LeEco mounts US invasion with phones, TVs, a bike and an autonomous car
After doing the rounds of China, India and Russia, LeEco (formerly known as LeTV) is looking to break into the US market with a connected suite of smartphones, TVs, VR headsets, bikes and autonomous cars. That's a pretty disparate range of electronics, but the Chinese company is banking on its ecosystem to seamlessly tie them all together, allowing users to, for example, flick a video from their phone to the car, or get an alert from their bike on the TV.
At the center of the company's plans lie what it calls "ecophones." Don't be fooled by the name because it has nothing to do with their environmental friendliness, but instead refers again to the ecosystem they're part of. The two models fall in the middle of the current smartphone landscape, while offering more than decent specs for their price points.
LeEco's flagship phone is the Le Pro3, powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. Its 5.5-inch screen displays at 1080p resolution, and there's a 16-MP rear camera and an 8-MP front-facing one. Apart from a hefty 4,070 mAh battery, none of its specs are particularly exciting, but at US$399, it's in the ballpark of similarly-priced, mid-tier phones like the OnePlus 3.
For $50 less, the Le S3 trims a little fat off the Pro. The screen and cameras make it through unscathed, but the storage space is halved, the processor is cut back to a Snapdragon 652 and the RAM is down to 3 GB. Still, that's not bad for its price.
Joining the phones in the ecosystem is a line of TVs, ranging from a modest 43 inches up to a neck-straining 85-inch behemoth. The four models boast high dynamic range, Harmon Kardon speakers and the ability to easily connect with the phones and the rest of LeEco's products.
Finally, the LeEco Super Bike is a smart electric bicycle kitted out with laser lane markers, smart locks and a two-way radio, and the company's self-driving electric car, the LeSEE Pro, was also unveiled for the first time for a US audience.
But hardware is just part of the puzzle. The goal of LeEco Founder, Chairman and CEO, YT Jia, is to foster synergy between the entertainment (content) and technology (hardware) industries – not focus completely on one or the other. To that end, LeEco (short for LeEcosystem) was established earlier this year with the goal of developing an ecosystem encompassing platform, content, devices and applications that would allow content to be delivered to any screen at any time.
Establishing its own ecosystem might give the company greater control, the prospect of greater profits and the chance to lock consumers within it, but with the many-tentacled beasts of Apple and Android already firmly established, getting people to switch allegiance to a new player that is largely unknown in the US is likely to be a hard ask. However, the company is definitely committed and is throwing everything and the kitchen sink – or phones, TVs, bikes and cars – in an attempt to slice its own piece of American apple pie.
The first LeEco products available to US consumers will be the Le Pro3 and Le S3 phones and the ecotv line, which will be hitting US shores on November 2.