Most smartphone brands present in India are vying for the budget to affordable segment in the country’s handset market. Previously, ever since Xiaomi started its Redmi Note series, the market for sub Rs 10,000 phones had been seeing a boom in competing devices, all of whom try to outdo the other in terms of value for money. However, consumer sentiment has now moved in favour of smartphones in the Rs 10k to 20k bracket, with this segment seeing the most action in the last couple of years or so. Most of the compelling smartphone options in recent times have been positioned in this bracket, including the latest from the likes of Realme and Redmi. The Redmi Note 9 series starts at Rs 11,999 and goes all the way to Rs 19,999, while the Realme 6 (review) series begins at Rs 14,999 and goes up to Rs 19,999. This has opened up space for more budget offerings to take centre stage. Enter the Realme C series.
Ever since the Realme C1 (review), it has been clear that the company wants to keep C series as the most affordable offering in its portfolio of products. The latest from the smartphone maker’s stable called the Realme C12 tries very hard to strike a balance between low cost and more features. It comes on the footsteps of the Realme C11 (review) launched just last month. Priced at Rs 8,999 onwards, is the Realme C12 a real upgrade over the C11? Read on to find out in this review.
The biggest drawback for the Realme C12, like it was for the C11, is sub-par performance. The Redmi 9 Prime, while costing slightly more, performs much better and also offers a more versatile quad-camera setup. The saving grace for the C12 is its humongous battery and a set of decent cameras.
Design and display
Realme has kept the design of the C12 basic and suited to the needs of the target audience. The materials used match the cost of the device and in my mind, there can be no complaints at its price point. Consequently, we get a unibody plastic design but with a kind of textured matte finish seen on previous C series phones. Two diagonal lines separate the back of the phone in three gradient finishes of blue, all of which shine differently when light is thrown at it. Realme is calling it the Geometric Gradient design. There are two colour options, Power Blue and Power Black of which I was given the former for review purposes. There is no case but the plastic does not get scratched as easily as some of Samsung’s pricier Galaxy M series phones. The device is slightly on the heavier side thanks to a mammoth 6,000mAh battery inside.
The triple camera housing on the back is in a square-shaped module, with the lenses and flash arranged almost the same as the C11. There is also a physical fingerprint sensor (which was absent on the C11), on the back of the device placed slightly higher than I would’ve wanted, with the Realme branding near the bottom. The back panel doesn’t curve much at the edges, but the thick and girthy design of the phone does give a firm grip while using the phone with one hand. As for ports, the phone features the standard C series lineup of a 3.5mm headphone jack, micro-USB port, and speaker grille. The volume rocker and power buttons are placed on the right while the dual-SIM + microSD slot is present on the left.
Realme has claimed an 88 percent screen-to-body ratio on the C12 but the overbearing chin and bezels on the side paint a different picture. There is a waterdrop notch to maximise the area of the screen, but I really don’t think it is close to the number that Realme is advertising. The phone has a 6.5-inch HD+ (720 x 1,600) LCD display with Realme’s new mini-drop notch which the company claims has a 30 percent reduced size than its previously used Dewdrop notch.
The viewing experience is as expected, although I was kind of perturbed by the presence of a yellowish tinge on the screen. I later found it to be the default colour temperature of the display and to make it easier on my eyes, I set the colour temperature to Cooler. The panel did achieve an impressive amount of brightness and went significantly dim in the night. In the settings options, you can also find options for a system-wide dark mode and eye comfort. Colours are slightly saturated and viewing angles are not the best as it is an LCD display. Overall though, it is what I’ve come to expect from a budget Realme phone. There is no Widevine L1 certification either, which means content on streaming services will not be in HD.
In the optics department, best to keep expectations in check, given that this is a budget smartphone. The Realme C12 borrows a few things in terms of cameras from the C11, adding a tertiary lens. The primary sensor on the C12 is a 13MP lens with f/2.2 aperture and PDAF support. As opposed to the 2MP depth camera seen on the C11, the C12 instead uses a B&W sensor with unspecified resolution. The third lens is a macro sensor with a focal length of 4cm.
On the face of it, the primary sensor, when drowned in ample lighting, will give you decent shots with a healthy amount of contrast. Details appear to be lacking in some scenarios like when you take a photo of a tree, the leaves are processed as a mass of green or the patterns in the pavements are smoothened out. The overcast weather of Delhi for the past few days hasn’t helped, but the sensor still managed to keep the photos well exposed. There is a Chroma boost feature which pumps up saturation levels and for lovers of more natural shots, this is something that should remain off. You will also get 4X zoom capabilities which delivered surprisingly good shots.
The B&W sensor’s only use is to produce monochrome shots which can be carried over to portrait shots as well. To be honest, there could be some scope for improvement. As for the macro sensor, it does work as advertised, but its fixed focal length of 4cm compounded by a lack of auto-focus, is a detriment to picture quality. Even so, the camera performed up to my expectations for a budget phone.
A cherry on the cake is a dedicated Night Mode, which is not something you see a lot in this price bracket. The regular night shots come out with very little detail preserved and soft focus around the edges. With the night mode, some of those details are recovered and the pictures are exposed better. For its price, the Realme C12 clicks good night shot photos. The selfie shooter on the front is a 5MP sensor which will churn good selfies but is a miss when the lighting drops. There is no facility for using the night mode feature on the front camera.
On a budget-focused device, performance is not always prioritised and it becomes more prominent on sub Rs 10,000 devices. The Realme C12 packs in the same MediaTek Helio G35 SoC that was present on the C11. The phone, however, has a 3GB RAM + 32GB storage option which can be expanded using a microSD card to 256GB. You get about 22GB of the 32GB to play around with so it is nice to see an expandable option present.
The phone performance seems average, and there were times the phone became sluggish when a couple of apps were running in the background. There was a lag in scrolling through Facebook, Instagram and even the Play Store itself. These are problems that were not present on the predecessor from last year, Realme C3 (review) which was powered by the Helio G70 chipset. The benchmarks on the Realme C12 tally up with the Realme C11 and are behind the Realme C3. PUBG can run but only at the lowest of settings and even then the touch response is quite low which makes for a not-so-great gameplay experience.
The fingerprint sensor did work to my satisfaction and is a much better fit than the less reliant face unlock. Call quality and microphone worked just about as well as can be expected. There was one issue I faced with connectivity when the device could not search for a 5GHz Wi-Fi channel although it is something that the G35 chipset can support. It can perhaps be rectified in a future software update.
On the software front, you will be getting the same Android 10-based Realme UI which is also present on the Realme C11. It is the same skin that many of the more expensive Realme phones are also running. In summary, the UI is clean and responsive, but there is some amount of bloatware, most of which cannot be uninstalled. However, the Realme UI is one of the nicer skins out there.
Realme has made some big claims about the 6,000mAh cell that is housed inside the C12. The company has said that the phone can offer about 46 hours of talk time, 60 hours of Spotify, 10 hours of PUBG, 24 hours of Instagram or 28 hours of YouTube. While I did not have the time to test all these claims, I was extremely impressed with the battery life for day-to-day use. The C12 does take over from the C11 which also packed in the same 6,000mAh cell.
During my standard battery test, wherein I loop a video on repeat at half brightness and volume, the phone lasted 31 hours. This is quite standard for a phone with a battery capacity of 6,000mAh.
On top of that, Realme has also added a Super Power Saving Mode which will further extend its remarkable battery life. The company claims, that on this mode the phone can play YouTube for 2 hours on just 5 percent battery. My tests showed it to be around the 90 minute mark which is still impressive. The device does not support any kind of fast charging, which means it takes ages to charge the phone. The 10W charger inside the box can juice up the device from 0-100 percent in 3 hours.
In the grand scheme of things, many sub Rs 10,000 phones, seemingly rely on two things to woo customers ie. a big battery and a set of decent cameras. For me, both of these aspects have been handled well by the Realme C12. One area of improvement is definitely the performance. I believe spending a few extra bucks on the newly-launched Redmi 9 Prime (review), selling for Rs 9,999 and powered by an Helio G80 chipset would be an option suited for those who want better graphics. If performance is not really a requirement, then the excellent battery life of the Realme C12 should be reason enough to warrant its purchase.
Editor’s rating: 3.5 / 5
- Excellent battery
- Good cameras are good
- Clean software
- Average performance
- Missed out on fast charging
- B&W sensor isn’t very useful