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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.

Many, if not most, of the LeEco apps ask for permissions far beyond what one would expect they need. Why would the music and browser apps, for instance, need to make and manage phone calls, or a video player need access to my calendar, or a remote control want access to my photos? Denying permission means the apps won't function.

If you weren't being nudged toward the company's online services, it would be easier to dismiss those excess requests as sloppy programming. As it is, it creates unease and mistrust. Do they really want all that access? Why?

Bottom line

I'm a native New Yorker, and my whiskers twitch when someone offers me a great price on something I'm used to paying a lot more for. As a result, I'm a bit suspicious of LeEco's intentions. If the true cost of a low price is having to stand at the receiving end of a content pipe, I'm not interested.

I don't much like the interface changes of LeEco's version of Android, and I don't see the point of the included apps. I've got the nagging feeling that if LeEco could have found a way to ship this phone without the Google app stack -- Android with minimal Google -- they'd have done it in a heartbeat.

Software intent aside, Le Pro3 is very good hardware, with a huge long-lasting battery and top-shelf components and construction. At $399, this is an immense bargain. You can steer clear of the native apps and put Google Now on it and get around most of the phone's annoying bits, and you'll be more or less fine.

Although, there's this: The first few times I rebooted the phone, the power-on splash screen carried a small message that read, "I'm not just a phone, I'm an integrated internet ecosystem." The message eventually stopped coming up, replaced by one that said, "Breaking boundaries for freedom." And when you power down the Le Pro3, there's this message: "I'm getting smarter everyday." [sic]

You should also know that LeEco's chairman reportedly sent a letter to employees earlier this week saying the company is financially overextended (singling out its work on autonomous cars) and that it would slow its rate of expansion. It's not clear what, if any, effect this will have on LeEco's phone plans.

So yes, I'd recommend the phone, if only for its price. But LeEco has yet to prove to me its value proposition, and that makes me uncomfortable.

At a Glance

Le Pro3

LeEco

Price: $399 (vendor price)

Pros: High quality components; good fit and finish; low price

Cons: Duplicative and intrusive software; annoying modifications to Android; pushy content

 

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