Smartwatches have been having a bit of a year this year. Much like in 2015-2017 when lower-priced devices started coming with metal bodies to seem more premium, we’re getting that here. But looks can be deceiving, and the Realme Watch S personifies that for me.
- Design big upgrade over older watch
- Battery life exceeds the estimate
- Standard 22mm watch straps
- Screen bezels large
- Software is very basic
- Strange data sync issues
- 1.3” LCD touchscreen
- 390mAh battery
- Rated 15 day battery
I have to give Realme props for how the Realme Watch S looks, it’s a significant departure from the original Realme Watch, which was a glossy plastic apple watch clone affair, the Realme Watch S is entirely different, for once it is metal, aluminium to be precise, it’s also circular now, with 2 pushers instead of the single one previously, however, neither of them are encoders so no scrolling here.
What is not so great is that the Realme Watch S looks like it has a much larger screen on the box than it does in person, which both myself and friend of the site Jonathan Morris both noted, it’s extremely noticeable with a white watch face which I have, but also because this is an LCD and not an OLED screen, the black watch faces don’t look all that black either, so even the watch face on the box looks misleading. Aside from that issue, this feels like the cheapest grade of aluminium they could find, either that or the tolerances between the aluminium frame, the glass front and the plastic rear are all too loose, as I can regularly hear it creaking when turning over in bed.
The pushers on the side are actually quite nice though, no slop in them, and whilst they do require more force to actuate than I’d like, I feel like this is something that’ll loosen up a bit with time once those tact switches get a few dozen presses on them. Going back to the cover glass, it is an unnamed Gorilla Glass variant, and it has a rather nice angular chamfer on the edge, akin to the Huawei Watch GT2, also like the GT2 is the screen printed legends on the cover glass, which is nice if you have an analogue watch face, but if you use a digital one, well that’s just an art effect you can’t get rid of.
Lastly, the lugs. The standard silicone strap (which I’ll speak about later) is a standard 22mm affair, meaning I could swap it out for the Leather one you see here. Straps make a huge difference to how a watch feels, and the more watches I get with silicone straps, the happier I become when I realise I can swap it out to one that makes it feel more dressy and less gym-y.
Software is where these budget watches tend to fall down a bit, I mean look at my Haylou LS02 review to see what I mean there, but the Realme Watch S software is surprisingly good, but not without its own quirks. The User interface is still navigated by swipes, but instead of what we have become used to a swipe down from the top get you to your notifications, a swipe up from the bottom gets you to your applications drawer, and a swipe left and right is a carousel, with the left-most panel being your quick settings. The top pusher opens the app drawer, and the bottom pusher opens the fitness/workout settings. Long pressing on the watch face gets you to a gallery of watch faces currently installed on the watch.
The user interface seems like, for the most part, it doesn’t bother with transition effects, this could be due to the paltry processor inside not being enough to handle it, or perhaps they just didn’t want to code them in, I do not know, but I will say that it makes the device feel more basic than I feel it should. £75 isn’t an expensive smartwatch, but it’s also not cheap by smartwatch standards, it’s a weird middle ground.
Notifications are the same as most other smartwatches, you can read them but not reply to them. Text wrapping at least seems to work a lot better than on the LS02, and early revisions of the software on the GT2. However, I don’t know if the watch is going into a deep sleep mode, or if the phone is doing something funky with the notification access, like every few hours I’ll get an influx of about 6-9 notifications constantly buzzing my wrist, almost feeling like a phone call. Speaking of calls, you can’t take or make them on the Realme Watch S. If someone tries to call you, you will get a notification of the phone number or contact, a reject button, or a mute button, which is strange, I would have replaced that with a “Reject with an SMS” button.
In the application drawer there are just 15 items which are as follows:
- Workout records
- Heart rate
- Music control
- Sp02 tracking
- Sleep tracking
- Find my phone
- Camera shutter.
These are all pretty self-explanatory settings, you can set an alarm that’ll vibrate your wrist to wake you up in the morning, though if you have a partner, I’d likely lower the vibration intensity as I feel like the motor in this could shake a surgical pin from your wrist. Weather is set in the phone app, on the watch, it shows you the current temperature, what it feels like, and the current status (sunny, rainy etc) as well as this for the next 2 days. The Heart Rate applet opens up the monitor and takes a current reading. If you swipe up from the bottom you do get a histogram with high and lows marked out at the bottom. The “meditation” applet lets you set a timer of 1,3,5 or 10 minutes to do guided breathing. In that time it’ll buzz your wrist when to inhale, as well as when to exhale, there is a time remaining indicator on the screen as well, however, I feel like the vibrations could be reduced as it was quite jarring.
The Sp02 monitor is quite simple, when you launch it, it will tell you to tighten the watch and place it in a location on your wrist, hit start and wait for about 30 seconds and you’ll get your result. As with the heart rate tracking, Sp02 on these watches is only meant to be a rough estimate, a guide, do not use these as medical devices. Sleep tracking shows you how long you slept, how long you were awake for, how much light sleep, deep sleep and how much REM (rapid eye movement) sleep you had, however, it only shows you last nights sleep habits. Stopwatch and Timer are a timer, Find my phone rings the connected phone, even if it is on silent for you to find it. Camera shutter acts as a Bluetooth remote control so you can take photos even if you aren’t touching the phone.
All the rest is sorted in the Realme Link app, currently only available on Android. Inside the app on the device page, you have the current battery percentage of the watch and when the last time you charged it was. Next to that is the settings for the watch. Below this is the current step count, below that is sleep data, heart rate, Sp02, and lastly exercise logs, with a nice big exercise button at the bottom. Tapping on any one of these sections brings up a more detailed day, week, month and yearly view. In ones like sleep, if you scroll down you get more in-depth information such as your heart rate whilst you slept.
In the watch settings, we can change the watch face, of which Realme claim there are over 100 of, a nice feature is the Gallery watch face where you can use one of your photos as the watch face with a digital time and date counter on top or below. Next in the settings is the call reminders, this is what alerts you if you are getting a call, but given how useless the option is, I would probably leave it off. Next is the notifications section, which has a set of ones it accepts you to turn on and off, such as emails, texts, telegram and Skype, but you can go through your entire application list and do each one individually so, for instance, I turned it on for the NHS COVID-19 app which is not in the default list.
The next section is more health/ helpful reminders, one is the dreaded “you’ve been sitting down for too long, get up and stretch” which I instantly turned off, but a useful one I found was the Water reminder, I have it set that from 10 am to 9 pm, even 90 minutes remind me to drink some water, and you know what it has actually helped me drink more water. Below that is the heart rate monitoring settings. How often do you want to check your heart rate? For me it is every 5 minutes for the most data, I have set it to alert me if my heart rate goes above 130bpm, though I can also turn that off, or turn on a low heart rate warning as well.
The next section controls music playback control, Bluetooth camera control and find my phone. For some reason, music playback control is a single toggle, whereas the other two are sub-pages which have a single toggle in them, feels like they should all be a toggle on the main page if there are not any more options to change. Below this section is where you set up the weather and your step goal, and lastly is the regulatory information and software update button.
On the fitness side, I didn’t get to test it nearly as much as I would have liked given the current situation and my location going into more stringent lockdowns, but the options on offer here are :
- Outdoor run
- Indoor run
- Outdoor cycle
- Aerobic capacity
- Strength training
- Table tennis
- Indoor cycle
- Rowing machine
- Stationary bike
As a somewhat avid swimmer (though obviously not at the moment) I’m disappointed to not see it here. The watch is IP68 water and dust resistant, and the two physical pushers would have made it great for tracking swimming. I do find the inclusion of certain exercises interesting, such as table tennis. I’m not saying it isn’t a workout, I’ve definitely gotten my blood pumping more than once in a heated game, it is just interesting.
It’s nice to see not just typical gym routines on here, with Yoga, Cricket, Badminton and football getting their own sections. Whilst again I can’t test most of these, I did do some Blogilates on YouTube and the Watch seemed to get the results it was expecting and I was suitably knackered after it.
Battery Life and charging
This is going to be a rather scant input because Realme claims 15 days of use per charge, and often time manufacturer suggestions are a little optimistic if the watch manufacturer says 25 days, expect 20 days, a week, try 4-5 days. But with Realme, they’ve suggested 15 days, but I’m nearly 18 days in, with 24-hour heart tracking a white watch face with a 10-second screen timeout etc. and I’ve still got 23% left, I started without even charging the watch at 96%, this is absolutely insane. So I can say that Realme’s suggested 15 days should be achievable for anyone. And I sadly can’t offer much insight about charging aside from the charger itself. It’s a small plastic lightweight puck with 2 pogo pins and some embedded magnets. A tethered USB-A cable is how you attach the charger to a power supply, any USB supply will work but the charger will only pull 5v 0.5a or 2.5w
Lastly, if you haven’t read any of my reviews before, I usually add in a miscellaneous section, things that I think need to be talked about, but don’t require their own section, for the Realme Watch S that is Music control, Sleep tracking abnormalities and the included silicone strap. I’m going to start with the Strap as it is the most alarming. The included silicone strap in the Realme Watch S gave me a strange almost burn looking reaction on my wrist and after just a few days of wearing it was already starting to craze and crack. I’m giving Realme the benefit of the doubt that this is hopefully just a dodgy batch of straps, but Jon Morris has also had a similar reaction to his strap which has cut down his testing of the watch significantly. Thankfully as I said this has 22mm watch strap lugs so a spare leather one I had around was slapped on and I could carry on with my testing.
Like many other budget smartwatches, the strap can be an issue for those with even mild skin conditions, leading to rashes. I found that after a few days, I had to remove the watch and apply lotion to reduce the redness. It actually became too uncomfortable to put it back on until the next day. It becomes especially important to keep the strap dry, so if you keep the watch on in the shower or bath, remove it and allow to dry properly. Or look into changing the strap for something else, such as a metal one. – Jonathan Morris
Next is sleep tracking weirdness, some nights it would say I didn’t sleep at all but still have other data for REM and deep sleep, but the overall sleep was 0 hours, but the more annoying issue was that the watch seemingly only stores 1 day of data at a time, so if you don’t manually open the Realme Link app at least once a day and sync you’ll have incomplete data, very annoying. Lastly, I want to talk about music control. It was flawless, even on YouTube Music, which is quite buggy and my Huawei Watch GT2 Pro often refuses to accept this as a music app (i mean, same) so this was nice. The User interface is a large Play/pause button in the centre, with forward and back either side with a volume indicator at the bottom that you can crank up or down. There is a small amount of delay, but not unusable.
I’m more than a bit torn on the Realme Watch S, and even more so with the announcement that a Pro version is being announced mere weeks after this launches. The Watch looks quite nice, but the included strap feels cheap and gave me issues, it also feels cheap on my wrist, but on the other hand, the sleep tracking is pretty good, the battery life is outstanding and it isn’t all that expensive in the grand scheme of things, I mean I Have watch straps that cost more than this entire watch costs.
I think with a few software tweaks, maybe to bring anti-aliasing to the screen and add in some small transition animations would increase the user experience greatly, but I just can’t get over this price, the Honor Watch ES is sometimes on sale for £75, but that’s rarer than I’d like, but I think I would cough up the extra cash for that instead of this, for the nicer screen, fitness and health tracking, even if the battery is worse.