For a lot of people smartphones in the entry level segment of the market is all they need. They need a phone that works, simple as that. They might need to just make phone calls, text messages, maybe some Facebook, Messenger or Whatsapp and that’s about it. For them there really is no need to look outside of the entry level segment — there’s no point, you can get some great phones here for an amazing price.
The realme C21 promises to be just that with some decent specs including a 13MP triple camera with AI enhancements, a massive 5,000mAh battery, a decent 6.5-inch FHD display and a fingerprint sensor — and it looks great.
The polycarbonate rear of the realme C21 looks different. It has a design on it that not only has texture to it but also changes shade depending on the angle it is viewed. Aside from this the rear is a good looking, “clean” device. There is the realme branding, a speaker grill, the camera module and a fingerprint sensor — an attractive device.
The front of the device houses a display that provides for an immersive experience and although the bezels aren’t as small as those on a more expensive device they are still a lot smaller than previous generations, especially those in the entry-level segment of the market.
Ever looked back at photos taken ten or more years ago and wondered what the hell was going on? Smartphone photography at all price points has come a long way in ten years and the results that come from a sub-$200 smartphone such as the realme C21 demonstrate this perfectly. The realme C21 does sport a triple rear camera setup but it is just a 13MP primary camera with a 2MP macro lens and a 2MP depth camera.
As you can see below the images produced are good but if you zoom in they obviously don’t have quite the resolution now detail that higher end phones should have. The colour reproduction is a bit aggressive but with many people preferring this “enhance” colour look many will like it.
For a phone that costs less than $200 though the C21 produces decent imaging and if you bought this phone wanting to take photos of the kids/grandkids etc you will still be able to get some great shots.
If you buy a sub-$200 phone expecting high end hardware expect to be disappointed, extremely disappointed. For a phone this cheap though it does not need an over abundance of specs to run as expected. People who want a phone like this usually don’t mind if the phone takes that split second longer to load an app, switch views etc.
I’m not going to list the specs of the CPU and memory because they just don’t matter. They won’t impress and instead of thinking what is in it we should be thinking how it runs. It runs how you would expect a $199 phone to run — slowly but chugs along. It isn’t anywhere near something in the premium range and a long way behind many mid-range devices but it responds relatively quickly to interactions with the OS.
The apps take longer than normal to open but they open fine. The apps switch slowly to different windows but they switch. It just doesn’t have that snappiness but it works fine, consistently chugging through its tasks.
The display itself is a 6.5-inch LCD display with a FHD resolution and is once again what you would expect from a cheap phone. It isn’t super bright, nor super colourful and definitely not high resolution but once again what it is is acceptable. Its colours are okay, the brightness is ok (400 nits max.) and it fills most of the front of the phone making for a screen to body ratio of 80.8%.
The battery life on this device is crazy. I was able to get a full day and a half of use out of this phone, with my usual heavy usage. This is most likely due to the lower resolution display and lower specced hardware but these things make a big difference. The 5,000mAh battery just keeps on and on. Do not expect to have any sort of fancy fast charge with this phone though with just a 10W charger included in the box — disappointingly it is a microUSB charger too.
It still supports Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n (albeit speeds were a lot slower than a different phone side by side to it), NFC, a headphone jack and even an FM radio. Some specs online for international models list the phone as not having NFC but this one definitely does — something realme have said that they will include for every single smartphone they bring to Australia.
After reviewing the $299 moto g30 last week this is a similar price but it seems the extra $99 makes a world of difference. The moto comes with a relatively clean version of Android 11 whereas the C21 comes with realme UI (Android 10) and differences in performance and experience are certainly noticeable.
The C21 seems to be bogged down by the software with the Android 11 on the g30 is a lot smoother. This is no surprise with higher specced phones running the same UI often suffering from some lag throughout the OS. realme UI has improved a lot over time (it started as a copy of OPPO’s ColorOS) but still has some way to go.
Realme have included some useful additions to Android in their Android skin — less than they do in their mid and upper end smartphones though. With these, although the phone doesn’t speed along with the snappiness of a premium device, the user experience is not terrible. I’d say there is a reason it is $199 but even at that price it still offers decent value for money with just being a tad more patient when using is all that is required. I suspect if I gave this to my parents to use they would not have any issues at all with it — some of us are just spoiled.
Who is this phone for?
Those who want a basic phone to do a bit of messaging, some surfing of the web and taking a few photos here and there. In saying that I was still able to watch Kayo and the NBA stream on it along with anything else so you could do whatever you want on this phone — just be patient as it takes an extra few seconds to open an app and a short split second longer to transition from one view/screen to another.
For someone’s parents or younger kids this is perfectly fine and does everything you could hope for. The only big issue with the phone is that it is locked to Optus — it is available from Optus and Optus resellers for $199 but you will need an Optus SIM for it to work.