LeEco takes on tech titans in US

LeEco is jumping into a fiercely competitive US smartphone market with LePro 3 and its ‘little brother’ Le S3, pricing them lower than flagship models from rivals to entice people over to its “ecosystem” of online offerings


LePro 3 will be priced at $399 and Le S3 at $249 when they become available to US buyers. Photo: AFP
LePro 3 will be priced at $399 and Le S3 at $249 when they become available to US buyers. Photo: AFP

San Francisco: A Chinese Internet colossus referred to as a combination of Netflix, Apple, Amazon and Tesla announced on Wednesday it is taking on US tech titans on their home turf.

LeEco is jumping into a fiercely competitive US smartphone market with LePro 3 and its ‘little brother’ Le S3, pricing them lower than flagship models from rivals to entice people over to its “ecosystem” of online offerings.

LePro 3 will be priced at $399 and Le S3 at $249 when they become available to US buyers at the company’s LeMall.com e-commerce website on 2 November.

Analysts expected it to take more than bargains on handsets to win people away from what Apple and Google provide when it comes to meshing mobile devices with digital content, applications and services.

“Oftentimes people are locked into ecosystems,” Gartner analyst Brian Blau told AFP.

“The trouble for LeEco is they have to create something that is going to impress people enough to switch.”

The LeEco cloud service was portrayed as a nervous-system of sorts that would connect the company’s various devices and be a conduit for digital content and services.

Apple and Google have invested heavily in meshing devices, software and content to get people to play, work and shop in “ecosystems” the companies have built.

“The market (LeEco) is entering with some devices is hyper-competitive with global players,” Blau said.

“To think that they can come in and have an impact early on is unrealistic.”

LeEco founder and chief executive Jia Yueting set a goal of winning hearts and minds in the key North America market before moving to lure the rest of the world into the LeEco ecosystem.

At a press event at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, Jia acknowledged that some have told him “LeEco is crazy to come to the backyard” of companies such as Apple, Google, Netflix, Tesla and Amazon.

The company’s broad vision is to have self-driving electric cars, virtual reality headsets, smartphones, televisions, and smart bicycles all connected to its cloud platform for Netflix-style television streaming and other digital offerings.

“If they have a success here, it will be because of that cloud offering,” Blau said of LeEco.

“The ecosystems that are doing well are doing so because of services that tie devices together in the cloud.”

Along with smartphones, LeEco in November will hit the US with a line of Super4 X Series ultra high-definition televisions with prices beginning at $649 and topping out at $4,999 for a uMax85 that measures 85 inches diagonally.

The television market is rife with competitors, many making high-definition and smart models that tap into the Internet.

LeEco already provides on-demand streamed television in China, and announced it has an array of launch partners including film studio Lionsgate on board for its US debut.

“We have blazed a new path in the Internet content domain,” Jia said.

“This is the first time we will be able to achieve this in America.”

LeEco promised enticing bargains during a “flash sale” at LeMall on 2 November, out to make a splash in the market and get people using its Netflix-style subscription service for online content.

The company also displayed a virtual reality headset and its Super Bike packed with sensors, locks and other technology powered by Google-back Android software.

A new LeEco concept car that was being used in London for the filming of a new “Transformers” film directed by Michael Bay was rushed to San Francisco for the event.

Blau viewed the smart bicycles and electric cars shown off by LeEco “a bit of a tease” and something for the future.

LeEco had originally planned to have a prototype of a new generation self-driving electric car drive Jia up a ramp and onto the stage, but he jogged instead because the concept vehicle didn’t arrive in time.

No plans were revealed for releasing LeEco bicycles, cars or virtual reality gear in North America.

Jia maintained that LeEco wasn’t coming to North America to challenge US technology giants, but to “create an entirely new generation of products.”

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