Does this phones' UI have ads? Do stock apps ask for unwanted permission?

Search This thread

n1troV

Member
Jan 22, 2021
10
4
3
Hello!

I just wanted to know if this phones' software have ads anywhere in the UI? If yes, is there an option to opt-out?

Secondly, I've heard Xiaomi phones are notorious for having stock apps that ask for unwanted permission to function (eg: calculator wanting to access contacts etc.), is this one a victim of that?

Also does the stock os has an option to disable gesture based navigation and use on-screen navigation bar instead?

Finally, does it come with 3rd party keyboard(like swiftkey etc.) out of the box, or how is the built-in one in terms of privacy? Was it known for data gathering in the past?

If you have the device in hand, please do check these things and let me know. Are there anything else that I should be aware of, like known issues? I am not planning to flash custom roms or modify deeply.

Thanks in advance.
 

cbw

Senior Member
Dec 31, 2019
113
35
38
Asia
@n1troV I have been using my M3 for more than one month, I hope that I have answered all your questions.


1. ads anywhere in the UI?

Yes, in all Xiaomi system apps, you have to go through the settings in each of them and choose to trun off "Recommendations", to disable ads for each app.

2. unwanted permission

The calculator in MIUI does not require any permissions, in the settings, the Storage permission is listed, but denied, the calculator can still be used without the permission. There are a lot of pre-installed Google apps. The dialer, messages, and contacts apps are also from Google.
(Edit: The Taiwanese version uses the original MIUI dialer app and messages app)

3. option to disable gesture based navigation

Yes, it can be changed in the settings, please see the screenshot below.
Screenshot_2021-01-22-17-23-01-421_com.android.settings.jpg


4. 3rd party keyboard

Yes, it came with Gboard pre-installed, you can install a different keyboard, if you do not want to use it. By default, Gboard sends analytics data back to Google, but that can be disabled in the settings.


I am using the stock MIUI ROM, and the fingerprint unlocking was very slow when I got the phone, but after getting two system updates, now the unlocking speed is faster.

If possible, I suggest that you can use Szaki/XiaomiADBFastbootTools (can be downloaded from GItHub) to debloat the phone with adb, to remove some unwanted system apps like MSA , WMService, Analytics, Chrome and other Google apps.

I used the phone for navigation several times, and the GNSS accuracy is about 4m, it is usually enough, but sometimes if another road is too close, the maps app thinks I am on the other road.

By default, VoWiFi is not enabled on this phone, but it can be enabled by disabling carrier check, using the code *#*#869434#*#* in the dialer.

If privacy is important to you, you can use a private DNS service like AdGuard DNS or NextDNS to block unwanted connections.

The phone is not perfect, but it is still a good phone for its price. If you want to have more RAM and an ultra-wide-angle camera, you can take a look at Redmi 9T, it has almost the same hardware, but it's better, and its price is the same as or similiar to M3's price, depending on which country you are in.

You can ask me if you have any other questions about the phone.
 
Last edited:

n1troV

Member
Jan 22, 2021
10
4
3
Thank you very much! You've answered pretty much all of questions I had and then some. I was unaware of the sluggish fingerprint sensor and inaccurate GPS, neither of which are dealbreakers to me, personally.

I've considered 9T too, I actually dig the design language of that one abit more than M3 and there's a slight bump in performance too. It's significantly more expensive compared to the m3 where I live though.

By the way, have you tested read/write performance of the ufs storage on the m3? If you have some free time, please do run passmarks' disk benchmark utility and share some screenshots along with the storage capacity.

Moreover, are there any noticeable lags/frame drops in the UI, delays in app opening? I am not expecting ~$150 phone to perform like ~$1000 flagships but I'd like to know what the general user experience is like.

And thanks for the tips on secure DNS. I was thinking of implementing pihole for network-wide ad-blocking, will look into private DNS services too.

Thanks again for taking your time to write a well-detailed reply, cheers! :)
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: cbw

cbw

Senior Member
Dec 31, 2019
113
35
38
Asia
@n1troV It takes about 2 seconds for the phone to open an app, I have tested with different apps. I think it's acceptable for the price.

My previous phone had SD625 chip, and M3 has SD662 chip, after changing to M3, I feel that M3 is a lot faster.

There is one thing I forgot to mention, this phone has dual speakers, but when I tried it the bottom speaker is a lilltle louder than the top speaker, I think when I watched review videos of M3, someone also mentioned this problem.

I will test the storage speed tomorrow when I have time.
 
  • Like
Reactions: n1troV

cbw

Senior Member
Dec 31, 2019
113
35
38
Asia
If you have some free time, please do run passmarks' disk benchmark utility and share some screenshots along with the storage capacity.

Below is a screenshot of passmark.
Screenshot_2021-01-23-09-56-53-368_com.passmark.pt_mobile.png

(Edit: The phone has 4GB of RAM, but passmark only shows 3GB)

I have the 128GB version, so the storage is UFS 2.2, the SD card I use is Kingston Canvas Select Plus 32GB.

I also have another screenshot of the CIT mode, it shows the hardware information of the phone.
Screenshot_2021-01-23-09-22-57-698_com.huaqin.factory.png


To show you what it feels like to open apps and to scroll through Google Play on the phone, I have recorded a video using the built-in screen recorder, it is in the attached zip file.
 

Attachments

  • POCO M3 open apps.zip
    53 MB · Views: 20
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: n1troV

n1troV

Member
Jan 22, 2021
10
4
3
Thank you! The ufs storage performance was abit underwhelming though. Have you had an emmc 5.1 based phones in the past? I suppose those chips perform about the same in benchmarks. In fact, having ufs based storage is one of the main reasons I've considered m3 hoping it would help sustain good overall ui performance/snappiness although that does not seem to be the case here.

As for the muffled earpiece speaker; I guess i can pass on that since even higher end phones suffer from the same issue likely due to the fact that there isn't much space in phones with edge-to edge displays and camera hardware to fit a better speaker.

Does this phone support streaming off of popular platforms? There used to be a requirement of some codecs or something along those lines to support drm enabled streaming out of the box iirc, can this one do?

Lastly; if you're in the market for sub $200 phone and m3 and 9t are not your options, what would be your next best pick? Just curious.
 
  • Like
Reactions: cbw

cbw

Senior Member
Dec 31, 2019
113
35
38
Asia
@n1troV Previously, I had used two different Redmi phones, both with emmc storage, and they have Snapdragon 435 and Snapdragon 625 chips.

After start using my M3, when I transfered files from my laptop to the M3 using a USB cable, it still took a long time, the speed of transfering files from PC does not feel any faster than my previous phones that have emmc storage. I think this is because the phone only has a USB 2.0 port.

The phone supports Widevine L1 DRM certification, so it can play DRM content at the maximum quality.
I have not played any DRM content on it, but the "DRM Info" app shows that the security level is L1.
Screenshot_2021-01-23-15-52-19-184_com.androidfung.drminfo.png


I already got used to XIaomi's MIUI, since I used two Redmi phones previously, I would only choose a phone that is made by Xiaomi, this is why I bought the M3.

Before I bought the M3, I had thought about buying other phones that are made by Xiaomi, including Redmi Note 8T (It is not sold in where I live), Redmi Note 9 Pro (It supports NFC, but it is too expensive), and Redmi 9.

When I decided to buy a new phone, because the Redmi phone I was using (Redmi 6 Pro) had GPS issues, last year, I went to XIaomi's website again, and saw that there was a new phone called POCO M3, and I compared its specs with Redmi 9.The specs of M3 are a better than Redmi 9's, except that the CPU of Redmi 9 has better performance, and Redmi 9 has a wide-angle camera. So I decided to buy the M3, since I don't take photos often, and I don't play mobile games.

After using the M3, I feel that the side-mounted fingerprint sensor is a lot more convenient than the rear-mounted fingerprint sensors that my previous phones have, with the side-mounted fingerprint sensor, it's easy to unlock the phone even when it is on the table.
 
  • Like
Reactions: n1troV

n1troV

Member
Jan 22, 2021
10
4
3
Excellent! I'm relatively new to the world of android phones and almost everybody here is pushing big-name-brand phones despite them having worse specs purely for the brand recognition (I suppose?) I've come to conclusion that M3 offers good value/performance for the price you're paying, not without its fair share of shortcomings though. That's to be expected, I guess.

Thanks for saving me lot of time not having to search answers for each questions I had. It certainly helped getting answers directly from an owner of the mighty M3.

That usb 2.0 bottleneck situation is understandable though. There are $1k devices on the other side of the pond still utilizing usb2 protocol, so yeah.

I mostly agree with your argument on fingerprint sensor placement except I personally prefer rear-mounted sensors mostly due to the fact that those got large surface area to work with and tends to be more accurate and quick. Usually your index finger sits there so its only natural to unlock the device as you pick it. Only downside is not able to unlock when device is on table.

Side mounted sensors on the other hand solve that issue but depending on the placement, it might be hard to reach specially on big phones. Having a hole cut on the side of the frame shouldn't help in terms of structural rigidity either. Eitherway I'd pick any capasitive implementation over gimmicky in-display sensor in a heartbeat. :)
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: cbw

cbw

Senior Member
Dec 31, 2019
113
35
38
Asia
@n1troV I just remembered that I could also do a read/write speed test on my old phone (Redmi 4X), it has LPDDR3 RAM and emmc 5.1 storage, the screenshot below shows the test results of Redmi 4X.
(POCO M3 has LPDDR4X RAM)
Screenshot_2021-01-23-20-21-48-896_com.passmark.pt_mobile.jpg


Since you have not used Xiaomi phones before, I think you need to know that Mi and Redmi phones have the original MIUI launcher, and the MIUI launcher does not have an app drawer, but POCO phones only have the POCO launcher, it has an app drawer, and cannot be disabled.

I have tried to install the MIUI launcher on my M3, but it could not be installed, so the only ways to install MIUI launcher on POCO phones are installing a custom ROM, or root/installing a magisk module.
 
Last edited:

n1troV

Member
Jan 22, 2021
10
4
3
Hmm it turns out ufs based storage is still significantly faster, at least on the reads.

You brought up an interesting point on the launcher, does M3 use swipe up gesture to launch app drawer or it has an option to have that dedicated grid style icon?

I don't dig the stock icons/ui elements on the above mentioned phones though. As long as a 3rd party launcher can be installed with unread counts reliably shown without random crashes, it should be fine.

I've had friends who used Mi phones in the past that I got to have some hands on time with (can't recall the exact model names), most of them were either android go/one devices though. Miui based phones were from 2016-17 so I'm sure alot has changed since then.

EDIT:
I might consider flashing custom rom as my last resort option, specially if I found stock apps constantly phoning home. Preferably a privacy focused rom (graphene/lineage?) with bare essential apps and 3rd party store (aurora?) minus the google stuff. That is only if services like realtime notifications are unaffected. Also there's a steep learning curve as I've not done any of this before :(
 
Last edited:

cbw

Senior Member
Dec 31, 2019
113
35
38
Asia
@n1troV The POCO launcher uses the swipe up gesture to open the app drawer, if you do not want to have an app drawer, there is a 3rd party launcher called Lawndesk, it can be installed and used on M3, and it can show unread counts after giving it the notification access permission.

Other 3rd party launchers can also be installed on the phone, but almost all of them have app drawers.

I had unlocked the bootloader of the phone and installed Magisk on it before, but it was difficult to update the phone with Magisk installed, so I reinstalled stock MIUI ROM and relocked the bootloader with Mi flash tool.

I am currently using NextDNS on the phone, because it is customizable, below is a screenshot showing blocked connections to Xiaomi. I have disabled all analytics options in the M3's system settings, I have also removed (debloated) all system apps that are related to analytics or system ads, but the phone still 'phones home'.
IMG_20210123_231659.jpg


I still prefer using the stock ROM and POCO launcher, at least I have blocked those connections with NextDNS.
 
Last edited:

n1troV

Member
Jan 22, 2021
10
4
3
if you do not want to have an app drawer

Hey that's not what I mean. Remember before the swipe up gesture was a thing, there used to be an icon on the bottom row of the home screen that opened app drawer on tap? I was wondering if such option is present on M3 to use drawer icon instead of swipe up.

I have disabled all analytics options in the M3's system settings, I have also removed (debloated) all system apps that are related to analytics or system ads, but the phone still 'phones home'.

See, this is the kind of stuff that bothers me. You went through all the trouble navigating deep in system settings and opting out, yet it does sh!t like this in the background. In the screenshot you've attached, you seem to have narrowed down results to the requests made to domains that contain "mi" in it. Who knows what else its pinging :(

It's impractical for average user to go through each and every request phone is making as there is probably hundreds if not thousands of them. I really do believe that if you opted out of something it should not be pinging servers over the web period. Privacy is becoming a bigger and bigger problem every day yet most people ignore it entirely. I doubt average user would know or care about such sketchy behaviors of their "personal" devices.

tl:dr Probably not the best for privacy, at least not out of the box.
 

cbw

Senior Member
Dec 31, 2019
113
35
38
Asia
there used to be an icon on the bottom row of the home screen that opened app drawer on tap?

POCO launcher does not have that option, but there is a small arrow that can be clicked to open the app drawer.
IMG_20210124_085547.jpg


I have found a 3rd party launcher called Apex Launcher, it still has the old Android icon for opening the app drawer, but I think the old version (3.3.3) of it is better than the current version.

you seem to have narrowed down results to the requests made to domains that contain "mi" in it.

I had to do it, because I also use other apps, and browse websites, so if I didn't do it, it would show a lot of domains, including the ones used by other apps and websites.

For browsing websites on the phone, I suggest that you can install an extension called ublock origin, but most mobile browsers don't support extensions. Kiwi Browser and Firefox Android (There is also a fork called Iceraven, it supports more extensions compared to Firefox) support extensions, so you can install extensions on them for privacy.
 
Last edited:

cbw

Senior Member
Dec 31, 2019
113
35
38
Asia
Who knows what else its pinging

I have just restarted the phone, cleared the log in NextDNS, and stopped using the phone for 25 minutes, I have only opened NextDNS's website with Kiwi Browser, below is a screenshot of NextDNS's log.

IMG_20210124_083639.jpg
 
Last edited:

n1troV

Member
Jan 22, 2021
10
4
3
Thanks for the update on stock launcher and possible third party options.

I also use other apps, and browse websites, so if I didn't do it, it would show a lot of domains, including the ones used by other apps and websites.

I understand that. Embedded trackers within apps is whole another story. I was more concerned about OS telemetry that cannot be disabled. There is no guarantee that the phone is pinging domains only have "mi" in it.

I suggest that you can install an extension called ublock origin, but most mobile browsers don't support extensions. Kiwi Browser and Firefox Android (There is also a fork called Iceraven, it supports more extensions compared to Firefox) support extensions, so you can install extensions on them for privacy.

I am also aware that the mobile firefox has somewhat limited extension support. However adding more and more extensions doesn't exactly help with browser fingerprinting. In fact it makes matters worse as you stand out more compared to the "default" ff installations. uBo is my go to addon for adblocking on computers, will definitely have that on phone as well.

I have just restarted the phone, cleared the log in NextDNS, and stopped using the phone for 25 minutes, I have only opened NextDNS's website with Kiwi Browser

I suppose you're logged into google account and has sync enabled? I mean still its imperfect way to track ALL the requests phone is making specially when its on standby, and for such small period of time. Unless its connected to pi-hole or some sort of firewall/nw analyzer all the time, there's no way you can tell whats going on :(
 
  • Like
Reactions: cbw

cbw

Senior Member
Dec 31, 2019
113
35
38
Asia
I suppose you're logged into google account and has sync enabled?
Yes I have enabled sync for my Google account. With DNS, I could not find a better way to track the requests, because DNS cannot tell which requests are coming from a specific app.

I have installed AdGuard to filter requests on my phone (with local VPN method), and I will post screenshots of blocked requests later.
 
Last edited:

cbw

Senior Member
Dec 31, 2019
113
35
38
Asia
Xiaomi Cloud (and Cloud Backup), Xiaomi Service Framework, and System Apps Updater can be uninstalled using Szaki/XiaomiADBFastbootTools.

It is possible to use Android Debug Bridge (adb) to uninstall Google Play Services, but I do not know if it is safe to do it.

After searching online about uninstalling the Mi Account app, I found this.
https://gist.github.com/Biswa96/81fe477079fa5279f7cfd7b98d5519c7
Do not uninstall com.xiaomi.account if you've already logged in MI account.
You will get "This device is locked" message and won't be able to unlock it!
 

n1troV

Member
Jan 22, 2021
10
4
3
Hey, thanks for saving the day, again! I'm so glad the first person to reply to my thread happens to be somewhat privacy conscious. :D

I could not find a better way to track the requests, because DNS cannot tell which requests are coming from a specific app.

Exactly! Unfortunately same thing applies for network activity monitors. Pi-hole seem to have a decent dashboard, probably 3rd party hardware firewalls too.

uninstalling the Mi Account app

I'm not planning to log into any third party services. Probably not even google on setup wizard.

I was wondering, is there a way to sandbox apps in android? As in you could isolate app data from one another and have full control over each app as to whether it's getting access to internet/gps and whatnot. I heard Shelter does this, not sure how that works exactly.

Unrelated to privacy: does the stock launcher has option to "lock homescreen grid"?
 

cbw

Senior Member
Dec 31, 2019
113
35
38
Asia
It will cause bootloop in MIUI.

I also saw this in Shelter's description.
Some vendor / custom ROMs may have a broken implementation that may cause crashes and even bricking of your device. One such example is MIUI from Xiaomi.

If I want to test apps without installing them on my phone, I use a virtual machine app called "VMOS Pro", it works well on my M3, but it sends analytics data to several servers, and there is no option to disable that.

By the way, POCO launcher also sends data to two different severs, "api.accelerator.intl.miui.com" and "api.ad.intl.xiaomi.com", so you might want to avoid using it, POCO launcher can be uninstalled using adb or XiaomiADBFastbootTools.

does the stock launcher has option to "lock homescreen grid"?
Yes.
Screenshot_2021-01-25-08-47-35-479_com.mi.android.globallauncher.jpg
 

Top Liked Posts

  • There are no posts matching your filters.
  • 2
    @n1troV I have been using my M3 for more than one month, I hope that I have answered all your questions.


    1. ads anywhere in the UI?

    Yes, in all Xiaomi system apps, you have to go through the settings in each of them and choose to trun off "Recommendations", to disable ads for each app.

    2. unwanted permission

    The calculator in MIUI does not require any permissions, in the settings, the Storage permission is listed, but denied, the calculator can still be used without the permission. There are a lot of pre-installed Google apps. The dialer, messages, and contacts apps are also from Google.
    (Edit: The Taiwanese version uses the original MIUI dialer app and messages app)

    3. option to disable gesture based navigation

    Yes, it can be changed in the settings, please see the screenshot below.
    Screenshot_2021-01-22-17-23-01-421_com.android.settings.jpg


    4. 3rd party keyboard

    Yes, it came with Gboard pre-installed, you can install a different keyboard, if you do not want to use it. By default, Gboard sends analytics data back to Google, but that can be disabled in the settings.


    I am using the stock MIUI ROM, and the fingerprint unlocking was very slow when I got the phone, but after getting two system updates, now the unlocking speed is faster.

    If possible, I suggest that you can use Szaki/XiaomiADBFastbootTools (can be downloaded from GItHub) to debloat the phone with adb, to remove some unwanted system apps like MSA , WMService, Analytics, Chrome and other Google apps.

    I used the phone for navigation several times, and the GNSS accuracy is about 4m, it is usually enough, but sometimes if another road is too close, the maps app thinks I am on the other road.

    By default, VoWiFi is not enabled on this phone, but it can be enabled by disabling carrier check, using the code *#*#869434#*#* in the dialer.

    If privacy is important to you, you can use a private DNS service like AdGuard DNS or NextDNS to block unwanted connections.

    The phone is not perfect, but it is still a good phone for its price. If you want to have more RAM and an ultra-wide-angle camera, you can take a look at Redmi 9T, it has almost the same hardware, but it's better, and its price is the same as or similiar to M3's price, depending on which country you are in.

    You can ask me if you have any other questions about the phone.
    1
    Thank you very much! You've answered pretty much all of questions I had and then some. I was unaware of the sluggish fingerprint sensor and inaccurate GPS, neither of which are dealbreakers to me, personally.

    I've considered 9T too, I actually dig the design language of that one abit more than M3 and there's a slight bump in performance too. It's significantly more expensive compared to the m3 where I live though.

    By the way, have you tested read/write performance of the ufs storage on the m3? If you have some free time, please do run passmarks' disk benchmark utility and share some screenshots along with the storage capacity.

    Moreover, are there any noticeable lags/frame drops in the UI, delays in app opening? I am not expecting ~$150 phone to perform like ~$1000 flagships but I'd like to know what the general user experience is like.

    And thanks for the tips on secure DNS. I was thinking of implementing pihole for network-wide ad-blocking, will look into private DNS services too.

    Thanks again for taking your time to write a well-detailed reply, cheers! :)
    1
    @n1troV It takes about 2 seconds for the phone to open an app, I have tested with different apps. I think it's acceptable for the price.

    My previous phone had SD625 chip, and M3 has SD662 chip, after changing to M3, I feel that M3 is a lot faster.

    There is one thing I forgot to mention, this phone has dual speakers, but when I tried it the bottom speaker is a lilltle louder than the top speaker, I think when I watched review videos of M3, someone also mentioned this problem.

    I will test the storage speed tomorrow when I have time.
    1
    If you have some free time, please do run passmarks' disk benchmark utility and share some screenshots along with the storage capacity.

    Below is a screenshot of passmark.
    Screenshot_2021-01-23-09-56-53-368_com.passmark.pt_mobile.png

    (Edit: The phone has 4GB of RAM, but passmark only shows 3GB)

    I have the 128GB version, so the storage is UFS 2.2, the SD card I use is Kingston Canvas Select Plus 32GB.

    I also have another screenshot of the CIT mode, it shows the hardware information of the phone.
    Screenshot_2021-01-23-09-22-57-698_com.huaqin.factory.png


    To show you what it feels like to open apps and to scroll through Google Play on the phone, I have recorded a video using the built-in screen recorder, it is in the attached zip file.
    1
    Thank you! The ufs storage performance was abit underwhelming though. Have you had an emmc 5.1 based phones in the past? I suppose those chips perform about the same in benchmarks. In fact, having ufs based storage is one of the main reasons I've considered m3 hoping it would help sustain good overall ui performance/snappiness although that does not seem to be the case here.

    As for the muffled earpiece speaker; I guess i can pass on that since even higher end phones suffer from the same issue likely due to the fact that there isn't much space in phones with edge-to edge displays and camera hardware to fit a better speaker.

    Does this phone support streaming off of popular platforms? There used to be a requirement of some codecs or something along those lines to support drm enabled streaming out of the box iirc, can this one do?

    Lastly; if you're in the market for sub $200 phone and m3 and 9t are not your options, what would be your next best pick? Just curious.
Our Apps
Get our official app!
The best way to access XDA on your phone
Nav Gestures
Add swipe gestures to any Android
One Handed Mode
Eases uses one hand with your phone