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Android ‘Mi’

MIUI8In a continuation to my previous post on “Various flavors of android” , I got a chance to play with my niece’s Mi 4i running the latest version of MIUI  called MIUI 8 based on Android 6.0. For those who have used more traditional Android launchers from Samsung, Sony, HTC, Motorola this is going to be a tough initiation as the User Interface is a drastic shift from what a traditional android launcher looks or behaves. The MIUI looks and behaves more like IOS with the iconography, typography resembling those from Apple’s iPhone.

But when I fiddled with it for a while I got the hang of it. Basically there is no app drawer with all app icons on home page (which can be split into multiple screens) with folder support to group apps but there are support for the traditional android widgets too. The notification bar is at the top with quick toggles and other useful information. The usual set of apps that comes customized along with the launcher like Dialler, Contacts, Calendar, Gallery, Music player, Notes, Calculator all follow the same look and feel with nice and useful functions built into them.

The Quick ball with  a virtual button floating on the screen providing useful shortcuts and the Dual space to keep a separate section of apps / files are some excellent utilities baked into the MIUI. But the problem with such a revamped look and feel is that even with 2 GB RAM and a Snapdragon 615 processor of Mi 4i the free RAM was only 600 – 700 MB with 2-3 apps opened and some presses and clicks did take some time to respond.

The MIUI is like a OS onto itself inside Android with lots of features built into it. I will try to cover more of it if possible  in the future.

Various flavors of Android

Android flavorsFor most of smartphone users who use Android get to enjoy them in various different flavors like Samsung’s Touchwiz UI, HTC’s Sense, Sony xPeria Launcher, Asus Zen UI etc.But most of these make some visual changes and add some default apps for phone dialer, contacts, message, mail, calendar, gallery. And for those who prefer the ‘vanilla’ or ‘pure’ android flavor get to use them in Nexus (now replaced by Pixel) branded phones, Moto and Android One based phones.

But nowadays the lower and middle segment smartphone market is saturated with Chinese manufacturers who have a complete different flavor of Android for you to experience preferring them to name it as a OS like Color OS, Fun Touch OS etc mimicking the User interface of Apple’s IOS with app drawer being removed and the colors / iconography resembling more of IOS than Android’s material UI. So I thought I would list some of them here with their official url’s so you can see and decide for yourself – is this the flavor of Android you like ??

  • MIUI – Developed by Xiaomi and has support for other phones too. Currently based on Android Marshmallow (6.0)
  • Color OS – Developed by OPPO.
  • EMUI – Developed by Huawei for their range of smartphones including Honor branded phones.
  • FunTouch OS – Developed by Vivo for their range of smartphones (The link leads to the chinese version of the page. You can use google translate to translate to your language)
  • Amigo OS – Developed by Gionee for their range of smartphones (The link leads to the chinese version of the page. You can use google translate to translate to your language)

I’ve tried to cover the various brands available here in India. I would like to hear if there are other flavors of Android you like, please post in the comments section here.

“Cool”Phablet aka Note 3

Coolpad Note 3When I bought my Samsung Note 3 Neo and  I wrote how it was a phablet light on the wallet and good on performance…Now it’s not even a year old 5.5 inch smartphones with octa-core processors and 3GB RAM and 13 MP camera can be found for under 10K. My nephew has been using a Coolpad Note 3 for 3 months now and I have played around with it a few times and have been receiving continuous commentary on it…So before I comment on it’s pros and cons, here is a quick run down on the specs ..

  • 5.5″ IPS display with 1280 x 720 resolution (Scratch resistant)
  • Size : 151 x 77 x 9.3 mm
  • Mediatek MT6753 1.3Ghz CortexTM-A53 Octa-core Processor / 3 GB RAM / 1G Internal Memory
  • Coolpad UI 6.0 (based on Android 5.1)
  • 13 MP Back camera with Flash / 5 MP front camera
  • 2G/3G/4G support with dual sim
  • Bluetooth / Wifi / Fingerprint Sensor
  • 3000 mAh Battery / MicroSD card slot

Pros :

  • Even though its a 720p display the screen clarity and brightness is good
  • Even though it’s plastic the construction is solid and is slim enough to hold properly.
  • The phone’s performance is fast for all the normal tasks and even graphic heavy games plays ok
  • The Cool UI has still a app drawer (I prefer the app drawer) but has still got great customization with themes, timed on/off, memory manager etc.
  • The fingerprint sensor works well and can be used along with gestures to unlock & open specific apps
  • The 13 MP camera performs good in well lit conditions
  • The battery comes for 2 days in medium usage
  • A major update solved the heating problems and some minor bugs


  • Sometimes caller can’t hear the speaker’s voice which can be solved by restarting the phone
  • Wifi connectivity is not stable sometimes.

So at a price of 8,999/- INR (135 USD) it’s a great deal. But there are other phablet’s and smartphones in this range making it a tough competition… Lenovo K3 Note, Redmi Note 3, Asus Zenfone 2 to name a few….

HP15 – Affordable Notebook

HP15 - AF114AUI was in search of a laptop for my home use with the pre-requisites being  a big screen, powerful enough for browsing, some photo editing, coding and multimedia with preloaded Windows in the 25K INR rang. After going through lots of options from HP, Acer, Lenovo, Dell – I was able to get a good deal on HP 15 – AF114au (a flipkart exclusive model) for 22K. So starting with the specs in a nutshell,

  • AMD A-8 Quad core processor @ 2.2 GHz (2 MB Cache)
  • 4 GB DDR3 RAM (upgradeable upto 8 GB)
  • 1 TB HD / DVDR-W / Bluetooth / Wifi / SD Card reader / 3 x USB 3.0
  • 15.6″ WLED SCreen (1366 x 768 pixels)
  • Webcam / DTS sound with 2 speakers

So as you can see it’s not a Intel based processor but from what I’ve used so far like browsing multiple tabs in Chrome, coding, image editing software, videos all played without much hitches and at this price point looks like a good performer with the notebook not getting hot when performing these tasks. There was minimal preloaded bloatware which I was able to un-install. The HP assistant utility is a nice piece of software giving a centralized location to see & update drives, lookup warranty information , trouble shooting and creating recovery media (as there is no DVD media provided for Windows 10).

The 2 speaker sound is not very loud but good for listening for 1 person sitting in front of the laptop. I used CPU-Z to study the specs and the thing is it didn’t show how many memory slots are there so whether a additional 4 GB can be installed is a mystery so far for me….The screen is bright enough and the color saturation is ok but at 720 pixel resolution the text are not very sharp but once again at this price its very acceptable.(as most people won’t be able to see much pixelation) All in all a good value for money laptop in the under 25K INR range.

Neo in Lollipop Land…

Note 3 Neo lollipopSo after long anticipation the Note 3 Neo has been upgraded to Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop) {Yes – in they year of Mashmallow Android 6.0}. Android upgrade process is a big debatable topic so no use getting into it and very few companies do it on time except for Nexus, Android One, Moto and some top end phones from other manufacturers. Samsung support page didn’t mention the arrival date of the update so I was relying on message boards and forums for that (I keep the auto check option for software update switched off). So 3 days back I got the news that 5.1.1 has started seeding for India and once I checked for the update I was notified its a 895 MB update OTA. After a couple of hours downloading and some 5-10 minutes of the actual upgrade process my Note 3 Neo booted up in Lolipop land. Material design, card based multi-tasking windows and faster / smoother operation (supposed to be..)

First of all the icons of the Samsung TouchWiz UI looks slightly different, bigger but more better looking now than the KitKt days. the whole theme of the layout follows default Android lollipop look with flat colors and the touchwiz UI has white backgrounds rather than the dark black theme. Some preloaded bloatware seems to have been taken out but new ones have taken their place. A theme manager is sadly missing when some other samsung phone with Android lollipop preloaded has those.

So having used it for a couple of days now the battery life seems to be holding up as before (which gives me 1.5 – 2 days) and the overall functioning seems to be good without any major flaws. Sometimes when unlocking the screen the phone seems to be slow and stutter to come to life, and after closing all the apps and clearing the RAM it seems to run fine again. If you face bigger problems try wiping your cache partition by booting in the recovery mode.

Note: The OTA update process keeps all the data intact but to be safe it’s better to back-up data using Kies.