Skip to main content

Le who? This Chinese company wants to take over the U.S. with its phones, TVs, and more

leeco lecoming to leamerica 2016 letv one pro
The first Android smartphone to use the latest and greatest processor from Qualcomm wasn’t made by Samsung or LG — No, that honor belonged to the Letv Max Pro, a stunning metal phone from an unknown Chinese brand. It was one of the highlights of CES 2016, and the Chinese company took advantage of the buzz to declare its intention to bring smartphones, a selection of televisions, and its content platform to the U.S. in 2016. There were very few firm details at the time, but after spending some time with the awesome Le Max Pro, it was hard not to get excited about Letv’s plans.

There’s little doubt of LeEco is intent on trampling into the U.S. with a giant, powerful smartphone.

Digital Trends caught up with Letv’s social and brand manager Will Park a few months later to see the second smartphone the company intends to bring to America, plus the cool Le Super Bike, and discuss how the official launch is progressing. It was enlightening — but the future of the company is still undecided.

Related Videos

What did we learn? First, the company’s not called Letv anymore. Now it’s LeEco, a name that combines part of the Chinese phrase from which the Letv name is derived and eco as in ecosystem. The company announced this change in January when the firm launched in India. Second, plans are moving along for America, but we got the impression decisions and strategy regarding the task are a work-in-progress.

The biggest takeaway is that the Le Max Pro may not see store shelves at all. Instead, the first widely available LeEco phone could be the second generation Le Max Pro phone and the Le 1 Pro, which we got the chance to see. It’s like a slightly smaller Max Pro, with a 5.5-inch 1440p screen, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, and a 13-megapixel camera. The body shares a similar design, along with a style reminiscent of the iPhone and various Huawei devices. There’s no fingerprint sensor, either, and the version we saw was still wearing the Letv brand name. While boasting competitive specs at the moment, the Le 1 Pro will start aging after the summer, and may end up coming out at a very good price. We’ll have to wait and see.

Second-gen Le Max Pro may be the flagship device

Letv-Le-Max-Pro_9826
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Why would the Le Max Pro miss its chance to shine in the U.S.? Park told Digital Trends the company wants to build awareness of the LeEco brand through roadshow-style parties and events where people will get the chance to try and perhaps win LeEco phones in return for focus-group feedback. The Le Max Pro is likely to be the star device on display at these regional events. By the time these are all complete, and LeEco has its strategy nailed down, Park said the second-generation Max Pro should be ready for sale.

When questioned whether the Le Max Pro we’ve already seen would end up as a pre-launch smartphone calling card, only to be immediately succeeded by the Max Pro 2, Park was noncommittal. The timeframes discussed continue to suggest a late 2016 launch for LeEco, something echoed by Park, who said LeEco was definitely pushing for this year. However, if it’s after October, the Le Max Pro — as powerful and massive as it is now — will no longer have the same cache, and LeEco seems to be a company that really wants to have a mighty machine on its books to entice buyers.

This isn’t a terrible thing. We’re always pleased to get the chance to buy completely up-to-date phones, plus there’s some more good news — LeEco’s not waiting until its digital content platform is ready for the U.S. before coming in and selling smartphones. Waiting would make a 2016 release date highly optimistic. LeEco is like Netflix, offering licensed movies and TV (plus games and a lot more) in China; making deals for the same kind of thing in the U.S. takes a lot of time, and LeEco doesn’t intend to wait around.

We also learned more about how we’ll be able to buy LeEco phones. If you’re fixated on buying through a carrier, you won’t see them on any lists early on, because first they’ll be offered SIM-free  and unconnected through the online LeMall website, and potentially through other online stores and retail outlets as well. Prices are still to be discussed, but the Le Max Pro is less than $350 in China, and the first run released in February sold out in just a couple of seconds.

There’s little doubt of LeEco is intent on trampling into the U.S. with a giant, powerful smartphone and various other bits of cool tech, and winning lots of fans. How many fans it wins, and whether they’ll be normal people rather than phone geeks, remains to be seen. We still have some months to wait before it happens, but LeEco’s definitely le coming, so you best get le ready.

Editors' Recommendations

LeEco is reportedly planning massive layoffs to its U.S. workforce
LeEco Vizio announcement

It looks like LeEco's big bet on expansion into the U.S. may not have paid off in quite the manner the company expected. The Chinese firm is reportedly prepping for a massive round of layoffs on Tuesday, May 23, according to a report from CNBC.

The report notes that only 60 percent of the company's U.S. workforce will be left after the round of cuts. According to CNBC's source, its current U.S. workforce sits in at over 500 employees. The report also cites an email calling employees to a "Town Hall" meeting that is supposed to occur at its locations in San Diego, San Jose, and Santa Monica, all in California, and that all employees are being told to attend unless they have pre-approved time off.

Read more
First images leak of upcoming LeEco flagship phone with curved display
leeco silicon valley property

LeEco could have a big year ahead of it and it could take on the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus. How? Well, with a flagship smartphone, of course. That phone could actually end up looking very similar to the Galaxy S8 too -- apparently, it has curved edges.

Apart from the display, the phone is tipped to have some pretty impressive specs under the hood. For example, it could offer the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, along with 6GB of RAM, which is expected to become a standard amount of RAM in this year and next.

Read more
LeEco update marks the debut of an app drawer for two of its smartphones
leeco le pro 3

Android fans in the West seem to enjoy their app drawers, seeing how the likes of LG and Huawei were criticized for having exorcised the drawers in their Android overlays. Digital Trends knocked Chinese manufacturer LeEco for this purposeful oversight on the Le Pro 3 and Le S3, but an upcoming software update for both phones will patch that right up.

It is a bit comical to have a highlight feature of an update be the inclusion of an app drawer, but that is where we are with LeEco, which wants to expand into the U.S. with its fleet of products. With the update, an app drawer is now prominently featured in the center of the dock. That area used to be occupied by LeEco's Live app, which has been shifted to the right on the dock, though you can now move it anywhere you would like.

Read more