Realme U1 quick review: A selfie smartphone for the masses

It’s not often we see a new brand make a mark in today’s market scenario that is already seeing a lot of competition, but Realme has fought the odds. The brand made its debut early this year as an offshoot of Oppo, and four smartphones later it has made a name for itself. The success of the first four phones has given Realme the confidence of launching a brand new series in its first year and the Realme U1 is the first product in this series.

The Realme U1 was launched in India on Wednesday as part of a new U-series. This is a series that seems to be about introducing selfie-centric phones, which is what the U1 is about. But the Realme U1 is also about offering something unique like past Realme phones, which is why it is the first phone in the world to be powered by the new Helio P70 chipset. This along with Realme’s commitment to offering an attractive design at an affordable starting price of Rs 11,999 makes the Realme U1 yet another potentially promising smartphone. I spent a brief amount of time with the Realme U1 and here are my initial thoughts.

In terms of design, Realme has kept things pretty familiar. On first look, the U1 look similar to the Realme 2 Pro. It gets the same dewdrop display with a tiny droplet-style notch, and the rear panel is glossy and reflective. The panel on the back does not curve along the sides as it did on the Realme 2 Pro. It’s more of a glass-like slab that offers what Realme calls a pillar reflection. This essentially means you will notice refractive lines on the glass depending on the angle you hold it. This is offered in three colours – Ambitious Black, Brave Blue and Fiery Gold. Note that the Gold colour variant will only be around the start of 2019.

The dewdrop display was first introduced with the Realme 2 Pro and it has now come to the U1. This is what Realme calls its full-screen display that offers the droplet-style notch. So, much like the Realme 2 Pro, the U1 also gets a tiny curved notch on the top that houses the selfie camera, ambient and proximity sensors, and the earpiece. There’s a small chin on the bottom as well, but what you mostly get is a bright and vivid 6.3-inch FHD+ display. The minimal bezels all around allows the U1 to offer a 90.8 per cent screen-to-body ratio.

The overall form factor of the phone is pretty tall, so it may not be easy for a lot of people to work with it with just one hand. But the phone is quite lightweight and easy to hold. The U1 comes with a single speaker grille on the bottom and microUSB port. The SIM tray on the left side of the frame can hold two nano SIM cards and a dedicated microSD card slot. The U1 also comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack.

As mentioned earlier, one of the biggest USPs of the new Realme U1 is the new Helio P70 chipset that’s running the show. This is the first phone to ship with the new MediaTek processor so it will be interesting to see the kind of performance it promises to deliver. We have tested a few Helio P60 phones like the Realme 1, Oppo F9 Pro and Nokia 5.1 Plus and we have been pretty happy with how they have performed for mid-range phones. The Helio P70 SoC is based on a 12nm process and promises to deliver a bump in performance and power efficiency over its predecessor.

Based on an initial interaction with the phone, everything seemed to work with a snap and no noticeable lag or stuttering. Apps opened swiftly and browsing through the general UI was a fast experience. It is also partly due to Oppo’s custom ColorOS skin which does not offer a lot of animations or anything that would slow down browsing experiences. Of course as helpful as ColorOS is, it also comes with a few issues as well such as the inability to remove notifications by swiping.

The Realme U1 runs Android Oreo with ColorOS 5.1 on top. It’s a little disappointing that Realme has not offered Android 9 Pie here, but that has been the case for even more established players in the game. Realme has been pushing out timely updates for its phones so far, so we can expect good support and possible Android 9 Pie in the near future.

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