Did Xiaomi remove Private DNS feature from Android Pie based MIUI 10?
DNS can be thought of as the ‘Yellow Pages’ in the world of internet. The ‘Domain Name System’ AKA DNS is used to convert a domain name (e.g. google.com) to the corresponding IP address.
Internet users can stick with ISP’s DNS server or choose one of their own. Interestingly Android doesn’t support a native system-wide DNS changing method till Oreo.
Thanks to Google, it all changes with Android 9 Pie. Support for system-wide DNS change along with DNS-over-TLS support was introduced on the first P Developer Preview. Google has decided not to scrap it like many previous occasions and the final release of Pie comes bundled with the same.
DNS-over-TLS (DoT) is a step towards better user privacy and security. Typical DNS query is sent over a plaintext connection. DoT is one way to send DNS queries over an encrypted connection so that your ISP or any third party can’t snoop around.
Xiaomi maintains a large product portfolio and couple of their phones are already upgraded to Android Pie with OEM’s own skin, MIUI. Their Android One phones got the Pie update too, but those are based on AOSP thus excluded from the aspect of this article.
While exploring the MIUI Pie OTA, we are unable to find any references of setting private DNS. Yes, it looks like Xiaomi has decided not to include this extremely useful feature altogether in their Pie firmware.
We have done the analysis on the Global Stable firmware (V10.1.3.0.PEJMIFI) for Poco (/ Pocophone) F1 (codename: beryllium), and have reasons to believe that the scenario is actually applicable for other Xiaomi devices having Pie updates via any channel:
- Mi Mix 2S (codename: polaris)
- Mi 8 (codename: dipper)
- Mi 8 Explorer Edition (codename: ursa)
- Mi 8 Pro (codename: equuleus)
- Mi Mix 3 (codename: perseus)
These phones are sharing mostly common kernel & device sources. We have also speculated that the following phones running Pie are also part of this saga, though they are using different sources and components:
Historically MIUI updates are not exactly in sync with AOSP updates. Xiaomi updates the MIUI layer keeping the base version intact for older phones, but often backports features from upstream Android versions. But excluding an native feature completely seems a little overkill.
We have also searched through hidden activities inside the MIUI settings APK, but unable to find any references of the said feature.
We are planning to do some deep digging by decompiling the relevant APKs and hiking through the firmware dumps, but it may take some time.
Similar reports are scattered around MIUI official forums (example: here, here), various subreddits (example) and other places, but no official response so far. While there are ways to change the system wide DNS by various means, it won’t bring native DoT support.
Now the development of upcoming MIUI 11 is already confirmed, we can only assume that Xiaomi may have plans to include the feature as a part of it. Backporting it to older devices running Oreo/Nougat – nah, I’m not having much hope on that.
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