What the first Google Tango phone is like to use

Lenovo Phab 2 Pro
Mark Hachman

Reality is all the craze these days.

Augmented reality, that is. Which is why it is a pretty big deal that Lenovo has released the Phab 2 Pro, the first augmented reality smartphone to work with Google Tango, the tech giant's AR software. So what is the phone like to use?

In IT Blogwatch, we get back to reality.

So what's up with this phone? Andrei Vlad has some background:

Beginning this week, the Phab 2 Pro is available for...$499.99...Lenovo only offers the Phab 2 Pro in Gunmetal Grey color...the phone ships with Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
Since this is a “special” phone, it comes with a set of four cameras that work in conjunction with...the...specially-developed software that...enable[s] AR experiences...the rear cameras consist of a 16 MP RGB camera, depth camera, and fisheye camera for ultra-wide angle panoramics...in the front, an 8 MP camera is perfect for selfies and groupfies...the Phab 2 Pro only works with AT&T and T-Mobile.

But what is so special about the Phab 2 Pro and Google Tango? Mike Wehner is in the know:

Google Tango [is] the augmented reality platform that provides a layer of interactivity to anything you point your smartphone camera at...The idea...is that you can point your smartphone camera at your surroundings and see additional information, 3D virtual objects, or other interactive elements...So, for example, apps can allow you to deck out your living room in virtual furniture so you can see how it looks, or you can raise a virtual pet that follows you around your home, but exists only through your smartphone lens.

What about specs? What does this phone have going on besides some cameras? Todd Haselton fills us in:

The Phab 2 Pro...packs a large 6.4-inch 1440 x 2560-pixel display. Under the hood, you’ll find a Snapdragon 652 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a large 4,050mAh battery.

This is all well and good, but what we really want to know is what the Phab 2 Pro is like to use. Sean Hollister has some details:

As cool as it can be, the Tango technology...still feels a little rough around the edges...Last week, I spent a couple hours playing with the phone...Some of the time, it worked great...But it didn't take a heck of a lot to confuse Tango's sensors...Reflective surfaces...could sometimes throw off the virtual world's position...And sometimes (no, more like all the time) it took a long while to load each Tango app.
Google Tango boss Johnny Lee...says we should think of Tango as a feature like GPS, not something that's technically necessary for a phone, but a feature that becomes hard to imagine living without....if Google's right that more Tango phones are coming -- in a variety of shapes, sizes and prices, says Lee -- it really seems like you might want to wait. There's not a lot of software right now, there are still some weird glitches and limitations, and there are more phones on the way.

So what can you actually do with the Phab 2 Pro? Nathaniel Mott can tell you:

The launch apps range from Measure, a tool that allows you to use your phone to measure anything in your homes, to an AR game called Domino World that lets you play dominoes without having to...pick all the pieces up...The debut lineup also includes Lowe's interior decorating tool, an at-scale simulator of the solar system, and a paint-shooting game called Crayola Color Blaster, among others...Google explained...that these apps are just the beginning of its ambitions for Tango.

And those are just a few of the apps -- there are more than 30 already, and we can expect that number to grow. So where you can you get one? Stephen Hall has that info:

The Phab 2 Pro...[is] available right now at Lenovo’s website. You should also soon be able to pick one up at Lowe’s and other retail locations sometime soon.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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