The new Realme C11 comes as a solution to the problem of rising prices across the industry. It is priced at Rs. 7,499, and is positioned below the Realme C3, which until now was the company's most affordable entry-level phone. The budget end of the market, which is perpetually squeezed in terms of margins and flexibility, is of course the worst hit by cost revisions. If your budget is less than Rs. 10,000, even a difference of Rs. 500 between models and variants could swing your decision.
The Realme C3 (Review) was launched starting at Rs. 6,999 at the beginning of this year, but multiple revisions later the same unit now costs Rs. 8,999. The very similar Narzo 10A (Review) was meant to be a step up, but its price of Rs. 8,499 announced in May has now become Rs. 8,999 as well. That has not only caused confusion, but also left a gap at the bottom of the market to be filled.
It's unfortunate that you aren't getting as much for your money anymore, but the past few years have seen such intense competition that the overall standard for the budget segment has risen considerably, and you should still be able to get a good deal. Is the Realme C11 the right phone at the right time? Read on to find out.
There's only one configuration of the Realme C11 at the time of launch, with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, and it will cost you Rs. 7,499. Realme has used the new MediaTek Helio G35 SoC, which is touted as a “mainstream gaming” solution. Other than these core specifications, the C11 has a lot in common with the C3 and Narzo 10A. You get a very similar 6.5-inch 720x1600-pixel HD+ screen, and a 5000mAh battery.
The primary rear camera has a 13-megapixel resolution, compared to 12 megapixels on its two siblings. That might seem like a slight improvement, but the aperture is down from f/1.8 to f/2.2 which means it can't take in as much light per exposure. The front camera is unchanged at 5 megapixels and f/2.4.
This is a dual-SIM device with support for VoLTE. It only supports single-band Wi-Fi but there's Bluetooth 5. You get all the usual sensors including a compass and gyroscope. Storage can be expanded by up to 256GB using a microSD card in the dedicated slot. One notable omission is that there's no fingerprint reader, just like with the Realme C3.
As far as budget phones go, I think the Realme C11 looks quite good. It has a lot in common with other budget Realme phones, and as usual, you wouldn't easily be able to tell them apart looking at them from the front. The screen takes up nearly the entire face of the phone, but there's a fairly thick chin and a waterdrop notch at the top. My review unit had a pre-applied adhesive scratch protector that didn't quite reach the corners of the screen.
You have a choice between Rich Green and Rich Grey, which are both muted and neutral enough to suit everyone. At this price level, there are no glossy finishes or gradients. The body is made entirely of moulded plastic, and the rear does have a very subtle texture of wavy lines, except for a thick stripe that runs vertically through the camera bump. I like the effect, and it helped with grip, but I also saw fine particles of dust and grime getting trapped in the ridges as I used the phone.
Realme has finally changed the standard oblong camera module that we've seen on multiple models now, going in for a square shape this time. There are only two cameras, so this was obviously done mainly for style, but it works. I'm not a fan of the oversized Realme logo though, and you don't get a case in the box with this phone to cover it up.
The volume buttons are above the power button on the right, which is unusual for Realme. The company continues to use the Micro-USB standard on its budget phones, and it's about time to move on. There's also a 3.5mm audio socket and a single speaker on the bottom.
Weighing 196g and measuring in at 9.1mm thick, the Realme C11 is relatively bulky. I found one-handed use a bit difficult, but the textured rear makes it easy to shuffle this phone around in the palm without worrying that it might slip. It doesn't look like an expensive phone, but the build quality is solid and I couldn't find any fault with the construction quality or finish. I would have liked reinforced glass on the front, though.
Realme's software is generally problem-free, compared to what some other manufacturers load onto phones, especially in the budget segment. I didn't have trouble with advertisements or annoying notifications, except for a few clickbait “news” articles pushed by the Realme UI browser. Considering that Chrome is on the homescreen, there's no need for this browser at all, but I couldn't disable or uninstall it.
The review unit that Realme sent out had some preloaded bloatware, including at least one app that's now banned in India. Realme clarified to Gadgets 360 that some batches of the C11 were manufactured and packaged before the ban was announced. While some early customers might also see these non-functional icons, the apps in question have been removed from units shipped out later.
The other preinstalled apps include Doc Vault for your DigiLocker account, Realme Paysa for personal loans and insurance (which requires permission to constantly monitor your messages and location), Realme Link to manage various Realme accessories and get after-sales service, a Realme Store app for buying products, and Realme Community for company updates and forums. Many of these apps have overlapping functions, but some can be uninstalled.
Realme UI looks and behaves much like stock Android, and there are some customisations including themes. Beyond the usual Android 10 features, you can change the icon grid density, adjust icon style, and activate some gestures to make using the large screen easier. Within the Settings app you'll find options for split-screen multitasking, app cloning, game optimisation, privacy protection, and gestures. One neat touch is the ability to share your music with someone else by using Bluetooth and wired headsets simultaneously.
Being an entry-level smartphone, the Realme C11 lets you run whatever Android apps you'd like, but the experience might not always be great. I saw and felt some hesitation whenever I did even simple things like waking the phone from standby and pulling up the app drawer or task switcher. There is noticeable lag not just when launching and multitasking between apps, but also when scrolling through photos in the gallery. It's disappointing that the usage experience wasn't smoother.
Benchmark scores revealed that the combination of the Helio G35 SoC and 2GB of RAM is only barely adequate for an entry-level phone. Scores were around what we saw from the Realme C2 and Redmi 7, which are now fairly dated. I logged a score of 104,616 in AnTuTu, and Geekbench crashed despite repeated attempts to run it. The basic 3DMark Sling Shot graphics test managed only 844 points, and GFXBench's T-rex test also only managed to run at 33fps.
If you're expecting to run current-day games, you'll need a higher budget. PUBG Mobile defaulted to its lowest graphics setting but was still choppy, with lots of glitches and texture pop-in. There was even lag in the menus. PUBG Mobile Lite was smoother, though. Asphalt 9: Legends also took a while to load, and there was stuttering during races as well. The gaming experience overall wasn't great, but at least the phone didn't get hot at all.
The screen is pretty good considering the price of this phone. Colours are reasonably punchy and viewing angles are more than adequate. Videos look fine, but the speaker is not all that good. Music sounded tinny and harsh, and I found that even dialogue was indistinct in many instances.
On the other hand, battery life is excellent. The low-end processor, coupled with the 5000mAh battery, delivered a phenomenal 28 hours, 25 minutes in our HD video loop battery test. With everyday usage, involving a lot of audio and video streaming, some camera use, and a little gaming, I was able to make the C11 last a day and a half before needing to plug it in to charge.
My expectations obviously have to be in check when reviewing a low-cost phone. There are a few modes and options such as Panorama, Time Lapse and Slo-mo, and Realme boasts that the C11's Night mode is a first for this price segment. As with everything else on this phone, the camera app doesn't load very fast which might make it hard to take spontaneous shots.
Photo quality is somewhat disappointing, though once again we have to consider the price point that Realme has achieved. Colour gradients and textures aren't rendered all that well, and detail is definitely lost in finer objects. Flowers and leaves didn't always look natural, and we also saw how the C11 can struggle with exposures when there are pronounced highlights and shadows in the same frame.
Portrait shots had nicely blurred backgrounds but exposure was poorer. There's also no way to adjust the blur before or after taking a a shot. Some of the close-ups we took came out surprisingly well. Overall, photos look good enough on the phone's screen and also you can magnify and crop a little, but you'll be able to see the flaws very easily at 100 percent scale.
When it comes to low-light shots though, the Realme C11 really struggled. Several of our samples were too murky to make out anything at all, though some were acceptable. The phone had trouble locking focus and we'd have to tap the screen again after any movement.
Night mode did make a big difference, but surprisingly, not always for the better. The phone did still have trouble focusing, and the results are slightly cropped so you have to pay attention to frame composition. Night mode shots had much better contrast and bright parts of the frame were sharper. On the other hand, details in dark regions were often lost, and in addition, noise was also worse. You might find a night shot taken without Night Mode to be more useful.
Video is recorded at 1080p by default. It's not too bad, but colours are definitely not very vibrant and details are just average. Any motion while recording video, even slow panning, caused the exposure to fluctuate and some odd artefacts. Stabilisation is completely non-existent. Footage shot at night is useless unless there is a source of artificial light directly over your subject. The front camera takes reasonably good shots in the daytime but not at night, even in a well-lit room.
After a long period of discounts and price wars between smartphone manufacturers, we're seeing costs rise across the industry. Several models have had their prices increased just weeks or months after launch, which of course means that a lot of calculations and comparisons have to be reworked before you can make a buying decision. It is without doubt frustrating that the Realme C11 is more expensive and less powerful than the Realme C3 and Narzo 10A were at the times of their launch.
We would have liked better performance, and it's clear that 2GB of RAM is insufficient – especially since this means an update to the full Android 11 experience will be impossible. Usage isn't smooth with the C11, but you'll be able to run most of the apps you need. The camera is unexciting, but serviceable.
In context of the new reality of today, this is still a decent entry-level phone. However, you'll get a far better experience if you can spend a little more and pick up the Realme Narzo 10A instead. In addition, you could wait for Xiaomi's upcoming Redmi 9 series, or consider recently launched budget models from Samsung, Infinix, and Honor.
Why are smartphone prices rising in India? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.