Event Coverage

Letv announces 3 new smartphones, but what happened at their event was more interesting

By Alvin Soon - 17 Apr 2015

Letv announces 3 new smartphones, but what happened at their event was more interesting

Letv seems to have an Apple complex.

First, the Chinese company used Hitler — a genocidal war criminal responsible for the deaths of millions — in a marketing campaign, comparing the Nazi to Apple. CEO Jia Yueting has since apologised for the ad, which has been taken down.

Still, the new poster for their April 14th smartphone event left no doubt as to who Letv was gunning for, with the “App” part crossed out of the word “Apple”. Even the ‘1984’ refers to the year the Apple Macintosh was introduced.

Then, at the beginning of the April 14th event, Letv actually ran Apple’s famous ‘1984’ ad, in which a young woman destroys a giant talking head as mindless minions look on. Letv then ran their own version of the ad, in which a crowd of mindless minions were worshipping a green apple instead of a face on TV.

In Apple's iconic '1984' ad, a young woman runs through a crowd of mindless minions listening to a giant head on a big screen. She hurls a hammer and destroys the TV.

A boy in red then runs down the aisle, and takes a bite out of the apple, causing the minions to wreath in shock. A large door opens behind the boy and a blinding light causes the screen to fade to white. After some text, the ad closes on the core of an eaten apple.

In Letv's version, a group of mindless minions are worshipping a green apple instead (not very subtle).

A young boy in red runs through the crowd, grabs the apple and takes a bite out of it.

This minion can't handle it.

The bit ends on an eaten Apple-oops, I mean, apple.

After all that Apple-hating, Letv CEO Jia Yueting — and I kid you not — shows up dressed like Steve Jobs. Jia wore a long-sleeved black top, with blue jeans and track shoes. If you squinted your eyes from far away enough, you might think there was an Asian Steve Jobs on stage.

And then THIS happens.

Jia then went on to deliver an Apple-like presentation, with Apple-like slides. He introduced Letv’s new phones, one of which has antennas that look just like the ones on the iPhone 6. And kept ripping on Apple as he was doing all of this, while a very enthusiastic corner of the front row seats kept cheering him on.

And this.

This too.

Even THIS.

There was even an Ellen moment.

G.E.M. showed up, which was pretty awesome.

These guys in the front right corner kept cheering throughout everything.

Who is Letv?

Let’s back up. I’ve been talking about Letv all this time and I haven’t even introduced them. Letv is a streaming company from China, with around 400 million monthly users, and a library of more than 100,000 TV series and 5,000 movies. Letv also has a production arm, and makes smart TVs.

The Le Super Phones

In the two-hour long presentation, CEO Jia Yueting introduced Letv's three Le Super Phones, two of which are variants of each other. In the press release, Letv again takes a potshot at Apple, describing the Le 1, Le 1 Pro and Le Max as “fully surpassing Apple” in “many areas such as design, craftsmanship, hardware, video ecosystem and business model.” For a company that doesn't seem to like Apple, it sure talks about Apple a lot.

The entry-level Le 1.

The Le 1 Pro.

The flagship Le Max.

Le Super Phones Key Specs
  Le 1 Le 1 Pro Le Max
Display  5.5"  5.5"  6.33"
Display Type  IPS  IPS  IPS
Display Resolution  1,920 x 1,080  2,560 x 1,440  2,560 x 1,440
Camera (back)  13MP, f/2  13MP, f/2  21MP, f/2
Camera (front)  5MP  4MP  4MP
OS  Android 5.0  Android 5.0  Android 5.0
Chipset  MTK 6795  Qualcomm Snapdragon 810  Qualcomm Snapdragon 810
Processor  64-bit Octa-core 2GHz  64-bit Octa-core 2GHz  64-bit Octa-core 2GHz
Memory  3GB RAM  4GB RAM  4GB RAM
Internal Storage  16GB  32GB  32/64GB
Battery  Li-ion 3,000mAh  Li-ion 3,000mAh  Li-ion 3,400mAh
Dimensions  147.8 x 74.2 x 9.5mm  147.9 x 73.5 x 9.6mm  167.1 x 83.5 x 8.95mm
Weight 170g   177g  180g
SIM  Dual SIM, Dual LTE  Dual SIM, Dual LTE  Dual SIM, Dual LTE
Fingerprint Sensor  N.A. N.A.   Yes

The entry-level Le 1 is priced from 1,499 RMB (estimated S$325). The Le 1 Pro is priced from 2,499 RMB (estimated S$543), while the flagship Le Max’s price hasn’t been announced.

The three phones’ main claim to fame are their bezel-less designs and narrow display edges (less than 1.5mm). They kind of look like the HTC One M9 with a little of the iPhone 6 thrown in. In fact, during the presentation, Jia made a pun about the iPhone 6's white antenna bands, asking the crowd if they would prefer a ‘white belt’ or ‘black belt’, then revealed that the Le Super Phones have black antenna bands.

After elaborating on the phones’ high-end features, including a 21MP Sony camera (compared, of course, to the iPhone 6 camera), the 2K Sharp ‘Le Screen’, and the Type C USB port, Jia revealed the Le Super Phones’ BOM (Bill of Materials) — essentially, what the phones’ materials cost — versus his competitors’ estimated BOM. Jia went on to declare that Letv would sell their phones at low cost to drive down the cost of materials in the market, for the benefit of their customers. If we read their charts right, Letv is saying that it will be selling their phones at a loss, possibly trying to recoup it with subscriptions to Letv’s streaming services.

Letv's chart for the Le 1's and its competitors' BOM. According to the chart, Letv is selling the Le 1 at 0.7% less than cost.

During my hands-on, I realised that Jia had left out one spec during his entire presentation — how thick the Le Super Phones are. And for good reason, since all the Le Super Phones feel really thick in the hands. Since Letv seems to love comparing themselves against Apple, the Le Super Phones are all thicker than Apple’s current iPhones, save for the iPhone 5c versus the Le Max.

  Le 1 Le 1 Pro Le Max iPhone 6 Plus iPhone 6 iPhone 5s iPhone 5c
Thickness 9.5mm 9.6mm 8.95mm 7.1mm 6.9mm 7.6mm 8.97mm

While the bezel-less feature and thin display edges may be engineering feats, they don’t appeal much in real life. You can still see a clear black edge surrounding the screen, which detracts from the effect. In fact, if you really want a ‘bezel-less’ design, I’d say the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge is kind of ‘bezel-less’ in a more attractive way.

The Le Super Phones feel pretty thick compared to other flagship phones today. Pictured here is the Le Max, the thinnest Le Super Phone.

The Le Super Phones' distinctive features are their bezel-less design and thin display edges.

Letv's EUI (Eco User Interface) has deep hooks into its streaming service, which probably won't be very relevant in Singapore.

The Le Super Phones are slated to arrive in Singapore sometime later this year.

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