Realme Watch review: An unpolished experience

Patrick

Now that both Xiaomi and Realme have cornered the affordable fitness tracker market, a smartwatch is the next logical progression. Enter the Realme Watch, the company’s first attempt at a large-screen smartwatch at an affordable price point.

The Realme Watch isn’t a full-blown Wear OS smartwatch; instead, it is positioned as a step up from an entry-level fitness tracker. Does it cut the mustard or is it another dud like the Realme Band? Let’s find out in the Android Authority Realme Watch review.

About this Realme Watch review: I wrote this Realme Watch review after spending a week with it. The initial unit supplied by Realme had major issues with connectivity and activity tracking. The company sent a replacement for the sake of testing and the observations below reflect my time with both units.

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Design: Yet another Apple Watch clone

Realme Watch front profile shot

Credit: Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

I won’t say much about it, but the design is highly inspired by the Apple Watch. Apple’s hardware essentially set the standard for what a smartwatch should deliver, and it isn’t surprising to see the copycat design in the affordable, aspirational-buy category. The design is familiar, identifiable and makes it an easy sell to an audience that wants something similar to a premium product without spending top dollar.

Realme Watch front display

Credit: Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The Realme Watch employs a 1.4-inch display set in a black plastic frame. Compared to the OLED displays of some fitness trackers in the category, the Realme screen errs on the dull side. Indoors, viewing angles hold up, but peak brightness is far too low to compensate for bright sunlight. Add to that the glossy, reflective shell and you’ll struggle to see the display outdoors. Moreover, the Realme Watch does not support automatic brightness control, though that’s to be expected at this price point.

Realme Watch side button

Credit: Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The only button, which doubles as a power switch and acts as a back key for user interface navigation, is on the right side of the watch.

Realme Watch rear pogo pins

Credit: Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The heart rate and SpO2 sensors are on the bottom, as are the pogo pins for the magnetic charging dock.

I can overlook the copious use of plastics in the Realme Watch for the price it commands, but the company definitely skimped on the strap materials. After just a few days, the silicon strap started attracting sweat marks. I don’t expect it to last beyond a few months.

The quality of the included straps is mediocre, but the lightweight design of the watch stands out.

What I do like about the Realme Watch is its weight, or the lack thereof. I found it comfortable to wear both during the day and at night, which is relevant if sleep tracking functions are important to you. Weighing a mere 31g, the Realme Watch packs a 160mAh battery that is rated to last up to seven days with heart rate tracking. My testing showed that to be right in line. With heart rate monitoring set to 24 hours, the battery dropped to about 30% over five days.

Is the Realme Watch a good smartwatch?

Realme Watch onboard applications

Credit: Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The Realme Watch isn’t a smartwatch in the traditional sense. It runs a custom operating system and beyond the baked-in features, there is no provision to add additional apps. In fact, the watch won’t even let you reply to notifications. This is exactly the same as with the Realme Band.

The highlight feature is the workout app with a provision to track fourteen different kinds of activities. Elsewhere, you’ll find dedicated apps to take SpO2 and heart rate readings, as well as to track previous activities and sleep data. The major value adds are apps to control music playback on your phone, another to work as a remote shutter button for your phone’s camera. Finally, an alarm, stopwatch, and weather app round things off.

Like the Realme Band, the Realme Watch has connectivity issues. This was particularly bad with the first unit sent over by Realme India. The replacement unit was better but still somewhat inconsistent with notifications. I had to go back to the app ever so often to ensure that the pair were connected. This is among the most basic functions for a smart wearable and it’s a shame that the Realme Watch isn’t able to deliver a solid experience here.

Connectivity on the Realme Watch is inconsistent, and the inability to respond to notifications is disappointing.

The default watch face includes a weather widget at the top. While my first unit refused to show the weather altogether, this was fixed on the second unit and proved to be a lot more reliable.

The Realme Watch lets you control music playback on your phone and also acts as a remote shutter. Both features worked as advertised.

The overall feature set is rudimentary, as is often the case with entry-level wearables.

Is the Realme Watch a good fitness tracker?

Realme Watch wrist shot

Credit: Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Fitness tracking isn’t an exact science, and the Realme Watch proves it. The watch had a tendency to under-count steps. Given the current pandemic situation, most of my activity has been confined to walking about the house. Doing a side-by-side with my Fitbit, the watch was off by 10 steps over a 100 step period. That’s understandable given the budget price point of the Realme Watch.

The fitness-tracking functions of the Realme Watch were lackluster at best and often simply didn’t work.

It’s worth mentioning again, on my initial unit, activity tracking was completely broken and it didn’t track any distance. On the fresh unit, things were marginally better but there were still major issues.

For outdoor workouts, the Realme Watch comes equipped with connected GPS. The well-received Mi Band 4 includes the feature as well.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work as advertised. With the local trail shuttered, my only recourse was to take the watch for a walk around the block. Despite having a solid GPS-lock, the watch simply dropped off GPS tracking a few meters in. Additionally, the distance tracked was completely wrong.

While I managed to clock about 2,395 steps over a quick walk, the distance recorded was a mere 0.05 meters which was obviously incorrect.

The heart-rate monitor stayed on during the course of a workout, but the app presents no way to see granular information other than zone-based data. The break-up shows a clear demarcation between warm-ups, fat burn, aerobic, and anaerobic heart rate zones, but there is no way to see what your heart rate was in those zones.

Another advertised feature is the ability to track blood oxygen levels (SpO2). The only way to capture this data is to trigger it manually. I do not have the means necessary to measure the efficacy of the data and, given the rest of the hardware’s performance, I wouldn’t take the results at face value.

The SpO2 meter cannot be configured to automatically record or to record on a schedule, which basically makes the feature useless. I wouldn’t buy the Realme Watch if that’s a major buying criterion.

The only aspect of the Realme Watch that seems to be reasonably functional is sleep tracking. It accurately captured my sleep schedule and presented a zone-based graph of how well I slept. The graph more or less matched up with what I measured alongside on my Fitbit Ionic.

Should I buy the Realme Watch?

No. The Realme Watch barely qualifies as a smartwatch and doesn’t do a reliable job at basic fitness tracking tasks. If you like the idea of a large-screen, affordable wearable to view notifications, this might cut it for that reason alone. That said, I would highly recommend looking elsewhere or for the next iteration.

The Mi Band 4 comes across as a quality alternative to the Realme Watch. Sure, it doesn’t have a big screen like the Realme Watch, but it makes up for it with a feature layout that does what it promises and that’s worth a lot more than a larger display. The Fitbit Versa 2 is a solid option that can be found regularly on sale, too.

Realme has the bones of an affordable smartwatch in place with the Realme Watch, but it could do with a lot more polish before it is ready to make a dent in the budget segment.

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