When it comes to the Android-iOS war, there really isn’t any benefit in knuckling down in one particular camp for life. Smartphones from both platforms have their respective strengths and weaknesses.
Apple’s Dynamic Island has its fair share of fans and detractors, but this has not stopped Realme from being the first to offer a “Mini Capsule” feature that is pretty much the Android equivalent. But does a budget smartphone with an iPhone feature have a happy ending?
At first glance, you might be forgiven for assuming the Realme C55 to be a premium handset. The back panel sports a gradient that does not cross into tacky territory, reflecting ever-changing hues from the surrounding light.
Flip it over to the left and you will see the subtle Realme branding, accompanied by a dual-SIM tray that also houses a microSD memory card slot.
The camera module could do with less flash, though: the glossy segment that houses the 64 MP primary camera, 2 MP depth lens, and LED flash is rather overstated, with the words “64 MP AI Camera” printed to make sure users and admirers are aware of the overall megapixel count.
Overall, the chassis behind is not your typical fingerprint magnet, although the glossy camera segment is the exact opposite.
The right side of the handset houses the power button with an integrated fingerprint sensor, as well as the volume buttons. At the bottom lies the long-forgotten 3.5mm jack, a USB-C charging port, and mono speaker.
The Realme C55 tips the scales at approximately 189g with a thickness of 7.89mm, making this the thinnest smartphone from the company to date.
While light, the relatively large size makes it difficult to hold with just one hand, so those with small hands might want to consider investing in a decent protective case if the included cover does not suit your taste.
Turning the handset over to the front, you get a massive 6.72-inch (17cm) display with a punch-hole notch to go with the slim bezels.
The IPS LCD display features 1080 x 2400 resolution and comes with a 90Hz refresh rate, making it the first C-series model to do so. While this is better than the vanilla 60Hz refresh rate in entry-level smartphones, some of us might have wanted a 120Hz panel instead.
However, 90Hz is smooth enough for everyday use. Since it is an LCD screen, there is no Always-On Display option here.
Armed with 680 nits of brightness, the C55 can be used outdoors, although colours tend to look a little washed out under the blazing Malaysian sun. Indoors, the C55 has no trouble delivering a viewing performance that will bring a smile to your face, from video streaming to web browsing and gaming purposes.
The Mini Capsule that simulates Apple’s Dynamic Island is the unique selling point of the C55. Without the need to install third-party apps, it displays notifications and relevant information including the charging status, low battery alert, data usage, and even the number of steps you’ve taken throughout the entire day.
Do note that certain features will be enabled via future software updates. It is more of a novelty than a requirement at this point, adding an interesting touch to the overall user experience. That said, you can disable it if you find it to be more distracting than useful.
Under the hood lies the MediaTek Helio G88 chipset that is more than capable of handling everyday tasks without slowing down. Of course, this is not a gaming smartphone or flagship device, so do not expect it to blow benchmark results out of the water.
Having multiple apps running in the background does not bog down the C55 in any way, making this a decent multitasker within reasonable bounds.
You get two configurations: 6GB RAM and 128GB of internal storage, or 8GB RAM and double the storage space. The amount of RAM can be virtually expanded by another 8GB.
Technically speaking, since the smartphone is limited by its processor’s capabilities, you will not need the additional virtual RAM. Still, it is nice to know that you can rely on such additional firepower when required.
There is no 5G connectivity, and wireless connectivity options are confined to Bluetooth 5.2 and Wi-Fi.
The C55 runs on the Realme UI 4 skin that is based on Android 13 right out of the box. Since it is not a flagship device, one can expect it to come with two major Android updates (up to Android 15) and three years of software patches.
This could be improved compared with other brands but, nevertheless, it is par for the course for a smartphone that falls in this price range.
Among the two cameras on the C55, you would probably only use the primary 64 MP shooter all the time. The 2 MP depth sensor does not do much, if anything at all.
It is nice to see how smartphone camera technology has progressed to such a degree that outdoor shots with enough lighting look great even on an entry-level device like this.
It is virtually impossible to find a telephoto lens on a smartphone in this class, so zoom is done digitally from 1x, 2x, 5x, all the way to 10x. Image quality obviously drops the farther you zoom in; it would be better to capture a full-sized photo and crop it later on.
Low-light performance of the C55’s cameras is nothing to write home about. You get a considerable amount of noise, which is within the bounds of entry-level smartphones. An 8 MP shooter lies in front that captures average selfie images, making them good enough for your social media posts.
Using the rear lens, you can record Full HD video up to 60fps, while the selfie camera records Full HD videos at half the frame rate. Content creators on an extremely tight budget would do well to rely on the rear camera for video-recording purposes.
If there is one thing going for budget smartphones these days, it would be battery life. A 5,000 mAh battery powers the C55, making it last for more than a day without breaking a sweat. Of course, usage context comes into play here: if you were to play games on it all day long, it would be drained before sundown.
For those who wish to spend approximately an hour of navigation, social media and instant messaging, stream an episode or two of your favourite Netflix series, and surf the web for a couple of hours daily, it should easily have enough reserves to enter the next day.
Regardless, the C55 features a 33W SuperVOOC charge that Realme claims is able to go from empty to 50% in just 29 minutes.
Fast charging has become the norm, and you usually do not need more than an hour for a full charge. This makes it easier to use the C55 with wanton abandon all day long.
The bottom line
The Realme C55 bucks the trend of cheap-looking handsets in the entry-level market, sporting a relatively premium exterior with a gimmicky Mini Capsule feature that helps it stand out.
The camera’s performance is mediocre at best, but asking for more is unrealistic for this price range.
Assuming you only need a basic handset to stay in touch via phone calls and instant messaging, it gets the job done, though the lack of 5G connectivity might persuade you to look elsewhere.
With the 6GB and 8GB RAM models priced at RM699 and RM799, respectively, the Realme C55 is worth checking out to fulfill your basic smartphone needs.
Edwin Kee dreamt of being a pro-gamer only to have circumstances mould him into a programmer in a past life. He has since moved on to write about consumer electronics and other topics.