Lenovo Builds the First of a Whole New Breed of Smartphone
A few days before Apple’s WWDC takes place at the huge Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, Lenovo executives (plus Ashton Kutcher) took the stage at a rock venue just down the street and launched a smartphone decidedly more futuristic than the slab of rose gold currently in your pocket. The new Phab2 Pro is a 6.4-inch smartphone that runs Android, has specs on par with the best phones on the market. More important, it’s the first time Project Tango has ever been integrated into a device meant for humans, not developers. Tango lead Johnny Lee announced during the phone’s unveiling that there’s no Project in the name anymore, either. It’s just Tango.
For the last two years, Google’s Project Tango technology has made for an incredible demo. Hold up the chunky prototype rigged with enough protruding camera lenses to make a spider jealous, and it can see the world around it. With Tango’s depth- and motion-sensing tech, your phone could measure a room for your new couch, lead you step-by-step through a museum, and even layer digital things on top of the real world, Magic Leap-style. The demos were always great, and the prototypes were always as ugly as they were expensive. Until now, anyway.
The Phab2 Pro (ugh, that name) will cost $500 when it hits shelves in September. The phone runs Android Marshmallow, and is dominated by a 6.4-inch, 2560×1440 screen. It is, in a word, enormous: It weighs more than half a pound, and is an inch taller and a half-inch wider than the already-monstrous iPhone 6S Plus (which, by comparison, weights 6.8 ounces). Inside that body there’s a huge 4,050 mAh battery, but Tango’s almost certainly going to need all of that. It all runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 processor, along with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, plus a card slot for adding even more. You get two SIM slots, too, plus three microphones, an 8-megapixel selfie camera, Dolby audio, and all the connectivity you can shake a spectrometer at. Of course, there’s also the Tango array: a 16-megapixel fast-focusing depth-sensing camera, and a motion-tracking sensor. The phone is a beast. There’s a version of the device called the Phab2 Plus that is a smidge smaller, but it doesn’t have Tango, so who cares?
Second Life for Mobile
The Phab2 Pro is the first in what Lenovo hopes will be a long line of Tango phones. This is not a concept or a gimmick: the company often echoes a line from Lee about how he thinks the tech could soon be as ubiquitous as GPS. Lenovo hopes buyers will use the Phab2 Pro as a brand-new kind of navigation device, for one thing—imagine Google Maps, but for walking through Forever 21 to find the midi tops. It’s also full of potential for VR and AR, offering ways to show you more information about a painting in the Louvre, virtually paint your walls a new color before you get the brush out, or fight demons while using your actual couch for cover.
Lenovo’s planning to make Tango devices bigger than the Phab2 Pro, and smaller ones too. The company chose this size because it was the biggest possible canvas for Tango that could still be reasonably considered portable. Google’s still dreaming up ideas for its wacky all-seeing camera tech, and Lenovo’s still dreaming up hardware to suit it. Today marks a big step, though. Tango isn’t a neat idea anymore; it’s a real technology inside a real phone from one of the world’s largest phone makers. There was a time when GPS destroyed everyone’s phone batteries, and the world thought it might never work out. It, uh, worked out. And it looks like Tango might work out too.
View the original here: