Xiaomi Mi 9 runs on the latest MIUI 10 launcher on top of Android 9 Pie. MIUI 10 improves further the system looks, gestures, and performance, while retaining the MIUI logic and any returning users would feel right at home. But while lightweight and intuitive, MIUI is no vanilla Android, so it will take a couple of hours for the purists to get the handle of it.
The most notable visual changes in MIUI 10 include refined system icons, Android Pie-styled volume sliders and brightness sliders, notification shade, and quick shortcuts.
MIUI 10 also brings a few functional additions - native support for navigation gestures, a brand new Recents menu - also with gesture support, Picture-In-Picture mode (for certain compatible apps), native autofill support, enhanced AI (because of course it does), improved screen recording and better app management.
The Mi 9 supports Always-on display and you can schedule it or leave it on/off all the time. There are various themes you can choose from and make it yours.
We've already seen those system navigation gestures - swipe for Home, swipe and pause for Recents, swipe from the edge for Back. You can also swipe and hold from the edge to go back to the previous app. Those work buttery-smooth on MIUI 10, sure, but most of us still prefer the onscreen keys. Still, if you like them, they are on the Mi 9.
Another new feature - the Picture in Picture mode - has to be enabled for each compatible app from the Additional Privacy Settings. Currently it works on Google Chrome, Movies, Maps, YouTube, Duo, Instagram, Opera, Messenger, and VLC.
Xiaomi Mi 9 introduces a Dark mode - it will switch all system colors from white to black and this way you can save lots of battery juice thanks to the AMOLED screen. Note that not all apps support the dark mode, but the majority do.
The Mi 9 also comes with various live wallpapers including the cool 24-hour wallpaper - it changes depending on the time of day and is quite nice, indeed.
There is no app drawer in MIUI so all your apps are just sitting there on your homescreen, but you can still add them to folders. Of course, you can always install a third-party launcher if you really miss the app drawer.
You can unlock the screen via the under-display fingerprint scanner. The reader is very easy to set up, although it requires a bit more pressure than regular readers. The accuracy is superb, while the recognition is quite fast, making it good enough to use for your daily unlocking. It's not as fast as the latest conventional sensors, but about as quick as the first-generation Touch ID on the iPhones.
You can also set up face unlock in addition to it - it's equally fast as the Mi 9 wakes up the moment you pick it up. Note that the face unlock option isn't available in all regions.
Here are the default home screens on Mi 9. There's a weather widget in the upper right corner across from a large clock widget. There is a Quick Card pane, the leftmost one. It contains different cards with relevant information - recent apps, step counter, notes, calendar events, the weather, and favorites, among others. You can configure what shows up here, or you can disable this altogether.
The brand-new task switcher felt a bit awkward at first, but we've grown to like it. It shows all of your recent apps in two columns. Tap and hold on a card for the split-screen shortcut, or just swipe it left or right to close it.
Themes are supported on the Xiaomi Mi 9, but the app appears only when the phone is set to a supported region, say India.
MIUI also offers a Security app. It can scan your phone for malware, manage your blacklist, manage or restrict your data usage, configure battery behavior, and free up some RAM. It can also manage the permissions of your installed apps and allows you to define the battery behavior of selected apps and applies restrictions only to the apps you choose.
MIUI also offers proprietary Gallery, Music, and Video player. In some regions the music and video app include paid streaming options.
The Mi Remote app is also on board to turn your Mi 9 into a universal remote control via its IR blaster. The accompanying app is quite good, supporting a huge number of devices and offering an intuitive setup interface.