Realme is fast transforming into a lifestyle brand. The company, which launched its first smartphone only in May 2015, has expanded its product portfolio in a big way. The latest addition to this product lineup is a fitness tracker called Realme Band. With the wearable, Realme is expanding into an area dominated by the likes of Xiaomi and Honor. It is a new product category where Realme is trying its hand for the first time. Every time, you use the Realme Band that one thing becomes really clear. However, the company is expanding at an opportune moment.
According to IDC, the Indian wearables market registered year-on-year growth of 168.3 percent during Q4, 2019. The country saw 14.9 million units being shipped and wrist bands were one of the popular categories. In fact, Xiaomi was the most popular brand in this segment with a market share of 48.9 percent. Realme has built its business by following in the footsteps of Xiaomi. With Xiaomi seeing healthy growth in the wristbands market, Realme is following suit. There are a number of questions about this device. The most important being whether it suffers from any issues seen with the first generation device and secondly, where you should buy this. We answer that and more in this review.
Design and Display
The biggest talking point about Realme Band is its design, which is modern and contemporary at the same time. The fitness tracker relies on a two part design with comfort level thrown in for a good mix. The first part is the core, which can also be described as the heart of this device. The second part is the loop, which makes sure that the heart meets the vessel, which is your wrist. If you look at the Realme Band, it does not come across as first-gen product.
In fact, I showed it to people who wear Mi Band 4 and Honor Band 5 and they were mostly surprised by this design. This is another testament to how rapidly a new brand can evolve in this competitive market. The first thing most people noticed is the core, which is the central nervous system. It houses the display and all the sensors and battery to make this wearable work. This shell is made from a mixture of polycarbonate and ABS plastic. The fusion of these two materials is so good that it ends up looking premium.
The core is joined to a loop-style wristband, which is made from thermoplastic polyurethane. This wristband is 16mm in width and the length is adjustable from 152mm to 227mm. The core remains the same and there are three straps colors to choose – black, green and yellow. We got a chance to see both yellow and black color units. Honestly, I think the green looks the best of the pack even though I haven’t seen it in person. The black one is too understated while the yellow one becomes an uncanny expression of Realme.
If you are a Realme fan, you should choose the yellow but most other people should go with green or black color. That display is 0.96-inches 16-bit TFT-LCD with a resolution of 160×80 pixels. It is fine, but it could have been brighter. For instance, while shooting product pictures, our video person complained that the display is too dim to take decent pictures. That’s my personal impression of the display as well. It is not bad at all, but it falls far short of market expectations.
The display on the Realme Band is not the finest, but it is not flawed either. It gently sits behind your carpal bones and has USB on one end for direct charging. Another thing that some users might find difficult is that the display is not full touch. You rely on a capacitive button to navigate. It works really well but is also extremely cumbersome. For example, to see your workout, you need to long press the button and wait for details. It sounds stone age in this new decade. Also the watch face options are limited to five, and they are mostly inspired by rivals.
Cricket to the rescue
Technology can be both beneficial and harmful at the same time. While technology has made it easier to connect with people, it has also made us lazy. In a way to keep ourselves fit, we have now come to rely on these fitness devices. If your primary idea of buying a fitness tracker is to track steps then you should not get one in the first place. The best way to track steps is by using your smartphone. They won’t be completely accurate, but they still serve that purpose really well. However, a fitness tracker can do more good for users.
For beginners, it can replace your wristwatch and show time whenever you raise your wrist. On Realme Band, this raise to wake feature was slower than other fitness trackers. It took anywhere between one and two seconds for the screen to light up and show the time. As someone who has used more expensive wearables, that split second difference is both noticeable and a deal breaker. The fitness tracker can also track steps better than your smartphone, but the budget wearables have never been very good at this task.
The best thing about Realme Band is that it does not count moving in a car or auto rickshaw as additional steps. This was an issue on first generation Mi Band but not on first generation Realme Band. So four years of advancement in sensor design has helped Realme make a better fitness tracker. Apart from that, it can also track your run. It shows your average pace, calories burned, average heart rate, maximum heart rate and duration. Realme is doing things a bit differently here. Instead of adding swimming, treadmill as an option, it is adding cricket.
Only Bollywood and Cricket can bring this nation together. After roping in Bollywood actor Salman Khan as brand ambassador, Realme has added cricket mode to its fitness tracker. I could not test, but it is promised to track your experience during the game. An ambitious inclusion from the company led by Madhav Sheth. It is followed by features like Yoga and Run. However, the feature you will use the most is heart-rate monitoring, which can track your heart rate during the day. It also measures sleep, which I found to be nearly accurate. The sleep data is broken down into light sleep and deep sleep and translated into percentage.
Realme is not trying to offer any advice on these parameters. It seems like merely a device to track your activities. This is a low bar to match and Realme has done decent work in this area. It also includes a timely reminder for you to drink water and alert for sitting idle. I would have also loved to see features like spO2 measurement and swim tracking offered as part of the initial update. The band and the device are very well integrated but the suite of fitness features are looking at this moment.
Software and Tracking
Realme Band connects to Android or iOS devices via Bluetooth and Realme Link app. The app looks more like a hack put together for this device instead of a full-fledged application. It starts by asking for your region and then registering you with a valid mobile number. Once the account is created, you can click on the add link option to pair your Realme Band. As soon as the device is detected, you can click to connect and synchronize the data. This is slow and does not take more than 10 minutes.
Once connected, the app shows connection status, step count, sleep time, heart-rate, and sport record. You can tap on the band icon to explore granular settings. Here you will see options to enable alerts, reminder to drink water, your goal, heart rate measurement and others. The app is also your only way to change watch faces. The app looks straightforward right now but it could gain new features as Realme launches new IoT devices.
Verdict: Should you buy?
Realme Band costs Rs 1,499, and it competes with Xiaomi Mi Band 3 and Honor Band 5i. The first fitness tracker from Realme is a very good attempt at building a truly personal lifestyle product. However, it is only better than the Mi Band 3. It is not better than the Honor Band 5i. The fitness tracker from Honor offers a better display, accurate step and sleep tracking and does spO2 measurement as well.
I don’t like the display on the Realme Band, which should have been a bit more brighter. The single point capacitive button to control the device is also not very convincing. I like the design and battery life, which is between five and seven days after two charges. If you are a Realme smartphone user then you should probably consider buying it. For others, I would recommend waiting for a price drop. Realme is moving too fast and I won’t be surprised if Realme Band 2 comes out in a couple of months.