It's what Xiaomi fans have been asking for years: pure Android on a high-end Xiaomi phone.
With Android P, Google has opened up the beta build to third-party phones for the first time, with seven manufacturers included in the program. Xiaomi is one of those brands, and the Android P beta build is available for its latest flagship, the Mi Mix 2S. The Mix 2S is a refreshed variant of last year's Mi Mix 2 with a Snapdragon 845 chipset and wireless charging.
Android P on the Mi Mix 2S is highly interesting for a variety of reasons. The beta build gets rid of MIUI in favor of pure Android, and Xiaomi's involvement in the beta program suggests the manufacturer is finally getting serious about updates. This is what it's like to use Android P on the Mi Mix 2S.
MIUI makes way for pure Android...
The Mi A1 showcased what it would be like to run pure Android on a Xiaomi phone, and the Android P beta on the Mi Mix 2S follows in the same vein. The current beta build doesn't have any MIUI elements, and in its place, you get the Pixel Launcher.
Pure Android on a high-end Xiaomi phone is incredible.
Functionally, it is the exact same interface as the Android P build on the Pixels, and that's great.
Pure Android on a high-end Xiaomi device is fantastic, and although this is an early beta build, I haven't encountered many bugs. There are issues with Bluetooth streaming and occasional glitches, but for the most part, the Android P beta has been enjoyable.
Xiaomi has started offering gestures with MIUI 9.5, but those have also made way for the new gesture-driven navigation that's coming to Android P.
But before you get too excited, know that the pure Android build is going to make way for Xiaomi's custom ROM in the coming months.
... But that will change in the coming months
While it's great that the current Android P beta build doesn't have any MIUI customizations, that isn't set to last. Xiaomi has confirmed that it will add more and more features from MIUI in the coming beta builds, and the stable Android P release will see MIUI in all its glory, just like on any other Xiaomi phone.
Stable Android P will see the reintroduction of MIUI.
That was always going to be the case, as Xiaomi sees a lot of value in the host of features it offers with MIUI. There is a case to be made here, as the Android P beta gets rid of Xiaomi's camera interface and instead offers the Snapdragon Camera, which is sub-par, to say the least.
MIUI itself is set for an overhaul with the upcoming MIUI 10 release, so it'll be interesting to see what direction Xiaomi takes with its custom ROM. MIUI has slowly been on a path that sees the global ROM diverging from the Chinese build, and MIUI 10 is likely going to build on that as Xiaomi starts selling its phones in Western markets.
Android P beta isn't coming to other Xiaomi phones
If you're looking to try out the Android P beta on a Xiaomi phone, your only recourse is the Mi Mix 2S. It doesn't look like the beta program will make its way to other phones from Xiaomi, but with the Mi Mix 2S officially going on sale in European markets, it should be easy to get a hold of the device outside of China.
With the Android P beta program, Google wanted to expand availability to a wider audience, and that's where brands like Xiaomi come in. It's an elegant way for consumers to test new features and provide feedback, and for developers to build apps for the upcoming version of Android.
It's a shame that Xiaomi isn't gearing up to offer an Android One version of the Mi Mix 2S anytime soon, but the Android P beta at least gives us a glimpse of what that would look like.