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What Lenovo's Phab 2 Pro Tango phone means for AR

Al Sacco | June 13, 2016
Lenovo last week announced the world's first smartphone that supports Google's Tango augmented reality platform. The Phab 2 Pro is a consumer-oriented device that ironically could help progress AR in the enterprise.

SAN FRANCISCO — Lenovo made headlines in the tech world last Thursday  when it announced the world's first Android smartphone with support for Google's futuristic augmented reality (AR) platform, Tango, at its annual Lenovo Tech World event. The Lenovo Phab 2 Pro is slated for a September release, and it will be available unlocked via Lenovo's website — and, oddly enough, in Lowe's stores — for $499. (Lowe's created an AR app for Tango devices that lets customers visualize various home improvement fixes or enhancements.)

The massive gadget is equal parts overgrown smartphone and tiny tablet. It probably won't be a good fit for everyone, but it represents a significant advancement for Google, Tango and AR. Here are four ways Lenovo's new Phab 2 Pro could influence and advanced modern AR.

1) Phab 2 Pro aims to bring AR to the masses

Until last week, Project Tango was just what its name suggested: a "project" or experiment, one of Google's many "moonshots." On Thursday, Lenovo and Google took a big step toward legitimizing this experiment by previewing what will be the first widely available device that supports Google's AR platform. Google accordingly announced at the Tech World event that it has officially stripped the word "project" from the platform title, and its AR division is now simply called "Tango." 

Lenovo first announced its support for Tango in January at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, and the new Phab 2 Pro is the first physical manifestation of its commitment to AR and Google's platform. Yesterday, Lenovo also said it would make more AR devices based on Tango in the future.

Today, average consumers may have a vague idea of what AR is and its potential value, but they probably don't understand how it actually works or why they might want to use it. Lenovo's Phab 2 Pro represents a potential step towards AR understanding. People will be able to walk into a Lowe's store this fall and experiment with AR, which could help them get their heads around the technology.

2) Phab 2 Pro an awkward implementation of a good idea

The Phab 2 Pro is gigantic. It feels more like a small tablet than a big phone, and for the majority of people, it's too big to comfortably fit into a pocket. The phone isn't going to fly off the shelves, and it’s a niche device designed for a very specific type of user, and for early adopters.

Tango uses a number of different cameras and sensors to track movement, distance and space, and those components — along with the hefty battery required to power them — take up a lot of space. That's a big part of the reason why the Phab 2 Pro is so large. 


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