Nothing says ‘look at me’ quite like a Chinese tech brand appropriating a Hitler cartoon to take a shot at the world’s biggest technology company.

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If you live in a Chinese city, watch Chinese video streams or peruse the local social media, chances are you’re familiar with LeTV’s anti-Apple campaign. From Nazi satire to a high budget parody of Apple’s iconic ‘1984’ ad, LeTV is making it clear that they know who their biggest rival in the local smartphone market is – and that they’re willing to take it on.

This week, LeTV launched three new premium ‘Le Superphone’ models which appear to be the world’s first USB type-C enabled smartphones. The event was simultaneously webcast in Beijing, San Francisco and Los Angeles, highlighting what the company calls its ‘BLS’ (Beijing, Los Angeles, San Francisco) strategy.

On CEO Jia Yueting’s personal Weibo account, he attacked Apple for lacking innovation and stifling developer communities with their closed OS, taking the same approach as Android’s fierce supporters.

Chinese Smartphones Breaking Into Foreign Markets

If you’re a foreigner looking at Chinese smartphone makers, you may not recognise a good number of them. The quality and diversity of Chinese phones has grown substantially over the past five years, with local brands trying hard to shake off the low cost, low quality image that comes with being a Chinese smartphone in the west. 

As the Chinese middle class grows, the market for the cheap-and-nasty tech is shrinking. Premium products are gaining traction, and high-end brands – both local and foreign – enjoy a cult following. This Chinese New Year, iPhones sales outstripped competitors in urban China for the first time ever, according to a report form Kantar Worldpanel released this month. Over the same period, local brands released a spate of ‘premium’ 5.5 and 6 inch alternatives, hoping to dip into the same pool of the increasingly wealthy Chinese urban population.

Despite the general surge in quality, however, Chinese smartphone brands are still struggle to expand to the west. Even if they can manage to avoid the Huawei nightmare of  publicly vetted for security issues, they still face a wall of consumers who see little benefit to buying a Chinese smartphone. Especially one that eventually intends to price itself into the premium range. 

Which puts LeTV’s oddly obsessive campaign into perspective. For a company that doesn’t even intend to launch its new phones in the U.S. until late 2015, they’ve sure managed to put their name next to Apple’s in a lot of headlines. Playing the role of the active challenger – no matter how ludicrous – has bought LeTV a ticket to the fight, at least in the arena of possible Chinese contenders. 

The LeTV ‘1984’ Parody

Despite several flaws in its logic, the parody is surprisingly on-point. It opens with a crowd of chalky, white-faced worshipers in hazmat suits mimicking the original 1984 Apple ad – except they’re idolising a green Apple on a pedestal.

A man in a red shirt runs from a hallway behind the dark room, fighting off heavily armoured S.W.A.T-style special forces police. He breaks through the crowd and takes a bite out of the apple. The walls slowly slide open to reveal blinding sunlight. The final shot shows a gnawed apple core. 

While the Hitler gag drew criticism at home and abroad for obvious reasons, the ‘1984’ parody is playfully geeky – even if it’s a bit self-indulgent of the part of LeTV. But we’ll let you be the judge – on the left is Apple’s ‘1984’, on the right, LeTV’s parody:

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To view both ads on LeTV’s video streaming service, click here.

While the concept is cheeky, the unfortunate eyebrow-raiser of the parody is the fact that the Le Superphone looks a bit too much like the Apple iPhone 6 to be making jabs about innovation. Even the billboard marketing here in China shares Apple’s distinctive minimalistic vibe. Giving LeTV the benefit of the doubt, here’s to hoping the innovation is in their hardware-software combo.

Image sources: Sina Weibo, Apple ‘1984’ & LeTV

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Cate Cadell

Cate is a tech writer. She worked as a journalist in Australia, Mongolia and Myanmar. You can reach her (in Chinese or English) at: @catecadell or

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