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Lenovo debuts the Vibe C, a midrange phone bound for Croatia

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High-end handsets may tend to dominate the smartphone news cycle, but nowadays, low-end markets are probably the ones that receive greater attention from smartphone makers. According to research firm Gartner, 85 percent of phone owners in developing Asian and Pacific nations — more than a billion people by some estimates — plan on replacing their current midrange with a comparably middle-of-the-road device.

It makes sense then that firms like Lenovo are trying to fill that demand by rounding out their budget offerings. Case in point? Lenovo’s Vibe C, the newest edition to the China-based company’s price-conscious Vibe brand.

As far as the midrange device category is concerned, the Vibe C fits the bill perfectly. It’s affordable at $105, and doesn’t compromise on much — its rounded, polycarbonate black/white body packs a 5-inch 720p display, a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB (16GB in some markets) of storage (up to 32GB via the MicroSD slot). The Vibe C’s cameras are respectable, too — a 5MP rear shooter and 2MP front-facing sensor — and it packs a 2,300mAh battery, which Lenovo says should last up to a “single day” of usage. Somewhat unusually for a phone of its price, the Vibe C sports an LTE radio — a  welcome feature for emerging markets like India, where the deployment of 4G’s accelerating.

The Vibe C just about measures up to the mid-range competition. Acer’s $99 Liquid features 2GB of RAM, but a lower-res screen (854 x 480 pixels) and a smaller battery (2,000mAh). And Huawei’s $92 SnapTo, while nearly identical in terms of hardware, runs a much older version of Android (4.4). That’s not to say there aren’t better buys — the $100 Cubot Z100, for example, sports an 8MP front-facing camera and 13MP rear-facing camera, and the $99 ZTE Zmax 2’s got 2GB of RAM — but it’s definitely not among the worst. (When you’re considering bargain-basement phones like the Vibe C, that’s all that really matters.)

The Vibe C’s software, by contrast, is nothing to write home about. The phone’s running Vibe UI, Lenovo’s nondescript Android skin, somewhat bizarrely on top of the year-old Android 5.1 Lollipop. (Lenovo, unfortunately, gave no indication as to when the Vibe C might be updated to a more recent distribution of Android, or whether it would be at all.) But for $105, beggars can’t really be choosers.

The Vibe C’s launching in very few territories, initially — just Croatia, in fact, beginning on May 18. But if history’s any indication, the coming weeks and months could see Lenovo broaden its availability.

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