Here’s what Realme needs to fix on the next Realme Band
Realme changed the Indian smartphone landscape when it entered the market back in May 2018 with the Realme 1. Before Realme’s entry, Xiaomi reigned supreme, arguably being the only true option for value chasers. Realme turned up the heat, and both the companies have since been at each other’s throat in practically all product categories. This competition is largely positive for the end-users, who stand to benefit from more choices and better value. Much like Xiaomi, Realme also intends to expand beyond just smartphones. After dabbling in segments like power banks and Truly Wireless Earphones, Realme launched the Realme Band last month in India. This Band marked the company’s entry into the fitness tracker segment in India, a segment that Xiaomi has been dominating ever since the launch of the Mi Band in 2015.
The Realme Band is the first and the latest fitness tracker from Realme. Casual observers may think that the fitness tracker would compete against the latest Mi Band 4 or the Redmi Band, but Realme has decided to play it differently. The Realme Band is priced at ₹1,499 as against the ₹2,299 price tag of the Mi Band 4 — this may make it seem like the Realme Band severely undercuts the Mi Band 4 in price, but that’s not actually the case. The Realme Band actually competes against the Mi Band 3, which is priced at ₹1,599, and there is greater similarity across these two products. Since Xiaomi continues to sell the Mi Band 3, Mi Band 3i, and Mi Band 4 in India, Realme is not particularly attempting to upheave the fitness tracker market. Instead, Realme is using the Band as the perfect opportunity to lay the groundwork for its fitness ecosystem and get the basics right.
Does the Realme Band get the basics right?
We’ve been using the Realme Band for a month now and we have some thoughts on that question. This Band was loaned to us by Realme for a review.
To preface this feedback, I have used a few fitness trackers over the years. I have owned and used the Mi Band 2, Mi Band 3, Mi Band 4, and I have also used smartwatches like the Amazfit GTR, Amazfit GTS, and the Amazfit Stratos 3. While I am not a fitness enthusiast in any way, there is a good baseline in place to gauge what qualifies as the “basics” for a fitness tracker/smartwatch product.
The Realme Band has a fair few positives, but a few glaring negatives. The negatives, unfortunately, reside at the heart of the core experience of being a wrist accessory, and thus, have an overwhelming weight attached to them. This essentially wipes out any advantages that the positives bring along.
LCD Display – Low Brightness
The highlight feature of the Realme Band is the 0.96-inch LCD non-touch color display. The display occupies front space on the Band, as it should, but it has one harsh flaw — its brightness levels. The Realme Band’s color display sounds nice on the spec sheet, but it fails to make a successful transition to your wrist. The Band’s display has poor brightness and outdoor visibility, even at peak brightness. When you are indoors under moderate-to-strong-lighting, the display appears to be very dim and you do have to make an effort to see what is being displayed — which disqualifies it from being an effortless piece of tech on your wrist that can immediately tell you the time. When you are outdoors, the difficulty increases. Under moderate-to-strong sunlight, the Band is practically unusable.
This is a big negative, as it poses a handicap to one of the core purposes of a fitness tracker and wrist accessory. If you go out for a run, you will be unable to see what is on your screen, whether it be tracking data, heart rate, notifications, or alarms — unless you decide to go running before the sun rises or after it sets. I wish I was exaggerating, but the issue is severe enough that we couldn’t get any product shots outdoors where the display is decently visible along with the surroundings.
The only moments when the Band is decently visible is under darker conditions, which greatly narrows down the practical usability of the product.
You have to rely on your smartphone to view most of the information that the Band captures. If you have to do this so frequently, it brings up the argument that Realme could have opted to not ship a display at all, much like how the original Mi Band did not have a display. This would have let them lower the price down by a decent margin, without practically impairing the current condition of their product.
This is my biggest gripe with the product, one that I consider as part of the core experience of being a good display-bearing fitness tracker. Not having a good display forces the user to either wear another wrist accessory or pull out their smartphone frequently — and neither should be the aim. The critique may seem harsh, but it is what it is. Unfortunately, this also appears to be a hardware issue, and there may not be a fix for it other than a hardware revision.
Raise to wake – Delayed Interaction
Raise-to-wake is a feature that allows devices to be in a low-power sleeping state but continue to track movement in this state. When the device ascertains that the user has moved the device with a possible intention of interacting with it, the device “wakes up” and the display lights up pre-emptively, awaiting some input from the user or displaying output to the user. This cuts down on the steps required to intentionally wake the device, and so, streamlines the user interaction and experience.
Raise-to-wake as a feature has been around for a while, so we were really surprised that Realme got it wrong on the Realme Band. This feature forms the second leg of the frustrating experience of using the Realme Band.
When you have the Band on your wrist and a notification arrives, the Band vibrates. If you instinctively and immediately lift your wrist to view the notification, the Realme Band will….do nothing. Despite raise-to-wake being activated in the Realme Link app, the Realme Band is frustratingly slow to react. It takes a good 2-3 seconds for the Band to light up after vibrating. Within this time lag, you are just staring at a display and trying to figure out if the display has lit up.
The problem is compounded outdoors, thanks to the low brightness issue mentioned earlier.
Under sunlight, it becomes very difficult to figure out when the Band has actually lit up. I caught myself bringing up my wrist very close to my eyes to squint and figure out if the display is on — which is far from the ideal experience.
The lag appears to be in place for all notifications and vibrations, irrespective of where they originate from. Even Water reminders and Sedentary reminders, which originate from the Band and not the smartphone, have a time lag between the vibration and the device reaction.
This appears to be a mix of software and hardware issues. We’re hopeful that the time lag will be minimized through future firmware updates, perhaps by further increasing the sensitivity of the Band/lowering the threshold needed to register a “raise.” The other half of the problem appears to be the processing hardware, as the issue is also for Band-originated reminders — indicating that there is some friction between the processor and the display hardware. Whatever be the case, not having an immediate response ready for a device-initiated call-to-action (vibration) breaks the core experience.
These are two of the major negatives on the Band, and they bring upon enough frustration for users to not keep the Band on their wrist. There are a few more smaller negatives, as well as a fair few positives, which we have attempted to summarize as below:
We know that Realme is working on a smartwatch, and we hope they keep all of these in mind for their upcoming product.