Lenovo officially launches the Phab 2 Pro, the first Google Tango phone

The first phone to be powered by Google's augmented reality tech, Tango, has come to life in the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro.

Image: Lenovo

Google's Project Tango, the company's 3D mapping and augmented reality technology, will now be available to the public through the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro. Google first announced the phone back in June 2016, but unveiled the availability of the device in a blog post on Tuesday.

According to Google's post, the Lenovo Phab 2 uses the new tech to "give apps new augmented reality capabilities." The phone is available now on Lenovo's website, starting at $499. At the time of this writing, there are more than 35 Tango-supported apps, which can be found in the Tango app itself, or in the Google Play store. Currently, most of the options are for gaming or consumer applications.

Project Tango made its debut in 2014, when Google showed off the technology on a smartphone. At the time, Google said that the purpose of the device was to "track the full 3D motion of the device, while simultaneously creating a map of the environment."

SEE: Qualcomm expands support for Google's Tango AR platform to Snapdragon 820 (ZDNet)

While the Tango phone began as a limited-release testing project, the technology eventually came to a tablet for developers in the summer of 2014. Roughly a year later the tablet's price was cut in half and the device was opened up for sale without an invite.

In January, at the 2016 CES in Las Vegas, Google announced that it would be partnering with Lenovo to produce a commercially-available Tango smartphone. The company also announced the creation of an incubator program for submission of apps that use the technology. In June of that year, Google and Lenovo first unveiled the Phab 2 Pro.

While my original theory about the purpose of the technology was that it could provide additional features like improved face unlock, it seems that Google is more focused on the consumer AR market with Tango. Outside of the AR games it works with, there is also a tool to measure furniture, for example.

The phone itself is available in Gunmetal Grey or Champagne Gold, and includes the multiple cameras needed to make an AR map of an environment. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 processor is optimized for the Tango technology, and the Phab 2 has 64GB of storage. It also has a 6.4-inch assertive display.

Google has demonstrated that it plans to continue to invest in hardware, with the recent release of the Pixel phone as a prime example. The new Lenovo Phab 2 Pro shows that the company is still willing to experiment with smaller-scale moonshots as well.

The Lenovo Phab 2 Pro is available now. It's unclear whether or not Google will open up the Tango project to other vendors.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. The first Google Tango smartphone, the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro, is available to the public now.
  2. Despite its potential for useful tools and features, Google seems to be targeting the AR gaming market with Tango.
  3. Google didn't say whether or not Lenovo would be the exclusive partner for Tango smartphones.

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