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Realme Watch S review: affordable activity tracking done well

Realme Watch S and Watch S Pro debuted as the company’s second-gen smartwatches in India last month. The successors to the original Realme Watch (review) pack new features as well as an updated design, switching from a square dial to a circular one.

Also Read: Xiaomi Mi Watch Revolve review: a commendable debut smartwatch

Since its entry in India, Realme has followed a playbook proven effective by Xiaomi. It started with smartphones, obviously, and then quickly added other product segments like Smart TVs, audio accessories, IoT devices to name a few. The problem with following a playbook is simple – you inherit the good as well as the bad. While the original Realme Watch had some teething issues, did Realme manage to solve them with the Watch S? Read on to know more.

Design and display

Realme Watch S Review

The LCD display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass

The two biggest selling points of the Realme Watch S are its design and price. I’ll get to the price in a bit but this design makes heads turn. The case of the smartwatch is built using aluminium alloy, which has lower density compared to other metals. This means that the Realme Watch S is not only durable but also lightweight.

At 48g, you don’t notice you have a watch on your wrist after a point. This is extremely useful when you wear the watch at night to track your sleep. A heavy smartwatch could become hindrance to your sleep.

The circular edge of the case has a metallic finish which has been left untouched to expose the aluminium alloy. There are two buttons on the side, which is a standard affair in this category. I would have preferred to see a rotating crown instead, which would have been more useful. With a touchscreen display, the buttons don’t necessarily serve a meaningful purpose.

The lugs of the watch accept a 22mm strap, which makes it compatible with straps from a number of brands, including luxury brands. If you want, you can get a quality NATO strap to go with this wearable. Our review unit came with a total of four silicone straps in black, blue, orange and green colours. The blue is nice while the green brings the feel of a field watch.

I really hope that Realme takes a page from Apple and brings variety to its strap options. A black milanese loop or a sport band would be ideal for such a design, while leather might be more suited to Watch S Pro. Realme Watch S has a 1.3-inch LCD display, which didn’t look out of place on my medium-sized wrist.

Realme Watch S Review

Realme Watch S is compatible with 22mm straps

I would have preferred an AMOLED panel but this LCD display is not bad either. It is clearly where Realme has cut costs. The display is vibrant and since we all are spending most of our time indoors at the moment, the auto-brightness setting works well. Even under direct sunlight, this display should not have any issues. However, it lacks an ambient display feature and when you raise or move your wrist, there is a grey tint visible on the screen.

I won’t call this a deal breaker, but it is something to keep in mind if you are planning to get this wearable. In a nutshell, Realme Watch S feels premium for its asking price of Rs 4,999. The lightweight aluminium alloy build makes it comfortable to wear for a long duration, while the circular shape keeps it in line with traditional wrist watch design.

Activity tracking and other features

Realme Watch S Review

With Realme Watch S, you can set high and low heart rate alerts

Apart from the traditional watch design, another selling point of Realme Watch S is its activity tracking feature. If you want activity tracking, you can go for the Realme Band (review) as well. Here, you get additional features like blood oxygen monitoring. The SpO2 measurement shown in percentage by this watch should not be taken as medical data. It is an indicative figure and when it falls in the sub-94 levels, you should check with a doctor.

I won’t call SpO2 to be the game changer on wearables yet. With more data, these devices will only get better. For reference, I compared the data recorded by Realme Watch S with two other wearables that cost more. Realme Watch S consistently showed my SpO2 reading between 96 and 98. Huawei Watch GT 2 showed between 97 and 99 while the third smartwatch also showed between 97 and 99.

I also used a medical grade pulse oximeter at my family doctor’s dispensary to check for further understanding. This device consistently produced a reading of 98, which means I have a healthy level of hemoglobin carrying oxygen through the blood. The Realme Watch S also supports active heart rate monitoring, a more useful tool than SpO2 measurement.

Realme Watch S Review

Realme Watch S has two pushers for the menu and activity on the side

The algorithm for heart rate monitoring has matured significantly over the years. On Realme Watch S, I found the data consistent with my other wearables. Especially while going for a run, I found my heart rate alleviated and reached a lower threshold during sleep. You can read this data and align EGG tests to get a handle on your heart activity.

These are important metrics during COVID-19, but Realme Watch S is also capable of tracking your steps, calories burnt, active hours during the day and other sports activities. It supports a total of 16 activity modes and I was able to test outdoor run, outdoor cycle and walk. The results looked consistent but the step counts were often on the higher side.

The sedentary reminders and reminder to drink water came handy while working from home. There is also sleep tracking, which I had issues with initially. As you can see in the image below, the wearable showed I was getting more than 9 hours of sleep, which is not true. However, an update last week with software version 1.3.0.39 seems to have resolved the issue.

Realme Watch S Review

Realme Watch S needs to improve its sleep tracking feature

Now, it accurately tracks when I go to bed and wake up and even if there is any discrepancy, it is marginal enough to be overlooked. However, there is one thing that I would like to see fixed. If you take afternoon nap then the watch starts showing only the afternoon nap instead of the entire day’s summary. A day is made of 24 hours and sleep charted across those hours would be better.

If Realme wanted to cover all the bases of activity tracking with its first circular watch then it has done a very good job. It is definitely not the most accurate activity tracker out there but it does a reasonable job for those who want to keep a tab on their health. One of the things I understand after nearly two weeks is that the device is learning and getting better. It is an encouraging sign.

Battery life and user interface

Realme Watch S Review

Realme Watch S pairs with smartphones using Realme Link app

For Realme, wearables are a work in progress and you see this with improvements made by the brand over time. The app was very much identical to the one first released alongside the launch of Realme Band. However, the app version 1.2.230.14 brought a big visual change. It is much more pleasing to look at and the data is also represented in a better way. One of the things that I like is how quickly the watch data gets synchronised with the app.

I’ve used far too many wearables to know how painful that process could be. The app immediately shows you the battery life, step count, sleep, heart rate, SpO2 and exercise data. You can also start an exercise or activity from the app. Right next to the battery life indicator is settings for the watch, where you can customise reminders and watch faces.

Realme Link

Realme Link app has also received a redesign

There are over 100 watch faces but only a few are interesting. Since this is not a full-fledged smartwatch, these watchfaces don’t have any interactive elements. I mostly used the default watchface. The ability to control music playback and use the watch as a remote shutter can be useful.

I haven’t charged the watch since I first got it. Realme claims 15 days of battery life and I can say that with basic use, you might extract more than that. However, with heart rate monitoring set to once every five minutes, auto-brightness, sleep tracking, blood oxygen monitoring and regular exercise, you should get between 10 and 12 days on a single charge, which is a more than respectable number in this segment.

Bottomline

Realme Watch S Review

Left: Realme Watch S. Right: Huawei Watch GT 2

As far as opening salvo is concerned, Realme Watch S strikes me as an excellent device. At Rs 4,999, it forces you to keep expectations low but then punches above its weight. The design is striking and shows the maturity of a brand whose first smartwatch was dubbed as a wristband morphed in smartwatch design.

It also offers a good set of activity tracking features including ones that may not be used that much during this phase of stay at home requirement. If Realme ensures regular updates, which Amazfit does a lot, and brings out new strap options, this will serve as a great accessory for Realme users. Realme has hit a sweet spot with pricing but it does have competition in the form of Amazfit Bip U. It has a square display and supports SpO2 monitoring and costs Rs 1,000 less. While Realme has an edge with the design, Amazfit is a more trusted name in the wearables segment.

Realme Watch S Review

For Realme, the next frontier would be to introduce more strap/customisation options

As I mentioned at the top of this review, Realme Watch S is not a departure from what we have seen from wearables in this segment. As you can see in the above image, I like the list view for the menu on the circular design of Huawei Watch GT 2 better than Realme’s grid of icons. A customisation option would have helped but then when you look at the price, I am forced to stop nitpicking and instead get one as an accessory.

Pricebaba’s rating: 8/10

What works

  • Premium design and build quality
  • Long battery life
  • Affordable price tag

What doesn’t

  • Inconsistent sleep tracking
  • Limited strap options
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