OnePlus, a Chinese Android phone brand announced in early this year that has drawn much attention in China and overseas, is building a team to develop a customized Android system, just like many other Chinese Android phone makers such as Xiaomi do.

The in-house developed system will be loaded in the future models by the company sold in the mainland China. Its first flagship model OnePlus One, launched in April, came with Color OS, the custom Android system developed by OPPO (where OnePlus team were from) for mainland China users, and CyanogenMod (CM), an open source Android-based system, for overseas consumers. The company said their future phones for overseas market will still be with CM.

Xiaomi, one of the fastest-growing Android phone brands in China, made it clear from early on that Android phone and other hardware products would be only one of its businesses. MIUI, the custom Android system pre-loaded in Xiaomi hardware products and available for free download, and the Internet services carried by MIUI would be as important as, if not more important than, the hardware business.

One week ago Lei Jun, CEO of Xiaomi, announced that MIUI had reached 65 million users, with more than 50 million gained through the phone sales and the rest installed in Android phones of other brands. Now MIUI is compatible with more than 200 Android phone models, with some 50 ported by the company while the majority by third-party developers. The company would take care of big brands such as Samsung. OnePlus said they wanted to make OnePlus compatible with MIUI, but so far it hasn’t happened.

The Xiaomi app store, the default one in MIUI, announced 5 billion downloads earlier this month and now is one of the top Android app stores in China, together with Baidu’s 91, Qihoo’s, Tencent’s and Wandoujia.

Xiaomi has been monetizing the MIUI user base and traffic generated through advertising, search marketing, paid apps/services. And I heard that the revenues from MIUI had been growing fast.

Most brand Android phone makers in China would develop a customized system for their products. Some are for offering a customized experience to Chinese users or a better design. And some have made some pocket money by taking revenue shares from pre-installs of third-party apps/services or revenue shares from third parties. But none has manipulated the operating system to this far or has so many ready revenue sources.

MIUI is introducing all types of online or offline services to be the default choices. Xiaomi said it’s for providing a better experience for users. But for outsiders like me, it seems also for controlling all kinds of services, and then share revenues or take commissions, with those services.

Tracey Xiang is Beijing, China-based tech writer. Reach her at

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