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Cheap doesn’t have to mean dull, just look at this colorful smartphone from China

Regardless of how much you want to spend on a smartphone, you won’t want to buy one that looks a bit boring. Even if the final cost makes a trip to Starbucks look like a pricey extravagance, there’s no excuse for being dull. Chinese brand Smartisan understands, and its latest phone is the U1, a funky, colorful smartphone that costs the equivalent of $140.

It’s not a metal-chassis monster for that price, and the iPhone 5C is its obvious inspiration, but that textured rear panel and its bright, modern colors look excellent. There’s only one other company that has used garish colors to such great effect, and that’s Nokia/Microsoft with the Lumia range. In the pictures at least, the U1 looks good.

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How’s the specification? It’s surprisingly strong. Gone are the days of a 720p screen and a MediaTek processor being the staple tech for cheap phones. The Smartisan U1 has a 1080p screen made by Sharp measuring 5.5-inches, and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor — a proven performer we liked inside several phones, including the ZTE Blade S6.

Smartisan U1 Green

It comes with 2GB of RAM and a choice of 16GB or 32GB of internal storage space, plus it has dual-SIM capabilities. There are a pair of cameras, a 13 megapixel on the rear, and a 5 megapixel on the front. Finally, there’s 2900mAh battery inside. Android is installed, but it’s Smartisan’s own version which does away with the app drawer, just like Huawei’s EMUI launcher.

The cool look, strong spec, and low price make the Smartisan U1 standout, but it’s by no means alone on the shelf. One of its biggest competitors will be Xiaomi, which announced the Redmi Note 2 recently. It has an almost identical specification, also comes in different colors, but costs even less — around $125. It’ll run the new Xiaomi MIUI 7 interface, which improves further over previous versions, when it’s released soon. Additionally, the Meizu M2 Note is a strong contender.

Smartisan will start selling the U1 in China from September 1.