The Place Tainan, a Modern, Minimalist hotel for you

The Place Tainan 台南老爺行旅. During my recent visit to Tainan, I had put up at this hotel. On entering the lobby, it look very much like any other decent hotel. Clean, modern and filled with polite staff rushing to help you settle in.

After a night there, I think the hotel offers more than that! The Dutch designer has taken a minimalist approach and there’s nothing in the hotel that is “extra”. The layout of the room is well thought out and thus space saving. There are many universal electrical outlets, next to the bed, on the desk and beside the reading chair. The climate control panel is large and right next to the room card slot the moment you enter the room. The coat hanger is also there right beside the door, waiting for your coat.

It does help that the room is themed in black and white, giving a sense of cleanliness and functionality.


Continuing the minimalist look, many things are hidden behind doors or cabinets. For example the toiletries,  the kettle and tea cups, the mini refrigerator, even the toilet.

The hotel manager also took us to the largest suite in the hotel. It is huge and perfect for 2 although it would comfortably fit 4. Check out the video.

This trip to Tainan was hosted by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Department of Commerce of Taiwan and I’m glad they have made every effort to show us the many different sides of Taiwan, especially Kaohsiung and Tainan.


Chateau de Chine Hotel serving Muslim Friendly meals in Kaohsiung

A slightly different take on food. There is a restaurant in Kaohsiung that serves Muslim Friendly meals. Chateau de Chine Hotel (高雄翰品大飯店 – 穆斯林友善餐廳) This restaurant is one of two restaurants in Kaohsiung, Taiwan serving Muslim Friendly meals. All ingredients are halal and specially sourced from suppliers. The meal is served in a private room and a separate kitchen is used for preparation. All utensils and cutlery are separated from the others restaurants in the hotel. The food is prepared Cantonese style and is only available for advanced order.

This trip to Taiwan was made possible by the good grace of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Department of Commerce of Taiwan.

Looking for Lodging in Kaohsiung?

With the entry of Airbnb and many hostels, hotels are feeling the pinch with falling room rates. So what they do? Well, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going! In my recent trip to Taiwan, specifically in Tainan and Kaohsiung, I stayed at 2 hotels which fit the bill. They are not your run of the mill hotels. Take a look.

Smokey Joe’s Apartment Hotel (冒煙的喬_就是公寓旅店)

Address: No. 91, Wufu 4th Road, Yancheng, 80344 Kaohsiung (高雄市鹽埕區五福四路91號)


Walk into the hotel lobby and you are greeted by lots of colour from the colourful sign to lights to just about everything else. The colour makes everything cheerful. The helpful and friendly staff complete the package during check-in.

The centre piece of the lobby is a gleaming car. It is polished everyday, as many people can’t resist touching it.🙂


Car integrated into the front desk

Having seen the lobby you would expect much from the rooms, where you are going to spend much of your time in right? Well, Joe doesn’t disappoint.

The attention to details go down to even the bath soap. Check out the different graphics on each bottle!

Wifi is free in the entire hotel and it was pretty fast, which is much appreciated, because mobile connectivity in my room was spotty. You would however, have to switch connections when you leave an area and enter another. A small inconvenience, which did not trouble me at all. At this point, I would like to mention that it’s very easy to get connected in Taiwan. All 4G prepaid plans are sold with unlimited data. They are a tad pricey, but you can surf to your heart’s content without worrying about busting any data cap. Other than inside hotel rooms, I never had any bad data connection anywhere in Taiwan. Kudos to the telcos in Taiwan!

In my next post, I will talk about another hotel that I had stayed in, in Tainan. On this trip, I have had the opportunity to stay in very different types of hotels. Do stay tuned! This trip to Taiwan was made possible by the good grace of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Department of Commerce of Taiwan. On the topic of accommodation, I believe they deliberately put me in different types of establishments, so that I would be exposed to the myriad of options available to visitors to Taiwan. Also, while I was in Kaohsiung, I visited the Chef Teng Restaurant, a wonderful family owned establishment whose aim is to bring comfort and enjoyment to their customers through food.







Chef Teng of Kaohsiung, Taiwan


Chef Teng Restaurant (Main Shop)

I was recently in Taiwan. Specifically in the city of Kaohsiung. Now, I have been to Taipei many times for holidays. Yet, I have never been to Kaohsiung for a proper holiday. Many years ago, I did spend a night in Kaohsiung, but one night doesn’t do this beautiful city any justice. The food for one is great! Any extended stay in Kaohsiung, must be accompanied by a furious sampling of the great food here. One of such places I visited while I was there is Chef Teng Restaurant (鄧師傅功夫菜). He has many locations in Kaohsiung. The one I had visited is the main shop at 中正三路82號 (仁愛一街). Chef Teng (retired) was there to meet us. Lucky me. The other Chef Teng (his eldest son) who is usually in another shop in Taipei, happened to be around. It was a great opportunity to chat with both chefs who shared their ideas about the food they make for their customers.

The 2 dishes above are what Chef Teng is famous for. He does not disappoint. I hate fatty stuff. But he promised that it’s not what I imagine. So I gave it a try. Wow! Especially the thigh meat pictured on the right, it had the right texture (not to tough, not too soft) and there was no greasy after taste.

Chef Teng is a family business. The shop caters mainly to the everyday crowd and prices are reasonable. He has a large clientele of regulars that eat at his shop. Very much like us Singaporeans, who will regularly visit the neighbourhood Chap Cai stall in the coffeeshop. Some of the dishes I tried and liked are pictured below.


In fact, the entrance of his shop is set-up just like a Chap Cai stall. Take a look.


The Shop Front

You pick your dishes buffet style and then the staff will serve you what you have chosen with a bowl of white rice.

Finally, after gorging yourself silly with all the heavenly food, treat yourself to some nice dessert. Chef Teng has thoughtfully packed them into little glass bottles if you would like to take them home to savour instead.


Chef Teng’s Dessert

Incidentally, he serves them both cold and hot. They taste nice either way. This trip to Taiwan was made possible by the good grace of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Department of Commerce of Taiwan. Like most Taiwanese I’ve met, they have been the most gracious and wonderful hosts.






My daily blog of the Xiaomi Mi Band

The Journey of my Mi Band



DAY 00

Shortly after the Mi Band went on sale in China, I managed to get my paws on one. Within a week of ordering, a box arrived. As I was expecting the Mi Band, I literally tore the box apart in my excitment.

After removing the shrink wrap on the box, I removed the cover and there it was, sitting tightly in the box, waiting for my wrist.

The Mi Band is shipped with a charging cable and a quick start manual. Yes, that’s all in the box. In fact if I were to be given the task of designing the box, it would be much smaller. The box is kinda big for the little Mi Band. In fact, the Mi Band probably fits into something smaller than the Xiaomi Powerbank box.

I quickly hooked it up for a charge as the first thing I would like to test is the famed 30 day battery life. So a full charge is a must as I do not intend to remove my Mi Band until the battery runs out.  Upon hooking it up, I was pleasantly surpised to note that the battery still held at least 66% charge. “Shouldn’t take me long to top it off,” I mumbled to myself.

While it was charging, I decided to spend sometime getting familar with the Mi Band app. So away to the Market I went! A quick search for 小米手环 yielded the app.


After the installation, I launched the app, logged in, bound my Mi account to the app and very quickly set it up.

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Other than being a fitness tracker, the Mi Band also serves as a key to unlock my phone (Mi 3). It’s really cool. The pairing action was fuss free and done quickly. Once paired, a tap of the 2 devices together instantly unlocks the phone. The only down side being that Bluetooth must be turned on the phone. I’ve never have had a bluetooth device so bluetooth on all my phones are off. I wonder how turning it on 24×7 would affect battery consumption.


Ok, now that the initial set-up is complete, I will start my 30 day (hopefully) blog of the journey of my Mi Band. As it is getting late, I shall wait till tomorrow to explore the alarm function. Anyway, I have 30 days to talk about the Mi Band. So no hurry!


DAY 01

Just before bedtime last night, I put on the Mi Band. After a day of wearing it, here are some thoughts.

  • It is light, very light. You will not notice the presence of the Band on your wrist.
  • I usually wear a watch, so in place of the watch is my Mi Band. I kept on forgetting and glanced at the Mi band everytime I wanted to know the time.
  • Yes, it is waterproof. But I’m not sure of the long term durability of the Mi Band, especially when water does get in between the band and the device and it does not dry easily. I had to pop the device out a few times after washing my hands to dry the water on the inside of the band.
  • I don’t think it is very accurate, but hey who cares. Never expected it to be, as I’m treating it more like a toy at the moment. Let me explain why. I walked to the kitchen from my bedroom and back and it logged 95 steps. Then I walked to the toilet and it logged 51 steps. Hehe… My home is just a humble little apartment, so not really big.
  • Wearing this band has made me more aware of the need to exercise more. Haha! After a whole day of wearing it, I can’t even reach the recommended target set by the app of 8000 steps.



DAY 02

Today I want to talk about the unlocking feature of the Mi Band. It is AWESOME!!! Pardon me for shouting. I have my Mi 3 set-up to unlock by pattern. So when there is no Mi Band, it functions as per normal. With the Mi Band, all you need to do is press the sleep/wake button and the phone instantly unlocks (see photo).

The range is roughly half arm’s length. So if I have the phone in my right hand and it is not stretched out all the way, pressing the sleep/wake button also unlocks instantly. The only downside being that the bluetooth on my Mi 3 is kinda flaky. Yesterday, it got switched off when I did my Nightly update. After the mandatory reboot, the bluetooth got turned off. Then today, for some unknown reason, the bluetooth also got turned off without any warning. Of course it was quickly discovered, because it did not unlock when I pressed the sleep/wake button on the phone. Other than this minor hiccup, I’m loving this particular feature of the Mi Band.

DAY 03

Many people have wondered if the Mi Band will work on any other version of Android. So despite Xiaomi saying that only Mi 3 and 4 on Android 4.4 (and above) are supported, I decided to give it a try. Why? Don’t trust Xiaomi’s words? Nope, I did it just for the heck of it.

So, I took out my Redmi Note, running MIUI V5 and Android 4.2.2. Fired up the Market and installed 小米手环 app. OK, I meant tried to install, because I didn’t even get past that. The moment I hit install, this popped up. The English is less than stellar, but I got the message loud and clear. BTW, it does not work with the Mi Pad running MIUI 6 too. It was one of the first thing I tested after upgrading my Mi Pad to MIUI 6.



DAY 04

Another useful feature that Xiaomi has built into the Mi Band is the Alarm. Let’s take a look. YOu access Alarm through the settings page. It is the … symbol at the top tight hand corner. Remember, this is Kitkat, no more left capacitive key for menu.🙂 Yes, you can only set a maximum of 3 alarms. You can’t delete any alarms too. So if you don’t need 3 alarms, just turn off the extras.

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Tapping on any of the alarm entry allows you to customise the alarm. It is straightforward. You set how often you want the alarm to activate via Repeat (the options for Repeat are shown below on the right) and then the time for the alarm. Tap on Confirm and you are done. When the alarm activates, your Mi Band will vibrate and pause, five times. There are no other settings available, just a simple and straightforward vibration alarm.

DAY 05

Sleep, a very important part of our lives. In recent years, due to my job nature, I have only been able to get nice 8 hour shut eyes on weekends. Every weekday, I have to get by on 4 to 5 hours of sleep. {:m022:} The Mi Band tracks your sleep quite accurately. Swipe to the right in the Mi Band app to get into the sleep screen. It will show you the number of hours you slept the night before. If you wish to see the historical number of hours you slept, tap the graph icon in the top left hand corner. A bar chart will slide in from right to left. Other than the number of hours slept, you get figures like Deep sleep duration, Light sleep duration, time you slept and time you woke and if you were interrupted during sleep, the Awake duration.
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If you had tapped inside the circle, a more detailed breakdown of your sleep the night before. Touching and holding any bar would show you the information of that bar, as in the screenshot on the right.  
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DAY 06

Yesterday, we talked about the Sleep function of the Mi Band. So lets talk about the Mi Band’s primary function today! The pedometer. Since it is the primary function, when youopen the Mi Band app, this is the screen that you see first. It shows you the number of steps taken since 12 midnight. On the lower half of the screen, you get text information like duration of workout, walk or run. I’m not sure if there are other types, like for example, what if I’m cycling or riding on a motorcycle? For starters, when I’m in the car, it does not record me as doing anything. Then again, this is a pedometer. So is it only steps? If been trying to find out but no luck. Xiaomi’s documentation in the box is merely a quick set-up guide. To check your daily walking history, tap on the bar graph icon on the top left hand corner. It shows your daily number of steps, Total distance, Total calories, Total daily workout duration, breakdown of workout duration into Walk or Run. By tapping on each bar, you see the corresponding day’s statistics.
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To see your current day’s workout, tap on the circle. You will get a bar graph that shows your workout by the hour. Tapping and holding on any bar will show you the corresponding steps, duration and distance for that hour.
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DAY 07

Today marks the 1 week anniversary of my Mi Band. As mentioned at the start of this blog, I will keep it going until the battery runs out. Hopefully it will last 30 days or longer. So I guess this is a good time to check on the status of the battery. Go into the Settings (…) of the Mi Band app and tap on Mi Band Settings.


So after 1 week of continuous operation and having the alarm (vibrate once a day), the battery is at a healthy 80%. Looks like the Mi Band is on track to exceed Xiaomi’s claim of 30 days of operation. However, I’m a tad confused by the reading “27 days from last charge“. While I certainly did not have the Mi Band 27 days ago, how then did this reading come about? Any of you readers out there can drop me your thoughts on this by replying. Thanks.



DAY 08

I accidentally found an easter egg. While messing around with the Mi Band app today, I realised that you can turn on and off debug mode in the app. All you need to do is to navigate to Settings in the app, tap on About and tap on the MI logo 6 times in quick succession. It is a toggle. So tap 6 times, ON and another 6 times OFF and so on.

DAY 09

Today, I took the Band off. Wait! Am I tired of my Mi Band? Nope, as I was dressing to go to work today, I felt that the Mi Band did not quite fit in with my look today. So I took it off and put on a wrist watch. Then, how did I still measure my exercise rate? Well, I put the Mi Band into my pocket. Worried that it would not measure my footsteps propely, I opened my Mi Band app and looked at it while I walked. The numbers were skipping along happily. So I figured, pocket or wrist, the Mi Band measures my steps just fine. Question time. So if it measures my steps just fine whether in pocket or on wrist, why does the Mi Band app still requires me to tell it which wrist I’m wearing the band on? If it’s in my pocket, should I select left or right wrist? (see screen capture below)

DAY 10

I’ve done further testing with the Mi Band worn on other parts of the body. They are not equal! For example, when it’s in my chest pocket, I can be walking, but the Mi band will not count. In the pants pocket, the Mi Band is quite sensitive. I’ve also held it in my hand and shaken it and it counts too. LOL!

Curious, I decided to do some research. This is what I’ve found.

Modern pedometers are part electronic and part mechanical. There is a metal pendulum (a hammer with a weight on one end) wired into an electronic counting circuit by a thin spring. Normally the circuit is open and no electric current flows through it. As you take a step, the hammer swings across and touches a metal contact in the center, completing the circuit and allowing current to flow. The flow of current energizes the circuit and adds one to your step count. As you complete the step, the hammer swings back again (helped by the spring) and the circuit is broken, effectively resetting the pedometer ready for the next step.

So the conclusion is, if you are going to wear it on your body other than your wrist, wear it near your legs or waist. It should be more accurate.

DAY 11

The topic of water resistance / waterproofing came up in a discussion with a friend the day before. Thank’s Zardmi3 for pointing it out that the Mi Band is not waterproof. Dutifully, I did some Google and looked for IP67. Here’s what I found. The 6 signifies dustproofing, while the 7 states that the Mi Band can be immersed in water up to 1m deep. Thankfully, I think I have not been abusing my Mi Band by taking it into the shower. Still, if you have the Mi Band, just to play safe, keep it away from unnecessary water immersions. It’s small and kinda fragile looking.


DAY 12

I realised today that you can actually check how much of your target you have covered by looking at the 3 little lights on your Mi Band. According to the manual, you simply lift up your hand and look at the LEDs on the Mi Band.

How to read your Mi Band LEDs

  • 1 blinking = reached 1/3 of objective
  • 1 lit 1 blinking = exceeded 1/3 of objective
  • 2 lit 1 blinking = exceeded 2/3 of objective
  • 3 lit = reached objective

However, the Mi band is very fussy. It does not always work when you lift up your wrist to look it. Or maybe, I’m doing it wrong, since 9 out of 10 times, when I lift my hand up nothing happens. After many tires, I realised that you have to like kinda jerk your hand up for it to activate. But if it needs such a big motion to activate, it’s not acceptable. At least for me…
Imagine the amount of trouble I had to go through to get this photo. LOL!


DAY 13

As I mentioned, wearing the Mi Band has made me more aware of the need to exercise. So everyday, I try to walk a little bit more. For example, I stand and talk on the phone. (I tend to walk when I’m standing.) I walk up the stairs instead of taking the lift. Then when I need to bring the trash out, I make 2 trips instead of the the usual 1 trip. A few more steps here and there do add up, because today, I finally broke the 10000 steps barrier! Let’s see if I can do better before the battery runs out.

DAY 19

As the days pile up, I have less to write about the Mi Band. Well, that’s pretty normal, since I’ve covered almost every aspect of the Mi Band. Lately, I’ve noticed that the Mi Band’s rubber strap getting a little grubby looking. The black strap being worn day in day out looks old. Plus, I hardly take it off, so sweat and whatever dirty stuff I come in contact with everyday gets onto the strap and the Mi Band pill. Fortunately, the pill is IP67 and the strap, without doubt is waterproof, since it is rubber. So once everyday, I will put the whole thing under clean running water and flush it. Then I’ll use a clean soft cloth to wipe it dry, before putting it back on again. Hopefully this daily routine will extend the lifespan of the Mi Band, especially the rubber strap, as it is starting to look old, less than 3 weeks since the unboxing…

DAY 27
At the end of every week, the Mi Band app will consolidate your weekly steps. It’s like a form of encouragement, because when you see a weekly number, it looks more promising. See, I walked almost 29km last week. Haha!
DAY 28

Actually yesterday at Day 27, I had already discovered that a new firmware was available for the Mi Band. Guess I should tap on the check for updates more often. I was tipped off by a reader because he was asking me about the “Phone ringing” functionality of the Mi Band. I was like scratching my head, is there such a function on the band? Well, there is, after the firmware update.



So after a quick update, the Mi Band has more functions! As I’ve always maintained, as long as Xiaomi keeps on updating and improving the Mi Band firmware, this little strap on your wrist will become the purchased of the year. Ok, let’s take a look at what got added in this update.

An Incoming Call feature  that triggers when your paired phone rings. You can set the notification timing by tapping on Incoming call. Any time between 3 – 30 seconds in 1 second increments. I’ve got it set at the lowest. So 3 seconds after the phone starts ringing, the Mi Band will also vibrate (in 3 short bursts). The middle LED on the Mi Band will light up while doing so, in case you are the visual type.

DAY 31

So, we have arrived at the historic day. My 30 days with the Mi Band is up and this little thing is still going strong. To say that the Mi Band has outperformed its stated lifespan is an understatement. The battery status as of today is still a healthy 41%!

Judging from such figures, it can probably go 50 days without a charge. That’s a big thumbs up for me. This also ensures that as the battery deteriorates as it ages, it should still function close to its published figures.  
DAY 36

This morning, I opened my Mi Band app and there was a firmware update again. Anyway, I updated and faced the first problem I had with my Mi Band. It reset my sleep record last night.

In fact, I also realised in the evening that part of my walking records was missing too. So much for a firmware update. It seems that something broke after the update.

My thoughts on Xiaomi’s MIUI 6

I’ve been using Xiaomi’s MIUI 6 for quite sometime already, being one of the first 1000 in the world to beta test it. In fact, I’m still running the Beta version. LOL! I’m too lazy to install the Developer ROM which is now an official release for Mi 3 and Mi 4. Anyway, here are some thoughts I have on the latest ROM from Xiaomi. It is slick and smooth, plus some nice stuff which you will see in my video. Enjoy!

Xiaomi MIUI 6 Camera App Review (Beta version)

MIUI 6 Camera App

The MIUI 6 ROM arrived yesterday (8.16) to much fanfare. Amidst all the excitment, I received my Beta package and quickly flashed it on my Mi 3. One of the first things I test drove was the Camera App.

Here’s my unbiased review of the MIUI 6 default Camera App on the Mi 3.

As usual, the Camera App is activated by an icon on the homescreen or if you can activated it by a long press of the back button at the Lockscreen. Please be aware that if you use the camera from the Lockscreen, the Gallery is locked and so are the settings.

Camera App
When you enter the Camera App, this is what you see.

There’s not much difference from the MIUI 5 Camera App, except that it now follows the design philosophy of a lighter and cleaner look of MIUI 6.

Diving into the app, reveals more. Here’s a side by side look of the 2 Camera Apps. MIUI 5 on the left and MIUI 6 on the right. If you want to know more details of the MIUI 5 Camera App, please read this thread. OK, let’s look at the MIUI 6 app.

1. Flash setting
2. Camera settings
3. Toggle front / back camera. You may also do a downward swipe to toggle the front / back cameras.
4. Camera roll
5. Shutter release, hold for burst shooting mode.
6. Video camera
7. Focus point. Tap anywhere on the screen to focus on whatever your subject is. MIUI 6 now adds a shutter release here. Once focus is achieved (green circle), tap once more to release the shutter. The exposure is also controlled here. By holding down on the circle and moving clockwise (+exposure) or anti-clockwise (-exposure). A very good and efficient way to control exposure. Well done Xiaomi!

Gesture features
New to the MIUI 6 Camera App are some gesture based features. The gesture is new, but features are not. As mentioned above, swipe down toggles the cameras.

For the front and back cameras, swiping left accesses photo filters. There are 11 filters. Less than Mi 4’s 15. I’m wondering if that is considered a step back for Mi 4 users who will upgrade to MIUI 6 in the near future. Well, Xiaomi will probably fix the problem soon. We are in Beta afterall.  

For the back camera, swiping right brings up some camera settings. The features are self explanatory. However, Panaroma, Focus mode and White balance are missing! This is quite serious as White balance is a critical feature. Again, I believe Xiaomi will fix that fairly quickly. Having said that, this idea of gesture based features is good. Kudos to Xiaomi for coming up with that.

For the front camera, swiping right brings up slightly different camera settings. You lose Audio shutter, HDR and HHT, but you gain a Countdown timer. This is especially useful if you are using a selfie pod and require some time to adjust before the camera takes the photo. On a separate note, while HDR and HHT are useless on a front camera, Audio shutter should be an option here. Hopefully Xiaomi puts in, in the next update.

If you are in Video mode, the right swipe gets you this. Your video clip will be recorded based on the time lapse interval you have set in settings (I’ll talk about it in a while). No audio is recorded in this mode for obvious reasons. If Fast is not selected, a normal video clip is produced. It is 720p. No 1080p or any other option. In case you are wondering, the time lapse clip is also 720p.

Camera and video Settings
So far, I’ve not talked about the little gear icon at the top of the Camera App screen. In camera and video mode, it gives access to some settings. MIUI 6 has also moved Settings into a central location under Settings – System apps, where ALL system apps’ settings can be changed. I kinda like this but I would also appreciate that I can change these settings inside each app when I want to (so far only Camera App lets you have access to settings in-app). Hopefully Xiaomi agrees with me, coz it has been like this with MIUI for Pad for a long time already. Alright, enough talk. Let’s take a look.

Camera settings
Mirror front camera is a new feature. I allows you to choose if you would like a mirro image when taking a selfie. Otherwise, everything is simplified when compared to the MIUI 5 Camera App. Choose 4:3 (3120×4208) for your Camera frame’s setting if you want the highest resolution photo. A selection of 16:9 gives you a photo of lower resolution (2368×4208).

Video settings
There’s something new here. The Movie solid setting is MIUI 6’s built in video stabilisation. It is turned on by default and does make a noticeable difference when you make hand held videos. The Time lapse interval setting I spoke about earlier is also adjustable here.

MIUI 6 has simplified and made photo taking even easier for users especially the point and shoot photographers (read majority of smartphone users). Thumbs up! However it remains to be seen how this Camera App can be taken seriously with key features missing. Most will end up installing 3rd party cameras to take advantage of the class leading cameras in their Mi 3 and 4’s. Of course we have to bear in mind that this is a Beta release. Nothing is confirmed and changes will definitely take place before the stable release.