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Review: The Le Pro3 phone -- low price, great hardware, pushy UI

Dan Rosenbaum | Nov. 10, 2016
LeEco's high-spec Android smartphone sounds like a great deal. But it may not be a deal you’ll want to make.

Normally, when you swipe from the top of the phone, the expected Android behavior is to show notifications and to provide an entry to phone settings; a second swipe shows a deeper selection of settings. In the Le Pro3, there is only a single swipe, and that gesture only displays notifications. To see settings and controls, you need to press Recent.

Pressing Recent reveals a scrollable horizontal list of thumbnails of open apps across the bottom third of the screen; you can close apps by swiping them upwards, similar to the way iOS works. Above that is a slider for screen brightness and above that, buttons that toggle Wi-Fi, cellular data use, auto-rotate, airplane mode and mute. The top third of the screen has music and playback controls, and at the screen's very top are buttons that launch an infra-red remote control app, the camera, a calculator app, a flashlight and the full settings menu.

lepro3 screenshots

Left: Pressing the Recent capacitive button normally shows a list of recently-used apps; in the Le Pro3, you get a far different result. Right: Lacking an App Tray, the phone displays all its apps on the home screen.

As opposed to typical Android, swiping down again does not bring up further choices. Swiping left or right on the rows of button reveal more controls; you can adjust the order of the buttons -- and which ones are displayed -- in the Settings menu.

From the phone's main screen, swiping right brings you to another list of recommended YouTube videos. This list, at least, lets you filter to categories including Movies & Trailers, Music, News, Gaming and so on. And blessedly, nothing autostarts.

You can reset a lot of the function to Android standard by downloading the Google Now launcher and setting it as the default. That re-establishes the App Drawer and puts the familiar Google card interface in place when you swipe right from the Home screen. But you still get at quick settings only through the Recent button, so get used to it.

Duplicative and nosy apps

Le Pro3 comes with productivity apps that duplicate Google's: a browser, calendar, contact, e-mail and notes. The browser comes with a few dozen major sites pre-bookmarked. I can't think of any reason for these apps to exist (and you can't delete them)-- especially since the phone also comes with Google's core apps (Google, Gmail, Maps, YouTube, Drive, Play Music, Play Movies & TV, Hangouts, Photos and Voice Search) pre-installed.

A Tools folder includes an audio and video player, an audio recorder, and an infrared universal remote control that kind of works but which you probably won't want to rely on. Of greater interest are the LeVidi and My LeEco apps. The former would like you to register -- your Google credentials are good enough -- so it can show you YouTube videos. The latter controls access to your LeEcoPass and LeCloud accounts to sync and back up your phone. (Yes, Google does the same thing natively with Android.) There's also a File Manager app where you can control what to back up. You're not particularly constrained by space; you supposedly get 5TB, but I did not test that limit. And finally, you can manage the LeEco account that you used to buy the phone with.


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