realme C17 S$299 (US$225) Smartphone – An Honest Review

Smartphone prices vary a great deal. As of today, it ranges from S$2,888 (US$2,200) for a Samsung Fold2 to Xiaomi Redmi 9A that costs only S$139 (US$100).

A S$299 phone is not exactly a cheap entry level phone. But on paper, it is a pretty decent phone compared to the phones of a similar price point. The full spec is here.

My last phone was an old Samsung Note 8. It broke and the new models are due to be out soon. So I need a phone as a stop-gap measure. Or if it is any good, I could use it for a longer-term. How do I like this realme C17? Read on to find out!

A Chinese made smartphone that on paper is value for money and with good features – realme C17

What I Like

  • High-quality form factor. It doesn’t feel cheap. The box comes with a phone case as well as a screen protector as well that fits very nicely with the phone.
  • 6.5″ screen with a decent screen-to-body ratio (90%).
  • realme UI. I like it a lot, having used Google’s latest UI and Samsung’s. realme UI has a sidebar like Samsung’s, split-screen, etc., and it is easy to organize homepages. Calculator for example floats on top of the app so that you can work out the number without toggling between apps. The OS also comes with tons of features including interesting ones like setting a time to auto power on and/or off the phone.
  • Decent processing power and screen refresh rate. This phone is responsive.
  • Decent battery life with a 5,000mAh battery.
  • Good fingerprint sensor. My fingerprints are kind of faint. It works on a Google Nexus phone and an Apple phone. But it doesn’t work on a Samsung phone or, say, a ThinkPad laptop. It is so good to have a phone that can be unlocked using fingerprint (no more manual bank app log in!).
  • Face biometric. While I am not entirely sure how secured this feature is, the moment I lift up the phone, the screen wakes up and after recognizing my face, the phone is unlocked. It is fast and doesn’t have to position in a certain way. It works from different angles. It even works when I wear a cap (took me two attempts) and a headset with a mic that blocks part of my face. Almost too good to be true.

What Could Be A Deal Breaker For You

Again, read the following in the context that my previous phone is an old Samsung Note 8, which back in its time was a premium product. If you can’t live with some of these observations, you may consider spending a bit more and get a mid-range smartphone instead.

  • There is no notification light. My old Samsung would have a blinking light telling me that there are unread notifications. This would not be terrible but …
  • There is no always-on display either. When the phone is on standby mode, the screen is all black. I.e. no time and date and no notification summary. I end up checking the phone often for potentially missed notifications. There are apps to help. But they are not the same.
  • There is no NFC – near field communication. This means this phone cannot be used for contactless payment. These days, I have to take out my credit card every time I make credit card payments or board public transport.
  • Screen quality is very so-so. It lacks vibrancy. The color seems off.
  • The 13MP quad-camera (4!) is very so-so. The daytime landscape photos lack sharpness and color vibrancy. Nearby subjects are okay. Nighttime photos are too grainy. Ultra macro does work and need only 4cm away from the lens.
  • The 8MP front camera is also very so-so. I tried to use it to take selfie videos. It is substantially worse than my 3-year old Samsung phone.
  • Wireless BlueTooth is not usable. I have tried two different headsets. The conclusion is that the mic keeps on breaking especially when the phone is on Wi-Fi (feedback from those who receive my calls). The music also breaks way more often than my old phone (granted, in crowded places, BlueTooth connectivity can be affected) especially when on Wi-Fi. I have to switch back to a wired headset.
  • There is no way to hide your security pattern while unlocking the phone. People around you can easily see your security pattern. I have switched back to numeric unlock.
  • UI doesn’t work well with apps like Spotify. When playing music through Spotify, the screen wakes up very often and randomly. After some research, this seems like a common issue for realme phones. I have to block Spotify notification, which is a shame. Because it is good to be able to see the widget and control the player without having to unlock the phone and find the app.
  • Audio recording is poor. I am a music creator. While I don’t expect a smartphone to be a high-end audio recording device, the audio recording quality of this phone is way below par. It has got to do with the mic volume being too high and/or a lag of clarity.

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