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Realme UI First Impressions: Not near stock Android yet, but different from ColorOS 6

Realme UI is a step in the right direction, but it is still very much based on ColorOS and not stock Android experience.

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Realme UI, the new user interface from Realme is now out. The new interface has been released for three devices – Realme 3 Pro, Realme XT and Realme X2 Pro. I got a chance to use this so called interface with “near stock experience” on Realme X2 Pro and right off the bat, it seems like a departure from ColorOS by Oppo. Also Read - Realme XT starts receiving Realme UI based on Android 10

First things first, it is called UI (user interface) and not OS (operating system). It is important to know the difference between the two. Operating System forms the backbone of a hardware device while user interface is essentially an overlay that lives on top of an operating system. By not calling it RealmeOS, Realme has already made the smartest possible move. Also Read - Realme X2 to get Realme UI beta update based on Android 10 next month

Watch: Realme UI – New Features

Near Stock Android Experience

Realme started its smartphone journey as a sub-brand of Oppo. While its success prompted Oppo to spin off the brand as an independent entity, there were signs of Oppo left in its devices. The most noticeable of that Oppo DNA was in the software. By adopting ColorOS, Realme offered a phone that looked different from Oppo’s own devices from the outside. As soon as you turned ON the device, there was not much to tell them apart. With Realme UI, Realme is basically removing that last strand of Oppo DNA from its smartphones. Custom Android skin is not a new thing. Samsung has One UI, Huawei has EMUI, Xiaomi has MIUI while Vivo and Oppo have FuntouchOS and ColorOS respectively. Realme is joining this fray of smartphone makers to offer its own user interface. Also Read - Realme UI with Android 10-based ColorOS 7 is official; Here is everything that we know

When the company first announced plans for its own UI, it said that it will stick closer to stock Android experience. After using Realme UI version 1.0, I don’t think it is offering stock Android experience on Realme X2 Pro. In fact, the user interface and key elements of the UI still remain identical to that of ColorOS. There are some changes to interface design, icons and typography, it is nowhere close to what stock Android offers. Realme is essentially borrowing some elements from stock Android like Digital Wellbeing, app drawer, etc. I am not sure if this qualifies to be called as “near stock Android experience” but it is definitely a sign in the right direction. With Google not launching its Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL in India, there is a genuine void left for flagship with stock Android experience. I thought Realme X2 Pro will fill that void with Realme UI but in its current state, it does not.

Quick Settings and Notification Panel

If you are a Realme user upgrading from ColorOS 6 to Realme UI then you will immediately notice this difference. Gone are the rectangular quick settings icon and Realme UI brings circular icons with flat layout. This minimal interface is not only nice to look at but also very much responsive. Realme says the interface is still in beta but I haven’t noticed any signs of lag or unresponsiveness just yet. The notification panel also seems to borrow design cues from Samsung’s One UI.

There is a huge display for time at the top and below it is the weather update. Even on a device like the Realme X2 Pro, the quick settings panel is easier to reach. Realme UI seems to be addressing reachability head-on with this new update. Since Realme UI is built on top of Android 10, you get all the benefits like smart reply directly from the notification panel. If Realme set out to make a minimal interface, it seems to have achieved that.

Camera UI

Realme phones come equipped with either 48-megapixel or 64-megapixel quad rear camera setup. It is natural that the camera UI becomes one of the most important. With Realme UI, Realme is revamping it with a design closer to that of stock camera. You have all the important settings just a tap away. On Realme X2 Pro running ColorOS 6, if you had to access the 64-megapixel camera mode then you will have to slide to the right, tap on the hamburger icon and then click on the option.

With Realme UI, the 64-megapixel camera mode is placed right next to portrait mode of the main user interface. It might seem like a small interface change but if you are someone who constantly switches between full resolution and pixel binned resolution, then you will appreciate this small change. There is also an additional option called More, from where you can access features like time-lapse, ultra macro, slow-motion and others.

Lockscreen, Wallpapers and Icons

This is one of the most talked about element of Realme UI and honestly, I don’t think it varies much from ColorOS. In fact, some of the features are still closely designed around ColorOS 7. Realme is bringing new wallpapers which are not available on ColorOS 6. It has also added some customization options for icon style, which is something you will relate to, if you use Nova launcher. However, you can download an icon pack from Play Store and use it. There is a dedicated theme store with icon packs listed for Rs 80 but I’m not sure if they are worth the investment.

Realme has done a clever thing with its screen-off display feature. While it was initially meant to act as an always-on display feature, Realme UI adds new customization. You now have an option to select the clock style displayed in ambient display. There are options to choose from digital and analogue style clock. These come with bright fonts and are creative in nature. I am trying to figure out how much battery these new clock styles burn but for now, it is a very smart addition.

Smart Sidebar and Multitasking

Smart Sidebar has been one of the nicest implementations of ColorOS and Realme UI is tweaking it further. It now integrates apps and quick commands in a single column. You can add your favorite apps to smart sidebar and it makes easier to multitask as well. Talking about multitasking, there is a new feature called floating calculator. This is not exclusive to Realme UI and can also found on ColorOS 7. This allows you to use calculator in the form of PiP mode. You can change the transparency, allowing the calculator to fade away when not in use. User interface is all about tiny things that add value to over user experience. This is a very good proof that.

Three Finger Screenshot

It is still a pain to take screenshot on Windows 10. On Android, not very much. In fact, Android smartphone makers have added smarter options like knuckle screenshot on Huawei’s EMUI and Three Finger Screenshot on ColorOS. Realme UI is taking Three Finger Screenshot that we know and is enhancing it further. You can now take partial screenshot by holding onto a section with your three fingers. There is a haptic feedback that tells you when you enter screenshot mode. After that, you simply drag your finger to take screenshot. Once the screenshot is captured, the sharing menu has also been tweaked to match stock Android 10 experience.

Native Dark Mode, Focus Mode

Since we are talking Android 10, there is native dark mode.It can be activated directly from the quick settings panel. It is proper dark mode and not some shade of grey. You can enable it directly or set it from sunset to sunrise. There is also an option to schedule dark mode to go live at a predefined time. Similarly, Android 10 also brings Digital Wellbeing tools like screen time and focus mode. Focus Mode is new which allows you to pause distracting apps when you need time to focus. You can set a schedule or select distracting apps.

Personal Information Protection and Cloud Storage

There is also ‘Personal Information Protection’ which is meant to block apps from accessing personal information. It says when enabled, the system will provide empty information to avoid real information leakage. This sounds like a great feature to block pesky apps from stealing your information. It also claims to encrypt your call history, contacts and messages. Realme has also added Cloud backup option in the form of HeyTap Cloud but you know, most of us would be using Google Drive anyway.

Realme UI: Initial Impressions

While Realme promised to offer near stock Android experience, this first version of Realme UI is far from stock. In fact, this seems more closer to ColorOS 7 than it is to stock Android. In some ways, it’s not a bad thing. For starters, you get Android 10 and thus all the advantages that comes with it. Secondly, Realme has tweaked the interface to give better user experience. In my personal case, I find this UI more soothing than the previous interface. For example, the option to enable or disable gesture guide bar is a nice touch. The fact that Realme added a search bar to the home screen shows that the company is serious about getting closer to stock Android experience. Most of this visual interface can be replicated with third party launchers but a clean, native interface sounds pleasant. In social media parlance, Realme seems to have unfriended Oppo but it is still not done with the friendship.

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  • Published Date: January 20, 2020 7:15 PM IST
  • Updated Date: January 21, 2020 11:38 AM IST

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