LeEco intros first US smartphones in ambitious product launch

The new LePro 3, which retails for $399. Image: LeEco

Chinese electronics manufacturer LeEco announced its first smartphones available in the U.S. Wednesday afternoon, the Le S3 and the Le Pro 3.

But while the high-end Android market has a gaping void due to the explosion of Samsung's Note 7, LeEco will have its work cut out for it breaking into the U.S. marketplace.

The Le S3 and Le Pro 3 come in at $250 and $399, respectively, and both feature a 5.5-inch display with 1080p full HD. The real differences come under the hood, where the LePro 3 features Qualcomm's zippy new Snapdragon 821 CPU while the Le S3 is saddled with the considerably slower Snapdragon 652.

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Moreover, LeEco touted the handset's integration with a plethora of other LeEco products and upcoming media partnerships.

LeEco has made a name for itself in China hosting a considerable media catalog of Chinese language videos and movies. The company hinted in its announcement that it would do something similar here, though it didn't elaborate on how it planned to compete with established players like Netflix and Hulu.

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Indeed, the entire LeEco announcement was exceedingly ambitious, going so far as to preview an electric car and integrated connected car products. The range of products announced brings to mind the wide-ranging experiments undertaken by the likes of Apple and Google, but LeEco obviously has none of the domestic brand recognition.

Image: LeEco
Nor has it established any carrier partnerships, a critical component for manufacturers selling in U.S. markets. As of now, the manufacturer is simply selling its handsets as unlocked phones on its website, which is not exactly a strategy for widespread adoption.

Of course, it's always possible that Samsung's disastrous Note 7 launch – and re-launch – will shake up the market enough to allow a new player to gain a foothold. But LeEco's offering doesn't really replace the Note 7 either.

The handsets certainly look slick, with a nearly bezel-less face and an aluminum frame resembling the HTC One. But at 5.5 inches, they also occupy a smaller footprint than the Note 7, and feature only full HD, offering none of the pixel density.

Furthermore, even the more premium Le Pro 3 lies at a lower price point, coming nowhere near the $850 of the Note 7. Given all that, fans of the premium, highest-end Android experience offered by the Note will likely find the LePro 3 an unsatisfactory replacement.

None of which is to say that LeEco's handsets won't find a place in the budget smartphone crowd, or that it couldn't introduce more competitive products down the line. But if the company wants to make true inroads in the U.S. market, it will need to spend the time and money necessary to establish the brand presence and partnerships necessary to do so.

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