LeEco burst into the US this week, holding their official US launch event in, where else, Silicon Valley. The event was held in San Francisco and the company invited over 2,000 members of the press and analysts to see what the company has up their sleeves. And the short of it is, a lot. LeEco isn't just a smartphone manufacturer, they are kind of a jack of all trades. And at their launch event, they talked about what LeEco actually is, and where they may be headed in the future. LeEco has been called the "Netflix of China" which is true, to a point. They were the first company to license content in China, and at the time, video content was being pirated left and right. But LeEco decided to invest in copyrighted media and it became a great idea for the company. From there, the company has released numerous products that allow you to watch those movies and TV shows, like TV's and smartphones. LeEco has created these products with one goal in mind, which is to seamlessly use all of these products in your life. The one example they gave is being able to watch a movie like 'The Great Wall' on your smartphone and then seamlessly switch to your TV and continue from the place you left off, without having to go through the timeline. It's something that doesn't exist today, and it's pretty surprising to be honest, given where we are with technology.
The company had been touting that they were going to come into the US and launch products at a competitive price point and that they did. They launched four, 4K TV's that also run on Android TV. These TV's come in 43-inch, 55-inch, 65-inch and 85-inch sizes and priced very competitively. Prices are $649, $899, $1399 and $4999 respectively. But with LeRewards, you get instant rebates on all of these TV's. The three smaller TV's get $200 off, making them even more affordable, while the larger 85-inch TV gets a whopping $1000 off of its regular price. These all feature Harman Kardon audio as well, which is just phenomenal. We can talk about how good the audio sounds here, but words won't do it justice. You'll have to buy one and find out, which is unfortunate, since they don't have any stores around the country or even the world.
Of course, being Android Headlines, we cared more about the smartphones they launched, which were the LeEco Le S3 and Le Pro3. That's a mid-range smartphone and a high-end smartphone. LeEco did tout that they were the first to launch a Snapdragon 820-powered smartphone earlier this year, which was unveiled at CES (at the time, they were LeTV, later renamed to LeEco). The Le S3 is priced at a pretty competitive $249, with the Le Pro3 coming in at $399. With LeRewards, both of these get an instant $100 rebate, knocking them down to $149 and $299 respectively. Given the specs, that's a pretty impressive and aggressive price point. But the real issue here is that their phones won't be in stores. There was no mention of them selling through Amazon, Best Buy or any other retailer, only their LeMall.com website. Which is fine, but if they really want to sell million of smartphones in the US, they need to appeal to the general consumer, which doesn't always shop for a new smartphone online, let alone on websites that aren't Amazon, eBay or Best Buy.
That's not all that LeEco announced though, they also showed off their ExploreVR virtual reality headset. Which we got the chance to demo while we were there, and it's pretty incredible. It's much better than what Google has done with Daydream View. There's also their autonomous car, the Le See Pro (which funnily enough, got into a major accident on its drive from Los Angeles up to San Francisco, so it may not be quite ready for the real world just yet). Then there's also their smart bike. The Le Syvrac. This bike runs on Android, and actually has 4GB of RAM (crazy right?).
So that's all good, but why should Silicon Valley be put on notice by LeEco? It's because of what they have already done. LeEco already has a huge movie and TV library, which they are bringing to the US. They are also bringing top notch products at pretty low prices. In fact, they are lower than some other products from competitors already here in the US. LeEco is looking to make a huge splash in the US, and with everything they announced at this event, they did just that. Now, like other Chinese companies, they are still going to have trouble selling their smartphones in the US. They are selling their devices unlocked, in a country where the carrier subsidy is still a big deal. Even though carrier subsidies have already gone away, for the most part. Unlocked devices still aren't selling that well in the US, compared to other countries. Especially in Europe and Asia. But perhaps more important than that is their software. Now it is running the October 1st security patch, which currently is the latest, along with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. But that's not the issue, the issue is the skin. It's not stock Android and there's no app drawer. Sure that can be fixed with a third-party launcher, but most smartphones – other than the iPhone – that ship without an app drawer have not done well in Western markets.
This week, reviews of Google's Pixel and Pixel XL smartphone were published. Google is charging $649 for these smartphones. LeEco's Le Pro3 has the same specs, and is half the price. And with the LeRewards, it's less than half the price. That won't be enough to make them successful in the US, but it should definitely put Google on notice. This is a good thing for customers. When companies compete like this, the customer ends up with more innovative smartphones, but also lower-priced smartphones and other products. Which will lead to a better experience for all.
Some may wonder why LeEco has decided to come to the US, a country that is already flooded with smartphones at just about every price point. Well, the market may be saturated, but they found success in a country that has an even more saturated smartphone market, that being China. In China, there are many, many more options for smartphones, and just about everything else, than there is in the US. Once more, the prices are lower – that's mostly because they are built there so there is no import or export fees and taxes being put into the price. LeEco found success in the ultra competitive Chinese market, and although they aren't number one over there, they still did pretty well.
LeEco has their hands in a lot of areas. As they said, they are more like the "Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix, Samsung and Apple of China". It's going to be interesting to see how they put things together in their move into the West. They did open up a new headquarters in Los Angeles, so they are taking the US market seriously, and perhaps more broadly, the North American market. But they are quickly going to find out that what was successful in China and even India, won't be successful in the US. But they can definitely change the industry.