Xiaomi is hard at work adapting its MIUI Android overlay UI to be modular and customizable on foldable smartphones. That's based on a recently spotted patent making its appearance on China's National Intellectual Property (CNIPA) Administration website. This interface appears to apply directly to the outward-facing segment of the display. Specifically, when the device is closed.
As is implied here, the interface is based on quick-tile like elements and those appear to be modular. That means that users will, in theory, be able to reorganize and customize what's shown on their display. In one image, users are presented with media playback controls, notifications from the system UI, a weather report, and a camera button.
Everything has its own card and is placed on its own row. Varying sizes are given to each, in terms of height. Those are arranged along the right-hand edge but could potentially be moved to the other side for users that are left-handed.
Second and third images showcase a different layout. The second shows the camera and a video button as separate card-like tiles, Those are housed in a single row. Media player controls still occupy the top space but there's now a voice recorder, step counter, and more. The third image shows the media player, but below that is a full-sized calculator. Weather details occupy a larger segment too, filling the remaining space.
What sets this Xiaomi UI apart from other foldable interfaces?
For now, exactly how this new Xiaomi-built UI will distinguish itself from Android's built-in foldable interface standards remains to be seen. Chiefly, Android foldable devices are relying on a Samsung- and Google-built features such as App Continuity. That was added back with Android 10, alongside the beginnings of foldable launches from various OEMs.
Summarily, that interface change allows apps to be opened on the main, outward-facing display. Then, when the user opens up a folding device, the app picks up where it left off on the extended display. That works primarily with foldable gadgets that open up into more tablet-like devices. Such as Samsung's Galaxy Fold. But that's hardly the only way a foldable could work with Android.
Less clear is whether or not Xiaomi's patented interface builds atop app continuity or separates itself from that at all. It may be the case that Xiaomi's UI will fall in line, with the modular elements working more as widgets. If that's the case, those might offer somewhat more simplified interactions. Then, users would gain access to the full app experience after opening the device up.
Regardless of how this might work, the tiles appear to be movable and resizable to best suit users' individual needs.
The timing could say something about the Mi MIX 4, or not
Yet another mystery surrounding this new UI pertains to exactly how Xiaomi will implement it in a foldable phone. The company is known to be working on at least one such device, dubbed the Xiaomi Mi MIX 4. But the launch date for that gadget and other specifics are still relatively unknown. Last year, the device was teased as releasing in October before the company confirmed that it wouldn't be.
Later on, the gadget cropped up again in benchmarks with 6GB of RAM, with 8GB and 12GB reportedly set to be available too. That is expected to back up a Snapdragon 865 flagship SoC, at the very least, Android 10.
Some other widely-expected features include a QHD+ AMOLED display, a 108-megapixel camera, and at least 5x optical zoom in the camera array. But specifications say nothing about the overlying software and it's not immediately apparent which direction Xiaomi will go with that.
This latest patent, even if it doesn't exactly replicate the firmware for Xiaomi's Mi MIX 4, likely gives some indication of that. With consideration for the patent's timing and the apparently delayed release of the gadget, it may even choose to use exactly this patent. Although that can't be confirmed just yet.