Realme's budget lineup is starting to get overcrowded, but the company continues to launch new models with minor changes, even when prices overlap. Last month, Realme announced the C12 and C15, priced between Rs. 9,000 and Rs. 11,000. The big feature, quite literally, is the 6,000mAh battery that both models share.
Since both smartphones are very similar, except for a couple of differences, I thought it would make sense to review them together. Most of what I'll be talking about applies to both models. So, are Realme's recent budget phones worth buying? Let's find out.
The Realme C12 and C15 have the exact same design and dimensions. Both weigh 209g and are fairly chunky phones. The frames and backs are built of plastic, but both phones feel sturdy and well put-together. Both have a tray on the left for two Nano-SIMs and a microSD card. At the bottom, we have a headphone jack, Micro-USB port, and speaker.
There's a ‘trapezium gradient' design on the backs of both models. This looks nice and doesn't attract a lot of fingerprints. Both smartphones are available in the same two colours — Power Silver and Power Blue. The Realme C12 and C15 are said to have fire-resistant back covers and are also splash resistant.
The Realme C12 and Realme C15 both have capacitive rear fingerprint sensors, which worked well in my experience. Face recognition also worked just as quickly. There's a squariish camera module on both phones that sits almost flush with the body.
The Realme C12 and C15 have the same 6.5-inch HD+ LCD screen, with a resolution of 1600x720 pixels and an unspecified version of Corning's Gorilla Glass. You get a water-drop notch for the selfie camera, and in typical budget phone fashion, there are fairly thick bezels, especially the chin at the bottom. The colours on both phones' displays looked decent to me, but the quality of the panels is pretty average. Whites tend to look a bit murky and viewing angles are not very wide.
Neither of the phones comes with a case in the box. One difference between the two is that the Realme C12 comes with a 10W charger while the Realme C15 has an 18W charger in the box.
Realme has used the MediaTek Helio G35 SoC, which is the same entry-level chip that we saw in the Realme C11 (Review). It's not the most powerful processor in this price segment, especially considering that competing phones such as the Narzo 10A (Review) and Redmi 9 Prime (Review) have more powerful options.
The Realme C12 is only available in one configuration, with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage priced at Rs. 8,999. The Realme C15 comes with either 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, or 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. These variants are priced at Rs. 9,999 and Rs. 10,999 respectively.
Realme sent me the 4GB variant of the C15, which ran Realme UI quite well. The animations were a bit choppy, and opening certain system menus and loading apps did take a little longer than usual, but casual usage wasn't too bad. The Realme C12 on the other hand felt noticeably slower. Little things like waiting for the keyboard to pop up before I could begin typing a message, and even just loading an app, felt a beat slower than on the C15.
Games ran decently, as long as I stuck to simple titles or lowered the graphics quality. Even on the Realme C15, I found that titles like Need for Speed: No Limits ran fine but at reduced quality settings. Videos looked decent but these phones don't offer the best viewing experience due to the narrow viewing angles and average quality of the panels used.
Both phones support Wi-Fi n, Bluetooth 5, and the basic satellite navigation systems. You get Realme UI based on Android 10 on the Realme C12 and C15, featuring the same gestures and shortcuts that we've seen on most of the company's recent offerings. There are a bunch of preloaded apps too, but most of them can be uninstalled.
The main selling point of both phones is their large batteries. The Realme C12 and C15 both feature 6,000mAh batteries, which easily delivered a day and half to two full days on a single charge. These phones smashed all previous records set by Realme phones in our battery loop test, running for about 32 hours.
When it comes to charging these batteries, the Realme C15 has an advantage thanks to its support for 18W fast charging. It still takes about two hours to fully charge it, but you can get up to a 45 percent charge in an hour. The Realme C12 takes a lot longer to charge as it doesn't support fast charging, even if you use a higher wattage charger.
The Realme C12 has three rear cameras, while the Realme C15 has four. Both have the same 13-megapixel primary camera, but the others are slightly different. The C12 has a 2-megapixel monochrome camera and a 2-megapixel macro camera. The Realme C15 lacks the macro camera but you get an 8-megapixel ultra wide-angle one, a 2-megapixel monochrome camera and a 2-megapixel retro camera. Another difference is that the C12 has a 5-megapixel front camera while the C15 has an 8-megapixel one.
The retro camera on the Realme C15 is used when you select the '07' filter in Portrait shooting mode, while the monochrome camera is used if you select the '06' filter. The Realme C12 doesn't have the option for filters in Portrait mode, so it's unclear whether its monochrome camera is being used at all, other than to calculate depth.
I found image quality of the Realme C12 and C15 alike to be well below average in most cases. During the day, photos were generally underexposed, with weak dynamic range and poor details. The C15's wide-angle camera sounds like a nice touch, but image quality is once again quite poor. Close-ups tend to fare a bit better with both phones, but you need to have steady hands as autofocus isn't the quickest. There is digital zoom up to 4x, but zoomed-in photos looked like watercolour paintings, so it's best left unused.
Portrait mode worked decently on both phones. The Realme C15's retro camera adds an old-style filter to your photos, while the monochrome camera captures vintage-looking black-and-white photos.
I wasn't expecting much from low-light photos, and sure enough, the Realme C12 and C15 perform quite poorly when shooting at night. Shots had weak details, and Night mode didn't seem to make any impactful difference on either phone. The autofocus was also much slower in low light.
The Realme C12 and C15 can record video at up to 1080p, but without any stabilisation. Footage was usable when shooting in the daytime, but below average at night.
The Realme C15 does a slightly better job with selfies, thanks to its higher-resolution front sensor. The Realme C12 still manages to hold its own when shooting indoors, but it's not great.
The Realme C12 and Realme C15's primary redeeming feature is strong battery life, but they both fall short in pretty much every other area. We would have been a bit happier had they been priced lower, like the Realme C11. However at nearly Rs. 9,000 for the C12 and Rs. 11,000 for the C15, we think you'd be better off with phones that try to be better all-rounders.
You don't even have to look too far: Realme's own Narzo 10A feels like a better choice than the C12 overall, as it has a more powerful SoC and is priced starting at Rs. 8,999. The Realme C15 also has stiff competition from the Redmi 9 Prime and Moto G9, which are priced similarly and offer better performance. There's also the Narzo 20 and Narzo 20A, which we're testing right now and could be good alternatives to the C12 and C15.
If you only care about having the best battery life and are on a tight budget, the Realme C12 and C15 will fulfil this need. For everyone else, any of the alternatives mentioned above will offer a better mix of battery life and performance.
Is Android One holding back Nokia smartphones 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.