The world's first Project Tango phone brings augmented reality to your mobile
We've finally got eyes on the first consumer smartphone that supports Project Tango, Google's ambitious augmented reality platform that gives your mobile a sense of its own surroundings. The phone is called the Lenovo Phab2 Pro, and it's been unveiled together with two mid-range handsets from the same line.
Project Tango is about more than graphics overlaid on top of your phone's camera feed. It actually maps out the environment around you in three dimensions, so navigation can be more precise, games can be more immersive, and apps can take advantage of knowing everything that's around them without GPS or any pre-loaded maps.
The Phab2 Pro is a bit of a beast of a phone and is very close to tablet territory, with its 6.4-inch Quad HD (2,560 x 1,440 pixel) screen. Weighing in at 259 g (0.57 lbs) it's about 65 percent heavier than the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and the iPhone 6s Plus.
Project Tango is the main reason we're here, though, rather than any of the other specs. Lenovo says there are three main technologies at work thanks to the extra sensors packed into the phone: motion tracking, depth perception and area learning. The handset is capable of taking 250,000 measurements every second.
A Snapdragon 652 CPU custom-made for Tango and 4 GB of RAM keep all this hardware running, and there's a hefty 4,050 mAh battery inside too. The 16 MP camera comes fitted with the depth sensor and motion tracking technology we've already mentioned.
If you're still struggling to understand exactly what Project Tango does, imagine being able to see how a virtual couch looks in your living room, then walk around it in 3D, or being able to get precise directions in an office block where there's no GPS signal (something that's particularly useful for the visually impaired).
Then there's gaming – you could shoot blocks and lasers that appear to bounce of your living room walls. It's a little like the technology in Microsoft HoloLens, only all the sensors are stored inside your smartphone rather than a headset.
The hardware technology is undoubtedly exciting, but we'll have to wait and see what software comes along to support it in the months ahead. Add a few compelling Tango-ready apps and games to the mix – and perhaps a headset that you can slide the phone into (ultimately this tech will make more sense on HMDs) – and the Phab2 Pro starts to look a lot more appealing for consumers, rather than just Google's researchers.
Alongside the Tango-enabled Phab2 Pro, Lenovo has also announced the Tango-less Phab2 Plus and Phab2, with reduced specs and lower prices. Both these phones also have 6.4-inch displays, but with reduced resolutions (1,920 x 1,080 for the Phab2 Plus and 1,280 x 720 for the Phab2). The mid-range Phab2 Plus comes with two 13 MP rear cameras as its main selling point.
Lenovo says all three phones will be available globally from September, though we only have US pricing for now: US$499 (roughly £345/AU$670) for the Phab2 Pro, $299 (£205/AU$405) for the Phab2 Plus and $199 (£140/AU$270) for the Phab2. Lenovo says the Phab2 Pro will be sold at Best Buy.
The video below shows Google's original Project Tango prototype in action.
Product page: Lenovo