Whether you're concerned about voiding your warranty or just really like your stock device, rooting isn't a must-have for all of us. And these days, aside from some very cool Xposed mods, many Android developers manage to work around rooting requirements by releasing apps that can customize and altogether transform your device using standard system permissions.
Xiaomi, a Chinese mobile device and software company, has released a beta version of their MIUI app suite, consisting of not only a replenished user interface, but also packed with custom applications, settings and more—no root access required.
MIUI is a custom ROM based off the AOSP (Android Open Source Project), but one that isn't tied into Google's ecosystem. Because the company is based in China, the "open source" rules don't apply to MIUI, making it a fairly exclusive piece of software.
As is commonplace with third-party apps not on Google Play, make sure that installation from "Unknown sources" is enabled on your device to proceed.
MIUI Express Beta, the Xiaomi home screen launcher, can be downloaded directly from the Xiaomi site (Chrome translator to the rescue), or right here. Once downloaded, install MIUI Express just like you would any other application.
Once the installation is complete, open MIUI Express. The home screen launcher will consist of three initial pages, consisting of custom app icons, widgets, and iOS-style folders.
In the folders you'll find your Google Play apps, as well as stock apps, carrier bloatware, and system tools from both your phone and the MIUI Express launcher.
MIUI is aesthetically similar to Apple's iOS, no more so than the fact that there is no app drawer. Newly installed apps are added directly to home screens, just like iOS.
Hold down anywhere blank on a home screen or select Edit Home screen from the launcher menu to manage the page layout, as well as the widgets (which you can find across at the bottom of the screen).
Included in the widget tray you can find Clear Task, which clears memory on your device with a single tap, and Quick Switch, allowing you to add toggle shortcuts such as Wi-Fi, Data, Backlight, Sound, and more.
Now that you're all set up, it's time to explore some of the other features that make MIUI what it is. In addition to an overhauled interface, MIUI Express includes replacement apps, consisting of a custom phone dialer, contact list, text messaging (below) , app store (below), lock screen, and more.
Substantially minimal, the lock screen features only the date/time, as well as a circle icon used to unlock your device. If you press and hold down on the circle icon, you can shift it four ways to quickly unlock directly to your phone dialer, camera, MIUI Express text messaging app, or just your regular home screen.
If you want to customize the theme and wallpaper of your launcher, you can do so by accessing MIUI Express's built-in store. In the case that you don't want to pay, you can look through the free section, which contains many good looking themes.
Finally, tap on the menu button on your device to access the MIUI Express settings, where you can manage your launcher, lock screen, messaging, download manager, anti-spam tools and more.
You can change everything from icon layouts to transition effects to lock screen targets, and a lot more. While the settings may be extensive, they're all simple to understand and easily reversible.
If you're looking for a free facelift for your Samsung Galaxy Note 2, MIUI Express offers an alternative with impressive features and custom applications to convert your smartphone into a whole other device. To top it off, you don't even need root.