Meizu's M1 Note is a dirt-cheap iPhone 5c on steroids

While many Chinese smartphone makers have recently stepped up their efforts in delivering more original designs, we can't say that's the case with Meizu's latest offering. In fact, we already knew the cheeky company was up to something when the Chinese media received an iPhone 5c chassis in their invitations, and now we know why. As you can see above, the plastic M1 Note announced today comes in the shamelessly identical set of colors as the iPhone 5c: green, pink, white, yellow and blue. Starting at just CN¥999 (about $160) unsubsidized, this is Meizu's cheapest Android smartphone yet, as it attempts to compete directly with the likes of Xiaomi and Huawei in the sub-CN¥1,000 entry-level market.

On paper, the M1 Note is surprisingly good value. This dual-SIM phone comes with a 5.5-inch IGZO display with a generous 1080p resolution (whereas Xiaomi's slightly cheaper Redmi Note 4G only has 720p), Gorilla Glass 3, a 13-megapixel f/2.2 main camera with dual-tone flash, a 5-megapixel f/2.0 front-facing camera and a nice 3,140 mAh battery. It's powered by MediaTek's MT6752 chipset with an octa-core (Cortex-A53 1.7GHz x 8), 64-bit ready processor, a Mali T760 MP2 GPU, 2GB of RAM and FDD-LTE radio (TD-LTE also supported for the China versions). Like the higher-end MX4 Pro, the M1 Note runs on Meizu's heavily customized Flyme 4.1 based on Android 4.4.4.

What this new model does lack is the fingerprint reader featured on the MX4 Pro, and likewise with the microSD expansion (so you're stuck with the built-in 16GB or 32GB). That said, at this price point, we're certain that most folks won't be complaining too much.

Despite its plastic body, the M1 Note is just 8.9mm thick and weighs just 145g. As with most recent Meizu phones, this device also seems to offer better grip comfort than the less-curvy iPhone 5c, and the ceramic finish should make a nice icing on the cake. What's less impressive is Meizu's blatant rip-off of even the tiniest things like the iPhone 5c's microphone plus loudspeaker design on the bottom side. But hey, at least Meizu did openly pay tribute to Jony Ive at last month's MX4 Pro launch event.

Unless Apple does something about this cheekiness, Meizu's "gift to the next generation" is expected to head to the Western market in the second half of January. For now, the company's taking online pre-orders in China ahead of the local launch on December 30th, with the 16GB version going for CN¥999 (about $160) and the 32GB version for CN¥1,199 (about $190).