Xiaomi Mi2s, a Chinese Android phone

The Xiaomi Mi2s is an Android phone that is manufactured by Xiaomi, a Chinese company. I learned about it around January 2014 while looking for a replacement for my aging Motorola Defy mobile phone. I wanted a small(ish) yet powerful smartphone and the Mi2s fit that bill. It combines:

  • a small build – 126 x 62 x 10.2 mm, 146 grams
  • a good quality highres screen – 4.3 inch, 720 x 1280 pixels (~342 ppi)
  • a fast CPU – quadcore 1.7 Ghz SnapDragon 600
  • lots of storage – 2 GB RAM, 16 or 32 GB storage but unfortunately no SD-card slot

What makes the phone interesting for tweakers is that it has two system partitions (System 1 and System 2) as well as a shared data partition. You can install an OS in each system partition and dual boot. Applications are installed only once on the data partition and they are available in both partitions along with application data.​ Among the operating systems that can be installed are MIUI, AOSP and Cyanogenmod.

Buying the Mi2s

The Mi2s was not for sale in regular European or US sales channels. There were one-offs being sold on Ebay or other platforms but I did not trust that. Some online reviews indicated there were fake Mi2s being sold with slower chipsets, so it seemed better to play it safe and buy from a source that guarantees you get the genuine product. I ordered my phone through Ibuygou, a Chinese vendor.

  • If you ever buy anything from Ibuygou it is recommended to first create an account on the Ibuygou site, prior to ordering. This makes sure your order is associated with a user account so that you can afterwards track order and delivery status.
  • There were several options for shipping. I used DHL and coughed up the extra two euros for insured delivery.
  • From order to delivery took 9 days. I read stories that it could be as fast as 4 days or take as long as 4 weeks, depending on product availability, payment clearance, Chinese holidays, the shipping method and whether the local Customs office decides to check the package. My phone was shipped as a ’25 dollar media player’ so I did not have to pay import taxes on it. Whether Ibuygou can fool customs indefinitely is a big question.

One year later

Out of the box the phone came with MIUI v5, a version of Android that tries to blend the simplicity of iOS with the configurability of Android. Originally I intended to replace the bundled OS by Cyanogenmod but a year later, that still hasn’t happened. I am quite satisfied with MIUI and since the phone is also used at work, I prefer not to fool around too much with it.

Overall the Mi2s has proven to be reliable, offering good performance and decent battery life. I would have liked it if MIUI had been incrementally updated to make use of more recent Android versions. Fortunately a new update, MIUI v6, is promised for late January 2015. It is supposed to be based on Android Lollipop.

Since Xiaomi don’t sell their phones in Europe and the US, the original software is completely in Chinese. You have to rely on the user community to adapt the software and translate it. With the Mi2s, that has proven to work really well. A few deeply hidden corners in the UI still show the Chinese roots of the phone but this makes no difference in daily use. I do still struggle with one major language issue: if I don’t react to an incoming call fast enough, a voice reads the incoming number, and it does so in Chinese. I’ve searched everywhere but cannot seem to find a way to switch this option off. Fortunately most people find it rather amusing when this happens!

28 December 2014

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