LeEco, previously named Letv, is a fast-growing Chinese company making anything from smart TVs and smart bikes to TV content, music, and even electric vehicles. The company recently entered the smartphone market as well, and it demoed four of its devices at Mobile World Congress: the Le Max, Le Max Pro, Le 1s and Le 1 Pro.
Succeeding Through Ecosystem
Although video streaming and TVs were some of the company’s first product categories, its recent expansion into multiple markets led it to change its name from LeTV to LeEco (as in “Le Ecosystem”). The company also said that it has an “eco-sharing” philosophy of being open with its consumers as well as its competitors.
LeEco said that its ecosystem-driven strategy has paid off, and it’s one of the reasons why one out of every three TVs sold online in China belong to the company. LeEco believes this strategy will also help it become successful in smartphones, as well. In the less than a year, the company managed to sell 5 million smartphones in China.
Basically, customer engagement with the company’s services and other hardware products effectively subsidizes the cost of the phones. This allows LeEco to push out well appointed handsets at relatively low prices.
LeEco wants to expand into the U.S. right now by using the same ecosystem strategy. However, the company recognizes that entering the U.S. market isn’t going to be as easy, because the culture is different than in China, and also because its ecosystem of services for the U.S. market isn’t as developed as it is overseas. LeEco didn’t say whether it will sell any of its devices through carriers or only through retailers, but it said it will explore all models.
The company said it has already launched the Le 1s and Le Max, two of its most popular smartphones, to great success in India. This is why India, along with the U.S., will be two of its main target markets for expansion in 2016. However, LeEco also plans to expand in Russia and Latin America soon, as well.
Le 1s (1st gen)
The Le 1s is one of the first-generation smartphones from LeEco, and it launched in China in October last year for only $169 (CNY 1,099). That price gets you a device with a 5.5” Full HD display, a MediaTek Helio X10 SoC with an eight-core 2.2 GHz Cortex-A53 CPU, 3 GB of LPDDR3 RAM, 32 GB of storage, 13MP rear camera, 5MP front-camera, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and a 3,000mAh battery. It runs Android 5.0 with the company’s own EUI 5.5 customizations and content on top.
Le Max (1st gen)
The Le Max also launched last year for around $460 (CNY 2,999), making it the company’s premium offering. It came with higher-end features such as a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC with four Cortex-A57 cores (up to 2.0 GHz) and four Cortex-A53 cores; a large 6.3” 2560×1440 display; 4 GB of LPDDR4 RAM; 64 GB internal storage; a 21MP rear camera with PDAF, OIS and dual-LED flash; a 4MP front-camera with large 2.0μm pixels (better for low-light); Hi-Fi audio; a USB Type-C connector; dual-SIM support; and a 3,400mAh battery. The device came with the same EUI 5.5-skinned Android 5.0 operating system.
The new Le 1 Pro comes with a 2560×1440 resolution display that’s 5.5” in size, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chip, and 4 GB of LPDDR4 RAM (just like the Le Max). It also sports 32 GB or 64GB of storage, a 13MP rear camera with OIS and dual-LED flash, a 4MP front-camera with 2.0μm pixels, Hi-Fi sound, USB Type-C connector, and a 3,000 mAh battery.
The newer smartphone doesn’t seem to have gotten an upgraded operating system, as LeEco stuck with the same Android 5.0-based EUI 5.5 OS. Pricing hasn’t been unveiled yet, but it’s likely going to be similar to the first-generation Le 1s.
Le Max Pro (2nd gen)
The Le Max Pro is LeEco’s highest-end smartphone this year, as well as one of the most cutting-edge smartphones on the market. It brings many “firsts”, including a Snapdragon 820 chip, 4 GB of fast LPDDR4 RAM (1866 MHz), ultrasonic Sense ID fingerprint reader, fast UFS 2.0 flash storage, and 802.11ad Wi-Fi.
It will also have a 21MP rear camera with OIS and PDAF, a 4MP front-camera with 2.0μm pixels (just like the others), Bluetooth 4.2, and a 3,400mAh battery. The device will be the company’s first to run an Android 6.0-based operating system with the its own customizations on top.