LeEco Unveils its First US Smartphone, the $299 LePro 3


LeEco, the Chinese tech giant that bought Vizio in July, announced today that it will sell its own smartphones and TVs in the US starting Nov. 2.

At just $299 after rebate, the flagship LePro 3 smartphone is a fraction of the cost of the new Google Pixel XL, unveiled earlier this month. At least on paper, though, it matches the Pixel XL's power.

The handset's processor is the quad-core Snapdragon 821, Qualcomm's latest and greatest. It has 4GB of memory, 64GB of onboard storage, and a 5.5-inch Full HD display. There's also an 8MP front-facing camera and a 16MP rear shooter. LeEco says its 4070 mAh battery will last up to 33 hours of call time, 49 hours of music playback, and nearly 14 hours of streaming video on a full charge.

Those specs are equal to—and in some cases better than—the Pixel XL and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, which are likely to be its closest competitors in the US. But what about design quality?

During a brief hands-on at a press event in San Francisco today, the LePro 3 didn't disappoint. Its brushed-metal exterior is available in either black or gold. There's a rather large fingerprint reader and bulging camera housing on the back, but the bottomless front is much sleeker. To activate the Android home, back, and app switcher controls, you just tap the bottom of the bezel, and lights illuminate to show where you should tap. In a twist, the home button is actually a stylized LeEco logo.

The right edge has a volume rocker and power button, which are the only physical controls. Along the bottom edge, there's a connector and dual speakers, but—gasp!—no headphone port.

The screen uses Corning Gorilla Glass, and it's slightly curved at the edges, though not as much as the S7 Edge.

With equal specs to some of the best Android smartphones money can buy, you might be wondering why the LePro 3 is so cheap. And therein lies the caveat: the company says it's able to offer low prices because it controls distribution. The unlocked phone will be available only at LeEco's online store starting on Nov. 2. You won't be able to buy it from a carrier, and you won't be able to try out its features at a retail store first.

Still, LeEco isn't just relying on its low price and uncompromising tech to lure you in. The company made its name as the Chinese Netflix, and it has lined up major US movie and TV studios to fill up its media Ecosystem, which will also debut in the US on Nov. 2.

The Ecosystem UI has a unique app on the LePro 3, called "LeApp." (In case you were wondering, yes, the company knows people might think it's French with all those "Les" being thrown around; exec Danny Bowman says he's already "heard all the best Le Jokes.")

LeApp is divided into two parts: live TV channels show up in a mosaic three rows high and three columns wide, and then you can swipe to the right to view the streaming movies and TV shows section.

The live channels view looked great in the demo, because it displayed all of the live streams in the 3x3 layout with no stuttering. That might not be feasible if you've got a slow data connection, though.

At launch, content from Lionsgate, MGM, Showtime, Vice, A&E, and the History Channel will be available. LeEco plans to launch more partnerships weekly. You'll need a LePass membership to view them all. Pricing hasn't yet been announced, but LePro 3 owners will get three months free.

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