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LeTV Rebrands As 'LeEco,' Debuts New Smartphones As It Tackles Global Market

LeEco Le Max Pro

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.

Expanding Globally

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” 2560x1440 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.

Le 1 Pro (1st gen)

The new Le 1 Pro comes with a 2560x1440 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.

LeEco Le 1sLeEco Le MaxLeEco Le 1 ProLeEco Le Max Pro
ChipsetMediaTek Helio X10 (2.2GHz Cortex-A53 octa-core)Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, 2.0 octa-coreQualcomm Snapdragon 810, 2.0 octa-coreQualcomm Snapdragon 820
Display5.5" / 1920 x 10806.33" / 2560 x 14405.5" / 2560 x 14406.33" / 2560 x 1440
RAM3 GB LPDDR34 GB LPDDR44 GB LPDDR44 GB LPDDR4 1866MHz
Internal Storage32 GB32 / 64 /128 GB32 / 64 GB32 / 64 /128 GB UFS 2.0
MicroSDNoNoNoNo
Cameras13MP (PDAF) / 5MP front21MP (PDAF, OIS, dual-LED flash) / 4MP 2.0um pixel13MP (OIS, dual-LED flash) / 4MP 2.0um pixel21MP (OIS, PDAF, dual-LED flash) / 4MP 2.0um pixel
Wireless ConnectivityBluetooth 4.0, 802.11n Wi-FiBluetooth 4.1, 802.11ac/ad Wi-FiBluetooth 4.1, 802.11ac Wi-FiBluetooth 4.2, 802.11ac/ad Wi-Fi, LTE Cat. 12/13
SoundDolby + DTSHi-Fi (ESS chip), AKG audio tuningHi-Fi (ESS chip)N/A
Fingerprint SensorYesYesNoYes
Dual-SIMYesYesYesYes
NetworkTDD-LTE/FDD-LTE/TD-SCDMA/WCDMA/GSMTDD-LTE/FDD-LTE/TD-SCDMA/WCDMA/GSMTDD-LTE/FDD-LTE/TD-SCDMA/WCDMA/GSMTDD-LTE/FDD-LTE/TD-SCDMA/EVDO/CDMA/GSM
Battery3,000mAh3,400mAh / fast charging3,000mAh3,400mAh
ConnectorType-C, USB 2.0Type-C, USB 2.0Type-C, USB 2.0Type-C, USB 2.0
Size & Weight151.1 x 74.2 x 7.5mm / 169g167.1 x 83.5 x 8.95mm / 204g147.9 x 73.5 x 9.5mm / 177gN/A
Operating SystemAndroid 5.0 + EUI 5.5Android 5.0 + EUI 5.5Android 5.0 + EUI 5.5Android 6.0 + EUI
ColorGold / Silver / GrayGold / Silver / PinkGold / SilverN/A
Price$169.00$460N/AN/A

Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware. You can follow him at @lucian_armasu. 

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  • Uri___Pisarev
    You guys missed the LE HTC M9
    Reply
  • Epsilon_0EVP
    I own the Le 1s. It's overall a fairly good phone. The battery life is great; I've gotten two full days out of it quite regularly (although I don't use my phone very heavily). It is also quite snappy, even with a MediaTek chip instead of a Qualcomm. Overall, I'm quite satisfied with it for myself.

    However, a few issues prevent me from recommending it to more people. I wish they didn't add so much crapware on the phone; I'd recommend it to everyone if they used a cleaner Android version. It also still hasn't upgraded to 6.0, but I guess that's to be expected from their first foray into phones. You will also have almost no accessories designed for it in North America if you get one.
    Reply
  • DotNetMaster777
    those are reasonable price for those phones :)


    it is interesting what is the price of LeEco Le Max Pro ? ? ?
    Reply
  • scolaner
    However, a few issues prevent me from recommending it to more people. I wish they didn't add so much crapware on the phone; I'd recommend it to everyone if they used a cleaner Android version. It also still hasn't upgraded to 6.0, but I guess that's to be expected from their first foray into phones. You will also have almost no accessories designed for it in North America if you get one.

    Well, that's the tradeoff--you get the lower price, but it's subsidized by the "ecosystem."
    Reply
  • Epsilon_0EVP
    17619635 said:
    Well, that's the tradeoff--you get the lower price, but it's subsidized by the "ecosystem."

    That's exactly it; there's a reason the phone is so cheap. But I find it annoying enough that I wouldn't really recommend the phone to other people. It was a good experiment for me and I needed a quick replacement, but I wouldn't really buy another Le phone unless they started using a more traditional Android ROM. This would also mean that we would get faster updates; I have not received a single update since I got the phone last summer.
    Reply
  • scolaner
    17620935 said:
    17619635 said:
    Well, that's the tradeoff--you get the lower price, but it's subsidized by the "ecosystem."

    That's exactly it; there's a reason the phone is so cheap. But I find it annoying enough that I wouldn't really recommend the phone to other people. It was a good experiment for me and I needed a quick replacement, but I wouldn't really buy another Le phone unless they started using a more traditional Android ROM. This would also mean that we would get faster updates; I have not received a single update since I got the phone last summer.

    Ah, I gotcha. That bad?

    In what region of the world do you live where you're not getting regular updates? If LeEco is invading NA, it would be good for us to know whether we can plan on getting any updates...

    Reply
  • Epsilon_0EVP
    17621173 said:
    Ah, I gotcha. That bad?

    In what region of the world do you live where you're not getting regular updates? If LeEco is invading NA, it would be good for us to know whether we can plan on getting any updates...

    It's pretty bad. I regularly get ads in my notification bar, and every once in a while a full-page ad for one of their apps will appear. I also haven't found a way to get rid of the built-in apps, and although some of them are actually useful (like the file manager app), they really push for you to register an account with them and so forth. Again, makes sense from the business model, but rather annoying. A Moto G might not be as powerful, but it is about the same price and won't include so much crap...

    I am in Canada, and I did consider that being outside of China meant I might get less regular updates. But it's getting concerning now. I am still running 5.0, despite the fact that 5.1 released over a year ago. They probably do have to make a lot of work to update, since they are running a very modified interface. But it's still quite annoying, specially coming from a Nexus 4.

    The bright side, I guess, is that these are all software issues, which are relatively easy to fix. The hardware, on the other side, is near-perfect for me; I never thought I could have such a premium-feeling device for under $200 that performs so well. I'll keep up with LeEco and see how they do, but they will need to make some major changes to their software to get a recommendation from me.
    Reply