Earlier today, Chinese tech company LeEco unveiled its grand plans to take the US market by storm with a series of new gadgets — well, ones that were new to US customers, but that the company had already been making for the Chinese market. This included a new flagship smartphone, the LePro 3.
Yes, all of the new products start with "Le." Let's get that out of the way.
I was skeptical that the $399 LePro 3 would feel like a premium smartphone, given its price point and also the fact that I've never seen or held a LeEco anything before. But I was pleasantly surprised by its build. It's much nicer than I expected. It's super thin. It has a bright, 5.5-inch HD display and a solid, brushed-metal body.
The LePro 3 has a rear 16-megapixel rear camera and an eight-megapixel front camera, captures 4K video, and has a fingerprint sensor on the back that doubles as a shutter button. It has Qualcomm's Snapdragon 821 processor, the same one that's in Google's new Pixel phone. And it has four gigabytes of memory and starts at 64GB of internal storage. Hardware-wise, it feels like an all-around solid phablet.
It's super thin, with a brushed-metal body
Then there's the software. All of LeEco's products run on top of Android, including its phones, although there's a skin over it that LeEco calls "EUI" (honestly, it was difficult to keep track of all the acronyms during the launch event). This stands for Ecosystem User Interface.
The most notable design element of the EUI is quick access to a "Live" app that brings you to LeEco's own video streaming service. Tapping on a small icon on the upper right-hand corner of a video means that video tile will follow you everywhere, even if you navigate back to the home screen.
That isn't the only LeEco app that comes pre-loaded on the phone; there are a bunch of them, including a LeEco LeMall app, along with the standard suite of Google apps. Also, swiping down from the top of the display doesn't appear to bring you to the quick settings dropdown menu you usually get on Android.
LeEco also kept referencing something called UP2U (pronounced "You-Pee-To-You") during the event, which I thought was some specific feature of its products, but turns out that's just an overarching philosophy LeEco has, that its products are all about you, the customer. Of course.
So many acronyms
But as I mentioned earlier, the LePro 3's price is competitive — very competitive. LeEco is charging $399 for the base model, with a $100 rebate for people who pre-order before November 2. The "little brother" phone, the LeS 3, starts at $249. The phones are being sold exclusively on LeEco's own e-commerce site, LeMall, and will work on GSM networks only.
We won't be able to definitively say if the LePro 3 is up to premium phone standards until we've had the chance to use it more, and test the extensive battery life claims — 33 talk hours, 12 hours of video time — but for now, I'm slightly LeImpressed.