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A story about phones that look like onions and garlic

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The best Realme phones yet are inspired by vegetables and priced incredibly low

The Onion version of the Realme X Master Edition.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been getting pretty bored by phone colors of late. Everyone is offering the same silver and gold finishes, of course, while China’s initially laudable effort to develop every single blue gradient pattern imaginable seems to be running out of steam.

Former Oppo sub-brand Realme thinks it has the answer, and that answer is — what else? — “hire the most famous Japanese industrial designer alive to make phones inspired by vegetables.”

Yes, vegetables. Naoto Fukasawa, who you may know from his iconic work with Muji and the Infobar range of phones, has turned to the kitchen for inspiration with the new “Master Editions” of the Realme X flagship phone. Two versions are available: Onion and Garlic.

And, well, heck if these phones aren’t evocative of onion and garlic. The rear panels have a slightly rough texture, and there’s a degree of translucency and light scattering that makes them appear not altogether solid. Fukasawa says that when working with Realme, the team went through 72 gradient tests and over 300 sample adjustments “in order to take this texture to perfection.”

Stylistically, these phones don’t have a lot in common with most of Fukasawa’s portfolio, which has often focused on a kind of warm minimalism with simple colors and friendly shapes. But the designer only worked on the CMF (color, materials, and finish) of the Realme X Master Edition rather than the actual phone itself, which perhaps freed him up to experiment.

“Design is to improve the relationship between human, object, and environment,” he says. “I enjoy observation, see the beauty from our nature. Garlic and onion are so common, but if you look closely, there is something you don’t normally realize: the fine texture. I want to make people surprised. I started to think ‘can we reproduce this texture on a smartphone?’”

The answer is basically yes. The Garlic edition is very subtle and could pass for a regular white phone if you catch it head-on, but looks great from an off-angle — albeit still near-impossible to photograph. The Onion model, meanwhile, is immediately an unusual color for a phone and has a more obvious texture that reacts more dramatically to the light. The patterns are a little more regular than you might expect, but the straight lines make sense given the size and shape of the phone.

The garlic-inspired Realme X.

The Realme X itself isn’t quite enough phone for me, but otherwise I would absolutely rock either of these as a daily device. The Onion edition in particular is so unlike any phone I’ve ever seen that it’s hard to resist.

And to be clear, the Realme X would be enough phone for most people. This is a similar and mostly better device than Oppo’s mid-range F11 Pro from earlier this year, despite Realme’s status as a former budget Oppo brand. It has a Snapdragon 710 processor, a 6.53-inch notchless OLED screen, an in-display fingerprint sensor, a 16-megapixel pop-up selfie camera, a 48-megapixel primary camera, up to 8GB of RAM, a headphone jack, and VOOC fast-charging over USB-C. It runs Oppo’s ColorOS 6 software, which I found to be pretty inoffensive on the Reno 10x Zoom flagship last month.

The regular white Realme X.

The regular version of the phone doesn’t look bad, either. The glossy white back panel looks normal at first glance, but there’s a sub-surface pattern that causes a rainbow-hued S-curve to dance across the back from the right angle. The build is a little plasticky and the “chin” under the screen is more noticeable than on most recent flagships, sure, but neither are egregious for the price category.

And the Realme X is a pretty outrageous device for the price, starting at 1,499 yuan (~$220) for 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, while a model with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage is 1,799 yuan (~$260). The Naoto Fukasawa Master Editions are 100 yuan (~$15) extra on top of that.

The Realme X makes supposedly cheap phones like the $479 Pixel 3A XL look extremely overpriced, whether you’re into onion-inspired designs or not. The only catch is you’ll need to be in China to benefit — or soon, India, which is also getting a Spider-Man: Far From Home special edition.