Google has been working on its Project Tango augmented reality platform since at least 2014, but that’s just when it was unveiled. A lot of work has gone into improving the way phones analyze their environments, but does that translate well into consumer products? In the case of the first official Tango phone, that’s a big, fat “no.” The Lenovo Phab2 Pro is available unlocked for $500, but the reviews have not been kind.
The reviews have called out three main issues with the Phab2 Pro, the most obvious of which is that this phone is huge. I don’t mean it’s huge like we call the V20 or Pixel XL “huge.” This phone is almost a tablet. In fact, there are Amazon tablets that are smaller. The Phab2 Pro has a 6.4-inch screen and beefy aluminum frame. Usually I’d praise the use of an aluminum unibody design, but in this case it makes the phone incredibly heavy. Ars Technica points out it weighs more than half a pound.
As a consequence of being gigantic, the Phab2 Pro’s ergonomics are off. The buttons are difficult to reach, and the fingerprint sensor is much lower on the back than it should be. One of the Tango sensor windows is where you’d expect the fingerprint sensor to be, so you smudge up with your finger constantly.
Speaking of the Tango sensors, the Phab2 Pro’s modest hardware doesn’t seem to be up to the task of using them. The hardware performance is issue number two. Tango includes a depth sensor, IR projector, and a motion tracker. Combined with the phone’s internal gyroscope and accelerometer, it knows where in the world it is and how its position relates to other objects. You can use this to measure things, place virtual objects in the real world, and so on. The Phab2 Pro just gets very laggy when you’re doing it.