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Lenovo's First Project Tango Phone Is An Augmented Reality Monster

I love phablets, but I might have met my match with Lenovo's latest smartphone, the 6.4-inch Phab2 Pro. Available starting this September for $499, the Phab2 Pro will be the first smartphone to feature Google's Project Tango technology, providing augmented reality and virtual reality-like experiences without the need for a geeky headset.

There's no question that this device is huge. It weighs a pocket-busting 9.2 ounces, and I found it a challenge to reach across the display. But no other phone lets you do what the Phab2Pro can, including walking with dinosaurs, placing virtual furniture in your room and playing immersive shooting games.

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Combining augmented reality with motion tracking and depth sensing, the technology can enable smartphones and tablets to detect their location in the world without assistance from GPS or any other tracking record. Originally featured in a prototype tablet, Project Tango has a myriad of uses, including educational AR apps, gaming and even home decoration.

During my demo, I got up close and personal with a miniature Tyrannosaurus Rex using the GuidiGo app. After selecting the massive lizard from a rather robust catalog of dinosaurs, I simply dragged and dropped it to the center of the room. Holding the phone up in front of me, I walked closer until I was face to maw with the beast, which rewarded me with a loud roar. As I circled around the animal, several spheres appeared that dispensed facts about the prehistoric animal, just like I was in a museum.

On the home improvement front, Lowe's has created an app that speaks to my hidden interior decorator. Dubbed Lowe's Vision, the app lets you measure spaces and place furniture and other decor around the room, so you can virtually try before you buy.

After launching the app, I mapped the small conference room I was standing in using the rear camera. Once I had captured enough of the space, I started decorated the space by positioning a snazzy brown leather couch against the wall, adding some much-needed pizazz to the room.
When the Phab2 Pro starts shipping in September, Lowe's will actually be one of the vendors to carry the device.

Lenovo told us to expect 25 to 30 Project Tango-ready apps and games at launch, and upwards of 100 will be available by the end of the year.

So what's it like holding a 6.4-inch-wide smartphone? While I could hold the behemoth with one hand, it definitely was easier to use with two. The champagne gold-colored aluminum was cool to the touch. If champagne isn't your color, you can also go for gunmetal gray. The rear panel houses a 16-megapixel rear camera, a fish-eye lens and an IR sensor, all of which are needed to work that Project Tango magic.

Up front, there's a 8-MP camera and a lovely QHD (2560 x 1440) IPS display. The phone will be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 octa-core processor with 4GB of RAM, and there's 64GB of on-board storage that can be expanded to 128GB via the microSD slot. The phone will also feature Dolby Audio Capture 5.1, which should deliver clear, crisp audio.

If you're just a fan of phones that are only a few inches from being tablets like I am, but don't want pay $499 for the privilege, Lenovo has a couple of other options for you. There's the $299 Phab2 Plus, which has a MediaTek (MTK 8783) Octa-Core CPU, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a 1920 x 1080 display and two 13MP rear cameras. You can also choose the $199 Phab2, which offers a MediaTek (MTK 8735) Quad-Core CPU with 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a 1280 x 720 IPS display, a 13-MP rear camera and a 5-MP front camera, 16GB of storage.

Both of the lower-tier devices will have light AR features. Taking a hint from Motorola, the other phone-maker in the family, all of the Phab phones will run lightly-modified versions of Android 6.0 (Lollipop).

It's easy to get intimidated by the Phabs' size, but beneath that massive profile is a lot of revolutionary tech that can potentially change the way we interact with our phones and our world.