Hands On with the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro Project Tango Phone
Lenovo showed off what it claims is the first Project Tango smartphone, the Phab 2 Pro. This gigantic Android smartphone boasts four cameras to help it capture and create augmented and virtual reality content. Here are our initial impressions.
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The Phab 2 Pro from Lenovo is an interesting beast. It is the first Project Tango smartphone, which means it is the first mobile device able to capture augmented reality and 3D content aside from the developer tablet that Google released last year. It's definitely not a phone for the masses, but I'm sure it will appeal to the creative videographers and virtual reality fans of the world.
Okay, we have to get this out of the way: The Phab 2 Pro is one of the biggest phones out there. It has a massive 6.4-inch screen, which pushes the handset's dimensions to the ridiculous. It is unwieldy to use thanks to its grotesque size and weight, and it probably won't fit into most peoples' pockets.
The design is a little bit on the plebeian side. It features a metal unibody construction with lines here and there denoting the antennas and such. Lenovo is making the device in two colors: gold and gray. I am partial to the gray one. Lenovo was smart enough to curve and taper the rear surface as much as possible as it approaches the edges. It would have been a mistake to make this phone flat.
The screen dominates the front of the phone. Thank goodness Lenovo gave quad HD resolution. I thought the display looked good, but not great. It could have been brighter, but the resolution is good enough that everything looks clean and sharp. The phone has three capacitive buttons on the front for controlling the user interface. The buttons can be hard to reach with one hand, as the phone is so wide. You'll note the selfie camera above the screen.
There are no keys on the left side, but that's where Lenovo located the SIM card tray. The screen lock button and volume toggle are on the right edge of the phone, with the screen lock positioned closer to the middle of the phone Thank goodness, as this makes it easy to reach with your thumb. Both these buttons have good travel and feedback.
A USB-C port is placed in the bottom edge of the phone and the headphone jack is on top.
The rear cover has a lot going on. This device has four cameras (4!!!). The main camera captures 16-megapixel images and it has a two-tone flash. The Phab 2 Pro also has a camera for recording depth information and another to track motion. These are essential for the augmented reality features of the phone. The cameras are lined up vertically, with two ensconced in a long, narrow strip of glass. One camera stands on its own, and it is placed just above the round fingerprint reader. I was able to find the fingerprint sensor easily enough.
Android powers this phone, and most of the user interface is stock. You'll notice some Lenovo-designed app icons, but otherwise it will be familiar for most users.
The augmented reality apps are the whole point of this phone, and the device will ship with a few of them. In the demonstrations I saw, it was awkward to use the augmented reality (places fake stuff on top of real imagery) at first but got easier over time. One of the apps allowed you to shoot electric bolts at the people around you, while another allowed you to create virtual domino designs around your house.
Augmented reality and mapping indoor spaces in 3D have been around for a while, but Lenovo and Google hope the Phab 2 Pro will make them mainstream activities. They are certainly fun, and have potential real-world uses.
Perhaps most amazingly, Lenovo plans to sell the phone unlocked in the U.S. starting in September for $499.
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