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[Gadget] Realme C55 Review: Style Over Substance?


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Realme's C55 got the world's attention when it was first launched in Indonesia for being the first Android smartphone with a copy of Apple's Dynamic Island feature. Realme has branded this software feature as "Mini Capsule". Now, the company brought this budget smartphone to India, but it's already clear that Mini Capsule is not the most interesting thing about it – in fact it was barely talked about during the launch event. What will get this phone a lot of attention in India is its pricing and its design.

Realme's C-series devices have been positioned as entry-level offerings for years. While it is impressive to see a C-series device with a unique-looking design, you have to keep in mind that it all comes at a cost. The price of the Realme C55 starts in the budget segment instead of the usual entry-level sub-Rs. 10,000 pricing. This phone is meant to replace the Realme C33 (2023) and is also an upgrade to the C35 as well, which are entry-level devices powered by Unisoc SoCs.

I was quick to point out how this device is missing 5G and how the Mini Capsule felt half-baked at best in my first impressions of this phone. About a month later, not much has changed despite a few software updates, but I have discovered several additional shortcomings. These are mainly to do with the user interface, but also battery life. Is the Realme C55 still an easy recommendation in a sea of budget smartphones? Read on to find out!

Realme C55 price in India
The Realme C55 is available in three variants. There's the 4GB RAM and 64GB storage variant priced at Rs 10,999; the 6GB RAM and 64GB storage variant is available for Rs. 11,999; and the variant with 8GB RAM and 128GB of storage sells at a rather competitive Rs. 13,999 in India. Indeed, it's nice to have options, and it's good to see Realme providing so much variety for a C-series device. The Realme C55 is also the first C-series model to pack 8GB of RAM. The device is available in two finishes – Sunshower or Rainy Night. I received the 8GB RAM variant in the Sunshower finish for review.

Realme C55 design
Realme did attempt to give its C-series a fresh, stylish look when it announced its C35 last year. While that phone was a step up from the rather basic entry-level devices previously available in the C-series, its design was literally the only good thing about it, as I discovered in my review.
When it comes to design, Realme has taken things a bit further with the C55. It appears slim and modern with its straight lines, chiselled body, and flat sides. There's a flat display on the front, and unlike the C35, it's of the hole-punch variety so it keeps up with the rest of the phone's modern appearance. While the bezels at the left, top and right are thin, the one at the bottom is a bit thick.

Flip the phone over and it does get hard to tell that this is a budget smartphone for two reasons. First, there's a dual-tone finish on the back, with a finely striped matte texture across most of it, and a polished section around the protruding cameras. This does look refreshing for a budget smartphone. Secondly, this matte finish is also pretty good at resisting fingerprints. The rear panel and frame are made of polycarbonate making them less likely to crack when dropped than glass. Realme uses Panda glass for the display. It is prone to smudges but these were easy to wipe off.
The phone weighs 189g which is a bit on the heavier side, but feels quite slim at 7.89mm. There's no IP rating and no stereo speakers, but you do get a 3.5mm headphone jack and a Type-C USB port at the bottom. The fingerprint reader is embedded into the power button, which I did find a bit difficult to press because it sits nearly flush with the flat side of the frame.

Realme C55 specifications and software
The Realme C55 has a MediaTek Helio G88 SoC, which means that it lacks 5G connectivity. Realme claims that the phone uses LPDDR4X RAM and EMMC 5.1 storage. The SIM tray has two slots for two nano-SIMs and a dedicated slot for up to a 1TB microSD card, which is nice to have.

Connectivity standards include 4G LTE, dual-band Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 5.2, along with the usual array of sensors and global positioning systems. The phone has a 5,000mAh battery and comes with a 33W wired charger in the box.

The Realme C55 runs Realme UI 4.0, which is based on Android 13. It comes loaded with a ton of Realme and third-party apps. This means having two ‘Messages' apps for SMSes, two file managers, two note-taking apps, and the list goes on. This could get quite confusing for new users, and it's also annoying since you cannot uninstall most of these redundant apps. Most of the preinstalled third-party ones can be uninstalled, which you can do to reclaim some storage space. It was also annoying to see ads and promotional notifications from the Game Center and App Market apps every day.

Realme C55 performance
The 6.72-inch full-HD+ IPS LCD display has a 90Hz maximum screen refresh rate. It switches between 60Hz and 90Hz depending on the application being used and the content being viewed. The display is vibrant and is bright enough to view content outdoors on a sunny afternoon, and has good viewing angles as well. As for streaming, it was nice to find Widevine L1 certification, which allowed for full-HD quality playback.
The usage experience failed to meet my basic expectations. Realme UI 4.0 did not seem well optimised to this hardware, which I noticed when using the phone's interface in general, minimising apps, swiping through video-heavy feeds in apps like Instagram, and other common use cases. There was a general stuttering and noticeable lag throughout, and it always felt like the hardware was trying to keep up with my interactions. I tested the 8GB RAM variant, so I can only imagine how bad the experience would be on the 4GB RAM variant. I also experienced some stuttering when streaming video, but this got resolved with the latest software update, which showed up just a few days prior to publishing this review.

As for Mini Capsule, not much has changed since I tried it out a month ago. Most people won't even notice that this feature exists, as it's easy to miss the animated notification prompts that expand around the hole-punch camera. Indeed, this is something that Samsung does better with its pop-up notifications, which also appear in a capsule shape and are far more useful as they relay different types of notifications, unlike the small handful of prompts that Realme's Mini Capsule displays.
In terms of benchmarks, the Realme C55 performs as expected given that it has a MediaTek Helio G88 SoC inside. The phone's scores weren't impressive by any means. Even the iQoo Z6 Lite managed better scores with its Qualcomm Snapdragon 4 Gen 1 SoC. The Realme C55 managed 2,57,736 points in AnTuTu along with 422 and 1,411 points in Geekbench's single and multi-core tests. In terms of graphics, performance was not good either, which explains the stuttering and lag in the UI. The phone managed 39fps in GFXBench's T-Rex test, 14fps in Manhattan 3.1, and 8.5fps in Car Chase.

Gaming performance was a bit below average. Call of Duty: Mobile was playable at Medium graphics quality and High framerate, but would lag after about 15 minutes of gameplay, which is also when the phone begian to heat up. Asphalt 9 Legends turned out to be a bit too heavy even at the lowest graphics setting (Performance), with lots of lag and stuttering. Indeed, this smartphone is better suited to simpler casual games. Its single speaker gets quite loud, but sound is also distorted at higher volumes.
My daily usage with the Realme C55 consisted of an hour of gaming, an hour or two of video streaming (on Wi-Fi), and going through various social media apps along with two email accounts syncing constantly. Despite going a bit easy, I was surprised that the phone only managed a day on a single charge. Indeed, this could be down to the low-end processor, but I expected the 5,000mAh battery to last for more than a day, which is normal for most budget smartphones today. Our standard HD video loop battery test only ran for 14 hours, 43 minutes, which falls on the lower side compared to most other smartphones at this price point. On the other hand, the 33W charger managed to charge this phone from dead to full in 1 hour, 10 minutes, which is quite good.

Realme C55 cameras
The Realme C55 has two rear-facing cameras: a 64-megapixel primary camera and a 2-megapixel depth sensor which is used for gathering depth data when using Portrait mode. Selfies are handled by an 8-megapixel front camera. The camera app interface is easy to use with all important controls available around the viewfinder. Realme claims that the 64-megapixel sensor comes from the older GT Master Edition so I was a bit excited to see its performance in such a low-cost phone. However, you do have to keep in mind that camera performance also depends on the processor, and the GT Master Edition had a superior mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G SoC.

Daylight image quality was still surprisingly impressive. Photos showed decent dynamic range and good detail. Colours tended to be a bit oversaturated and there was also a slight bluish tint in photos, but at this price point it's hard to complain. Close-ups came out sharp and clear, with low noise and good detail. However, I did notice that the camera was slow to focus indoors even during daytime, so I often had to tap to focus when shooting objects.

Selfies appeared a bit sharpened in daylight, but with decent detail and dynamic range. Edge detection in Portrait mode while using the selfie camera was average for this segment. In low light, selfies came out a bit soft and noisy no matter which mode I chose. Edge detection was not accurate either.

The camera's low-light performance in Auto mode wasn't great. It had trouble focusing in dimly lit scenes, and the resulting photos ended up a bit soft and lacking in detail. The dedicated Night mode vastly improved image quality, bringing in a lot more detail along with sharpness, and added some definition to textures. The results were impressive for this segment, but it takes 4-5 seconds to capture an image, so if you don't hold the phone steady, image quality can deteriorate drastically.

Video quality is limited to 1080p at 60fps. Recorded footage had decent detail but was low on dynamic range, and there were some clipped highlights. Videos lack stabilisation completely, so they come out quite shaky. In low light, recording at 1080p 30fps resulted in better quality with decent dynamic range, but video was still quite low on detail and had noise. Clips were quite shaky and focusing was a problem.

In 2023, several smartphone brands have started offering 5G models at the lower end of the budget segment. There's the Infinix Hot 20 5G (Review), priced starting at Rs. 11,499, and the Poco M4 5G at Rs. 11,999, to name a few. Then there are smartphones such as the iQoo Z6 Lite 5G, which costs Rs. 13,999 onwards and offers better software performance and good camera performance along with 5G connectivity.

Realme C35 Review: More Than Meets the Eye?
Realme thinks it has found a sweet spot with an interesting design (for a budget smartphone) and a decent camera which shoots good daylight photos. However, battery life isn't up to expectations for a budget smartphone, and the software is loaded to the brim with bloat. My unit lagged and stuttered throughout the review period, despite having 8GB of RAM. This makes the Realme C55 really hard to recommend. Consider it only if you need a good camera or are willing to ignore its shortcomings because of its unique design.

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