LeEco? A French company with eco-friendly products? Good guess, but wrong.
The (trying-not-to-be) Chinese company has been called the Netflix of China. One of its movies, Go Princess Go, recorded over 2 billion views before it was pulled by government censors. It’s branched out into smartphones, virtual reality (VR) headsets and bikes, all the way to the automobile—one that resembles (maybe a little too much) a Tesla Model S.
The car was scheduled to roll down a giant runway, with the company’s CEO in it, to the delight of a crowd of hundreds of media types and influencers flown in for a debut complete with smoke and flashiness. But an accident coming up the California coast where the car had been placed in a Hollywood motion picture forces LeEco founder and CEO Yueting “YT” Jia to run down the ramp. We are subjected to a recounting of the mishap. Long story short—they had to fly in a non-working replica of the car, which we are about to see in the product showroom next door.
What's not to like? Thinner, lasts longer and cheaper than its counterpart from Apple. LeEco Le Pro 3 smartphone makes its U.S. debut. (Image courtesy of LeEco shopping site, LeMall.)
A parade of Chinese executives and their counterparts from what is probably a recently formed U.S. division (“we’re an international company”) are taking the stage in San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts to tell the United States(“the most important market”) that they have arrived with a series of product lines that reveal “disruptive pricing.” Prices are provided as proof, for everything but the car. But true to fashion, it will be less than the Tesla it resembles. The products do indeed seem to be excellent values. Its smartphone, the LePro 3, priced at $399, beats Apple’s iPhone by $250 yet has better battery life, edge-to-edge screen and supposedly a superior fingerprint reader … What doesn’t it have—besides the Apple logo, I mean?
Will it fit in my living room? The LeEco uMax85 is 7 feet diagonally.
The company’s 7-foot (no lie, it’s 85 in corner to corner!) uMax85 costs $5,000, making it cheaper than the equivalent Samsung TV. And, yes, brighter and smarter—its processors are shown to be able to keep up with the quickest action.
Next year’s The Great Wallmay be the most expensive movie ever produced in China and casts Matt Damon in the leading role.
The action can take form in the upcoming The Great Wall starring our own Matt Damon that is being produced by LeEco. Watch for it on a little screen near you.
“We are now at the point where more movies are being watched on smartphones than on theater screens,” said Jia.
With entertainment creation (making movies) and consumption (hardware to watch movies) accounted for, LeEco has both sides covered. Its entertainment is considered a value add to its transportation products. Its electric car is replete with screens for all of its occupants.
The VR Headset
The LeVR works with a LeEco smartphone clipped on to the front. (Image courtesy of GearBest.)
The LeVR, a head-mounted display being introduced on stage, is already up on a discount tech gear shopping site for around $35. But before you get too excited (this is a fraction of what the Oculus Rift goes for), keep in mind three things:
- It is out of stock.
- It is only available in China, per the site.
- You have to have a LeEco smartphone, which is not included.
Mounting the smartphone to the headset is done exactly like Google Cardboard. This is one case in which LeEco does not win the price war. Google Cardboard is given away for free. LeVR is certainly a nicer looking product though.
However, with LeEco’s emphasis on the consumer market and entertainment, we don’t expect many engineering applications to be ported to this device.
You can't get a flashier bike. LeEco’s so-called Super Bike. (Image courtesy of YouTube.)
LeEco makes no pretense about its new pedal-powered bike—it’s called Super Bike after all. At 27 lbs, according to LeEco, the bike sits at the high end of top-notch racing mountain bikes, while still lighter than clunky cruiser bikes. It sports a combination of features that do set it apart from other bikes, with an emphasis on tech:
- The built-in lighting system includes laser markers for defining a safe zone around the bike.
- A battery is built into the frame. Sorry, it’s just for the lights—it won’t help you with the hills.
- An Android-based smartphone is embedded in the bike frame, which should make it harder to rip off.
- With sensors galore, it picks up vital cycling stats like cadence, speed, etc.
But in scouting a place for its American debut, LeEco didn’t seem to consider that San Francisco is not the ideal place for pedal power. Its hills will challenge the hardiest of cyclists, and bikes have to be really light or motor assisted. The LeEco bike doesn’t provide power to the wheels, and while the Super Bike is quite innovative for a human-powered bike, the company stands to miss out on the increasing popularity of e-bikes.
Will America Embrace LeEco?
All told, the LeEco event revealed an impressive assortment of tech products, that will, if they live up to their billing, should help in establishing at least a small foothold on the lucrative American consumer market. The company has shown a willingness to spend money on marketing, as evidenced by its flashy launch in San Francisco. Final success will depend, however, on a continued marketing campaign – one that can resonate with the American public. For most foreign companies, that is proving to be hard to attain. A blowout success is not just about making a much cheaper and slightly better version of the same product, it’s about tapping into a previously unfulfilled – or unknown—desire. Or creating a desirable brand that people are willing to pay a premium for. It is proving easy to copy the looks, feel and even the inner workings of almost anything overseas. That is just a matter of engineering and manufacturing, taught and learned all over the world. Why is it with foreign companies seem to have less success with ingenuity, entrepreneurship and marketing?