Why China’s smartphone makers are selling suitcases
Smartisan embraces Xiaomi-like "ecosystem" strategy with low-tech products
The modern suitcase was invented over a century ago. But this week Smartisan, a smartphone startup best known for their wacky tech ideas, unveiled a new take on the age-old device.
On the outside, the Level8 Suitcase looks just like most hard cases you can find on the market. But inside, it’s packed with features that most won’t have: A detachable 20,000 mAh power bank, a data cable, as well as USB-C, micro USB and Lightning connectors.
For frequent fliers, a compartment on the front flips open easily, allowing you to quickly take out items like laptops and liquids for airport screening. Smartisan claims the handle is three times more durable than competitors.
Smartisan’s venture into low-tech products isn’t new -- the company already sells clothes, clocks and notebooks (the paper ones, not laptops) through its website. It’s an approach that brings to mind the “ecosystem” strategy of competitor Xiaomi -- a gadget giant that started as a smartphone maker and later expanded into home products (and suitcases too).
Just like Xiaomi, Smartisan has opted to partner up with other companies. For instance, Its suitcase is made by Level8 -- a manufacturer that also produces laptop bags. These collaborations allow Xiaomi or Smartisan to expand their lineup without having to design everything themselves. And as for the companies they’re partnering with? Those lesser-known brands can take advantage of more prominent retail networks.
On Tuesday, Smartisan also launched a US$130 smart speaker, made by a smaller startup it invests in called DeepSound Technology. The device itself is dubbed David & Sheryl -- corresponding to the names of the voices you can choose from.
“Professional David” and “Boyfriend David” are both male voices, but apparently they have different personalities. The former says things like “I hope I can do something to make you feel better,” while the latter prefers “Who’s bullying you? Please tell me. ”
The female voice equivalents are called -- wait for it -- “Professional Sheryl” and “Girlfriend Sheryl”.
Just in time for winter, Smartisan also unveiled a US$288 humidifier made by José Tronco, another Smartisan-backed company. It can go 7 hours between refills, and works in spaces up to 194 square feet -- not exactly groundbreaking.
We’ve seen more creative, if not entirely practical, ideas from Smartisan. In August, it showed off a modified version of Android that lets you move your phone left and right to find an app. Months earlier, it launched a 27-inch touchscreen powered solely by a smartphone with 1TB of storage.