It’s been almost 10 years since the iPhone ushered in the smartphone era, and while handsets have improved significantly in the decade since, most of these advancements have been evolutionary. Today, our handsets still lack context and awareness about our physical surroundings. Google’s Tango technology aims to change this by enabling motion tracking, area learning, and depth perception for our mobile devices. It uses advanced imaging sensors and computer vision to bring augmented reality (AR) and a richer, deeper experience to apps and games.
Until now, Tango required bulky and expensive developer hardware. But, Lenovo recently shipped the world’s first Tango-enabled consumer phone, the $499 Phab 2 Pro, and we’ve just spent a couple weeks seeing what it’s all about. Is Tango a game changer? Is it the future of mobile tech? Is the Phab 2 Pro even a good phone? Let’s find out!
We’re not going to beat around the bush — the Phab 2 Pro is a massive phone. At 179.8 x 88.6 x 10.7 mm (7.08 x 3.49 x 0.42 inches) it’s bigger than the ZTE Nubia X6, Xiaomi Mi Max, or Samsung Galaxy Mega. It makes 6-inch phones like the Huawei Mate 8, Nexus 6, and Lumia 1520 seem downright manageable. Most of this heft is the result of Lenovo packing in a 6.4-inch display, sealed 4,050 mAh battery, and Tango’s complex suite of sensors into something that’s still (arguably) pocketable. Beyond being large and thick, the Phab 2 Pro weighs a substantial 259 g (9.14 oz), about 50 g more than other 6.4-inch phones. As such, it’s just not a practical device for anyone but the most hardcore early adopters.
Despite its size, the Phab 2 Pro is decent-looking and well made. It sports a unibody metal shell with chamfered edges and familiar plastic antenna lines. Our review unit is Gunmetal Grey, but a Champagne Gold version is also available. Lenovo hides the handset’s bulk with a friendly convex shape that makes it easier to hold. The front is dominated by a huge sheet of 2.5D Gorilla Glass covering the Quad HD (2560 x 1440) screen, earpiece, 8 MP front-facing shooter, proximity sensor, notification LED, and a trio of backlit capacitive buttons.
A combination dual-nano SIM and microSD tray is located on the left side, with the volume rocker and a textured power/lock key on the right. There’s a headphone jack on top and a Micro USB charge and data port at the bottom, flanked by iPhone-like screws and grills (which hide a mono speaker and the primary mic). But it’s on the back where things really get interesting. There, you’ll find a fingerprint reader and the Tango hardware — a large fisheye camera (for motion tracking), and a pod that’s home to the 16 MP main shooter, dual-LED flash, and a Kinect-like IR projector and camera combo (for depth perception), all neatly arranged in a vertical line.
Many big phones in this price range only feature 1080p displays, but Lenovo outfitted the Phab 2 Pro with a 6.4-inch Quad HD (2560 x 1440 pixel) IPS screen. While it’s no match for the cream of the AMOLED crop, it’s a nice panel — bright enough even in direct sunlight, with accurate colors and wide viewing angles. In all, we were pleasantly surprised.