Chinese Apps – Yoku, Weibo, QQ and others preinstalled. Google Market is there however so you can add what you need. Before I did that I tried the OTA update. This had never worked on my HD2 MIUI ROM. It worked seemlessly on the Xiaomi. The backup utilities also worked including the cloud option – again a feature that hadn’t worked on my HD2 MIUI ROM. A good description of how the backup and update process works can be found on this Endgadget video here.

Configuring

Installing apps is as straightforward as the HD2. Xiaomi is faster but comparisons are unfair at this juncture. The Xiaomi has the hardware clout and was designed to be an Android phone. The HD2 stood up well though. In general the Xiaomi is much smoother in transitions while the HD2 is not slow (at least with a NAND ROM) it can occasionally have lags. Again this might say more about the ROM than the phone so it is hard to draw conclusions. In general, configuring the Xiaomi is straight forward. The are three minor issues. Setting the default keyboard to Android doesn’t stick and the Baidu one kept coming back. The easiest way to resolve that was to simply delete the Baidu keyboard and the phone is forced to accept the Android one. The the second one to watch for is the GPS server which is configured for Asia. The setting is easy enough to change and GPS lock is quick. Finally, MIUI Music doesn’t behave which is both a shame and odd because it works fine on HD2. WinAmp works fine however so it is not a show-stopper.

Daily use

For daily practical use again the Xiaomi does better. My short experience is that battery on the Xiaomi is much better. I am lucky if I get a day out of the HD2 but the Xiaomi is good for 36 hours at a push. Signal strength poses an interesting issue. My network is 3G only so I can only really talk about that. The HD2 is quick to find a signal but also quick to loose it. Good for web browsing but not so much for streaming. Again this could be down to the Radio I’ve chosen but then anyone who’s rooted a HD2 will know about that. The Xiaomi is little bit more reluctant to catch a signal but is tenacious once you have got it. There is no grip of death – Xiaomi apparently learnt from the iphone and installed double antennae. Using the TuneIn App for example has been wonderful over the last couple of days. Obviously, as China is outside the EU the phone hasn’t had its volume limited so you can destroy your hearing if you so choose. Sound quality is consistent with the HD2 if not better and the noise cancelling mic makes a real difference on calls.. The camera/video on the HTC is loathsome – especially indoors. The Xiaomi (when I remembered to take the protective covering off the lens) is much better. Not great but much better. An interesting contrast of its capabilities is posted on MICGadget here. Another area is  the FM Radio. The HD2’s radio basically didn’t work no matter what operating system or ROM you put on it. The Xiaomi’s has very good FM reception but no RDS. I’ve not tried bluetooth pairing yet but intend to try it with my Garmin Sat Nav next weekend. I’ll let you know if there are any horror stories. This was something you could never really do with the HD2 because of the battery consumption. I must admit to missing the larger screen of the HD2 but the speed and smoothness of the Xiaomi compensated to an extent. 

Connectivity to Windows 7 and OpenSUSE 12.1 pose no issues. There are drivers on the Xiaomi site should you need them.

Future Use

Well this is just a double win. Both phones are suitable for running development ROMs but the HTC has more form.

Xiaomi M1 taken by the HD2

The Xiaomi is great for daily use so when I find a good stable ROM I can run with it on this phone.

HTC HD2 taken by the Xiaomi

The HD2 is great for playing with those unstable ROM’s or who knows I might even try Windows Phone 7 one day.

Finale

The HD2 is a truly classic phone. But it had a miserable start in life. It has matured over time to become what it is. Will we say the same about the Xiaomi in 2 years time. Hard to say but it has the potential and these are interesting times. Lei Jun wants to run Windows Phone 7 on the Xiaomi. So it could just happen starting with ICS at the end of this month. Told you it was a long one

Xiaomi M1 arrives!

January 7, 2012 4 comments

Guess what the postman delivered this morning???

And guess what was in it?

And does it work?

Working straight out of the box like a dream. MIUI as it is meant to be 🙂

I’ll do a more detailed post over the coming days. But forgive me for now because I want to play with my new toy.

So near but yet so far

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Firstly, apologies for not keeping up to date with things. It is that time of year. I use this as an excuse of course because everyone does. You must do this or that because it is Christmas. You can’t do this or that because it is Christmas. China, of course doesn’t celebrate Christmas, at least not in the same way we do. Generally it is just another working day. Spring Festival is their thing and they are equally bonkers about it. Hopefully, I will go to China for Spring Festival but it won’t be next year which is a pity because I would be able to collect My Xiaomi MiOne phone. It has been purchased and it works but it is currently in Nanjing. The plan now is for it to arrive in the UK  in the first week in January. Fingers crossed.

So in the absence of the phone itself, I have been trying to keep up with the news. Xiaomi are planning on being the first “aiming to be the first Chinese company to introduce an Android 4.0 smartphone”. However it seems that Huawei got there first. Still if you fancy a bit of Android Ice Cream Sandwich in a MIUI style then the Xiaomi MiOne is still the only choice

Here is the MIUI promo reported by MICGadget.

Next, China Unicom have reportedly ordered 2 million Xiaomi phones. The rumour is that all manufacturing will be done by Foxconn in the future. Apparently, it is currently being manufactured by Inventec. Finally, Mr Xiaomi himself – Lei Jun is looking to support WP 7 on the MiOne at some point in the future. This phone is sounding more and more like a worthy replacement for my HD2.

All of which brings me to my next point. Once I get my phone I will do a bit of a review on it for those that are interested. I will use my rooted HD2 as a baseline comparison. I am interested to see the results

Did I say a week?

December 1, 2011 2 comments

The first thing to know about interacting with China is that the plan is always the first casualty. Every time I have gone there, what I have expected to happen has usually been changed at the last minute. However the outcome has ended up being for the better mostly. And so
it goes with my Xiaomi phone. As previously stated, the phone had left Xiaomi but it had only got as far as my contact in China. It hasn’t
started its transcontinental journey to ITDullard Towers yet unfortunately. My contact decided to check if the phone works before sending it to me. And indeed it does. However, having inserted the battery to test it she now can’t remove it. Now I am not sure if this is down to operator error or something more problematic. My Chinese speaking skills are certainly not up to that task and the time difference hasn’t helped but hopefully this will be resolved in the next 24 hours. Either way it has delayed proceedings but I am keeping in mind that this is down to good intentions – and at least I know it works in China.

Order placed UPDATED

November 28, 2011 1 comment

The next stage to get my grubby paws on a Xiaomi phone has been successfuly negotiated. The order was placed on their website last night. Incidently, Xiaomi are experiencing difficulties with some component supplies sourced in Thailand due to the flooding there.
They are not alone in this respect as many other companies have been suffering shortages as well.

UPDATE!:
My order has just been delivered to an address in China. So from order to delivery took just 2 days. Now I’ve just got to get it to the UK. So that will take a week or so

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