Last week Black Shark has started the beta program for the Black Shark 2 and Black Shark 2 Pro and people that signed in to be testers started to receive the JoyUI 11 update for their devices The global versions of the phones had big features missing compared to the Chinese version since it was based on stock Android. The JoyUI 11 update not only does it bring Android 10 to the Black Shark 2 family, but it is also based on MIUI 11. Now, keep in mind that this early review is based on the beta version, but since the software is stable, with only minor problems encountered so far, it is safe to say that the final version will be almost identical in terms of features.
After using the Black Shark 2 with JoyUI 11 for the past few days, I can honestly say that this is the biggest change I saw so far from one version to another. It is almost a completely different phone, with better performance, smoother animations and a lot of new and exciting features. This is how an update should be done, or better yet, this is how the phone should have launched a year ago. It is no secret that the OS felt a bit limited, especially compared to the Chinese version. The true potential of the device is now unlocked, both from a features point of view and from a performance one. Yes, the device even manages to get better scores in AnTuTu and other benchmarks, as much as 5% in some cases. This is a big improvement considering it is the exact same hardware. Now, in day to day usage, you won’t really benefit much considering that the phone is powerful enough to run any game at high settings without a sweat.
Still, thanks to Android 10 and better animations in MIUI 11, you will feel that the phone is snappier, with smoother animations while navigating between screens. This update for the Black Shark 2 and 2 Pro also has many new features, some thanks to the upgrade to Android 10 and some due to MIUI 11, on which JoyUI 11 is based. If you used other Xiaomi smartphones in the bast few months you may be used to some of the new features here, otherwise, all will be new to you. Let us start with actual dark theme support. Now, if you enable the dark theme, the phone really is set to it, with the menu and many system applications having a black or dark grey background and a darker color scheme. Dark mode is something that Android 10 introduced and I am happy to finally see it on the Black Shark 2.
Android 10 also introduced better permissions management, where you can now set some permissions like location to only be allowed while the application is actually in use. Obviously, this is alongside all the other new features that Android 10 introduced, features that I am not going to focus on in this article. What I will focus on is the features that are either completely new or imported from MIUI, since these are the most interesting ones and make the phone feel new and unique.
The lock screen has been updated to include always-on-display, a feature that is imported directly from MIUI. You can now have an image, animation or text shown while the device is locked, as well as notification icons and other important information. Furthermore, when a new notification is received, alongside the side RGB lights, you can have the margin of the display light up with 4 different patterns being included. While these features may consume more battery, the difference is small since the Black Shark 2 and Black Shark 2 Pro have AMOLED panels. The under-display fingerprint reader also sees some improvement, being faster and more accurate than before. There is also a feature called Magic Press where a quick-menu is open if you press harder on the screen around the fingerprint reader. This is similar to how Force Touch works during games.
The display now has hardware DC dimming, video HDR and even a super cinema mode that enhances video playback. There are also better gesture navigation, another feature imported directly from MIUI. You can hide the on-screen buttons and instead use swipe up for home, swipe from the side of the screen for back, and swipe up partially for recent apps menu. This menu is also improved and now features a two-row layout with your active applications, a clear-all button as well as RAM usage and a split-screen button. There is also theme support with the inclusion of the MIUI Theme market, but that may not work for all regions.
You also get many MIUI applications, including Weather, calculator, file manager, screen recorder, audio recorder and QR Code scanner. Some applications are duplicated now since you also get Google’s version alongside MIUI’s version. This may be a downside (some people may find it bloatware), but I personally like the choice and you can uninstall (or at least hide) what you don’t want. There is also Xiaomi’s Cloud Backup functionality and Mi Share included for fast and easy file transfer tween phones. Yes, now you get Mi Account login if you so desire.
The JoyUI 11 update is a big one for the global versions of the Black Shark 2 series of phones. It offers many improvements and many new features, giving the phone a new life. Using JoyUI 11 should be snappier, faster and the new features are definitely useful. This is how the phone should have been released from the start, but better a bit later than never. I can’t speak about battery life for now since I’ve been using the phone a lot for this review, but it does not seem to be suffering at all, maybe quite the contrary.