Eccentric CEO bashes Apple to shill smartphones

Entrepreneur Luo Yonghao has a smartphone company in China that is losing money and has yet to capture even 1 percent of the market share.

So the CEO of Smartisan is making a lot of noise — including firing potshots at Apple — to raise his brand’s profile.

Luo has millions of social media followers and people pay to hear his bold and lively sales pitches. Yet his smartphone company has lost money every year since its 2012 startup. Last year, Smartisan gained a measly 0.6 percent of China’s smartphone market share.

Lining up to hear Luo Yonghao

Last week, more than 37,000 people paid up to 1,000 yuan (about $150) to see the unveiling of Smartisan’s latest offering, a 1TB smartphone that powers a PC workstation. Luo says the new device will lure Apple to “copy us like crazy.”

The South China Morning Post profiled Luo and his antics after the launch of the R1 smartphone and TNT Station all-in-one personal computer. Guinness World Records was on hand to certify the event as the biggest ever smartphone launch.

From the Morning Post article:

Despite his company’s small market share, Luo, a former English teacher, has helped raise Smartisan’s profile by talking big and bashing the most valuable technology company in the world, Apple, when he has an opportunity.

At the show, Luo said his goal was to “make Smartisan a great company like in the era of Jobs” and deliver products that surpass Apple’s iPhone, iPad and Mac line of personal computers.

Luo, who has publicly admired the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, said at the Smartisan show that the iPhone maker “has lost its soul” since Jobs died, which has led to a deterioration in the design and performance of Apple products.

The writer also noted the new R1 bears a resemblance to the iPhone.

Despite a glitchy failed demonstration at the launch event in Beijing, the handset has more than 230,000 preorders, the story said.

Many in China see Smartisan devices as expensive, according to the story, and some analysts predict performance problems with the phone powering a PC. The R1 will start at 3,499 yuan, which is a couple bucks shy of $550.

Source: South China Morning Post