LeEco pushing for smartphone dominance just like Micromax did some years ago

Back in 2013, when Samsung was already the most preferred brand in India, and looked like the reign wouldn't end, we saw home-brewed Micromax take on the giant.

Back in 2013, when Samsung was already the most preferred brand in India, and looked like the reign wouldn't end, we saw home-brewed Micromax take on the giant. It was clearly a David vs Goliath fight. But Micromax managed to woo audiences with its disruptive pricing, throwing the latter into a frenzy.

Without mincing words, Micromax’s made it clear that it is going after the big guys, Samsung, early in 2013. Samsung launched the highly awaited Galaxy Grand. Though the Grand was a huge hit, Micromax managed to take a chunk out of Samsung’s success with the Canvas HD. At a bargain price of Rs 13,990, the Micromax A116 Canvas HD was as powerful as the Grand and had a suitably attractive price tag, and some better specs too.

LeEco enters India in January 2016

Now, a few years down the line, LeEco seems to be treading that path. Companies like Oppo have been around for a while here, but started focusing on the India market with its aggressive marketing only this year. On the other hand, Xiaomi mostly focuses on social media marketing. LeEco has engaged in aggressive marketing. Oppo and Vivo were also engaged in aggressive marketing with cricket sponsorship and advertising posters/banners. In fact, Oppo and Vivo recorded the highest growth and managed to replace Xiaomi and Lenovo from the top 5 positions of global smartphone shipments.

LeEco didn't just undergo a transformation to suit the Indian market, but also launched devices at disruptive prices. In fact, it goes a step further. The company that has been in Indian market for roughly four months has ensured to not just remain yet another Chinese brand offering superior specs at affordable prices. The company has time and again promised how it plans to build a content ecosystem, and isn't just looking on churning device after device, ensuring that its every device has something for users. In fact its India head has always maintained that LeEco sells its phones at a cost lower than that of the Bill of Materials (BOM), maintaining that software ecosystem is where the real meat is.

"Our technical teams have been working relentlessly to complete the integration process so our users have a superior experience. Simultaneously, LeEco has been building CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) in India – again with the same objective of enhancing user experience of content," LeEco India COO Atul Jain had told Firstpost in an interview.

It entered the Indian market with the launch of its superphones, the Le 1s budget smartphone that has managed to become the top selling device in February and the comparatively higher end Le Max flagship which is priced at Rs 32,999. Among 243 smartphones available online, the Rs 10,999 Le 1s was ranked the top selling device in February moving past Xiaomi Redmi 2 and Samsung Galaxy J5, according to global market research firm IDC said.

LeEco Le 1s Eco with the Supertainment content play

The company has now launched the Le 1s Eco under its Made for India initiative. The specs are similar to the Le 1s, except for a drop in the Helio X10 processor clock speeds. Keeping its promise about the content, the company has also announced LeEco membership to offer services such as video-on-demand service, in partnership with Eros Now. It has also partnered with YuPP TV for live streaming of TV channels and also introduces the LeEco Drive, digital storage with 5TB space for every LeEco user.

LeEco which is bullish on content partnership has priced its LeEco Membership for Rs 490/month or Rs 4900/year. Considering this is not content exclusive to LeEco phones, and other Android phone users have equal access to this content, the company isn't disheartened. "Consumers can continue to download individual apps, but getting it under one seamless platform as ours is what is unique. The convenience and ease of having your content organised is an advantage. Also, it is a smart platform, which will learn what you like as you use it," said Jain.

He assured us that for LeEco membership subscribers premium content on apps such as YuPP TV, Hungama, Eros Now would be take care of in the membership fee itself. LeEco has plans to release original content, but Jain said that it was too early to get into having its own home grown content on the platforms - something it is renowned in China for. He said that it is difficult to know outright what content LeEco does will work, so it has stuck with partnerships with established players.

LeDrive offers 5TB of storage which will be part of the LeEco membership, and Jain says that it will not be a closed platform. "You can share links to your documents or photo albums stored on your LeDrive to non LeEco users as well. But buying LeDrive storage membership independent of the other features or independent of the LeEco phone is not an option as of now," he said.

Apart from devices offered at jaw-dropping prices, it has announced to open 555 service centers covering more than 300 towns in India. The service centres will provide 24×7 toll free voice support in English, Hindi, Bangla, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, and Telugu. LeEco said it has filed an application with the FIPB for opening single-brand retail stores to sell its electronic products too.

Micromax betting big on Around services as well

Meanwhile, there were reports how Micromax has been struggling. Afterall, Micromax that outsourced production to Chinese manufacturers is now facing competition as these phone makers are entering the Indian market and also giants like Samsung have eventually started pushing out phones at a lower price. In an attempt to reinvent itself, the company underwent a complete makeover, with not just a facelift but by launching 15 devices at a time. The new tagline, 'Nuts. Guts. Glory,' goes really well with what its ambitions are, as we observed post the event.

At its rebranding, Micromax announced its Around discovery platform service - which is a refined version of the AroundYU that was launched along with the YU Yutopia. This was one serious value addition we had seen on a smartphone coming from a home-grown brand. Tasks such as 'Booking of flights, cabs, food delivery and hotels' is the value addition that the Around native app offers.

However, the market is getting fierce and everyone has been stepping up their offering to ensure no stone is left unturned. Software services in the form offered by Around and LeEco Entertainment are interesting value additions which will surely differentiate phones coming out in the future. It is no wonder than that established players such as Xiaomi has also started investing in content providers such as Hungama digital. How brands decide to use these content/services overlay with their devices will be interesting to watch out for.

With inputs from Nimish Sawant

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