If you are using augmented reality (AR) apps on your smartphone, you’ll want to pay attention to Google Tango and it’s likely you’re already somewhat familiar with the hype for the platform. The new AR platform has been designed to make those augmented and virtual reality experiences much more impressive and immersive.
The only problem so far is that your options for phones that support the platform are limited. According to Google’s Tango page, there are two phones that currently support the new AR platform: Asus Zenfone AR; and the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro. While the platform is getting positive reviews, the first two phones have received less than stellar feedback from the tech community and this may leave you wondering if you should wait for other phones to support Google Tango.
We wanted to review both the available phones for Google Tango and offer some insight into some of the upcoming options, so you can decide whether you should take the current upgrade or wait for a better option.
Lenovo Phab 2 Pro
The Lenovo Phab 2 Pro was the first commercially-available phone that supported Google Tango. Most Android experts and fans offered similar feedback on the potential of the augmented reality technology, but the phone was clunky and disappointing. The Phab 2 Pro is large at 7” x 3.5” x .42” and generally feels closer to a tablet than a phone. The phone comes standard with 64 GB and has an option to upgrade to 256 GB. Most tech critics have given the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro poor reviews for app performance and visual display. There have been common complaints about the phone’s brightness, which causes issues in sunny conditions.
Asus Zenfone AR
The Asus Zenfone AR was the second phone released and almost unanimously was reviewed as an improvement on the Phab 2 Pro. It has a 5.7″ screen, which is slightly larger than an iPhone 7 Plus and smaller than the clunky Phab 2 Pro. It is not a small phone, but it at least feels like it can actually be used with one hand. The look and feel of the Asus Zenfone AR are an instant improvement over the Phab 2 Pro for most people, and the reviews on almost every tech website back that up.
The Zenfone AR 64 GB is currently selling for $599 on Asus.com; so it is about $100 more than the Phab 2 Pro. That added expense is probably worth it if you are definitely getting a Google Tango phone with your next upgrade. From the camera to the look to the visual and processing performance, the Asus Zenfone AR is just generally a better phone… and it’s hard to find any tech critics or everyday users that would disagree.
Even if you are a huge fan of augmented reality, there are some strong reasons to wait for some better technology options for your favorite AR games and apps. The best reason is the recent release of Google’s ARCore. This is their answer to Apple’s built-in ARKit and allows developers to build augmented reality features into apps that are supported on more Android phones. It is not as robust as the augmented reality experience on the phones that support Google Tango, though, but it is pretty close and is already getting great early reviews from many different tech critics that have got to play with some of the new apps.
There are even rumors that Google has moved on from Tango and most, if not all, augmented reality development will be under the ARCore platform going forward. While they are clearly refocusing on a strategy that enables augmented reality on more Android phones, the growing popularity of everything AR makes it likely they will continue to grow the Tango specific features. Whatever the case there, the uncertainly of the direction of Tango is another viable reason to wait for the next generation of ARCore phones.
Deciding which of these phones is for you is better looked at from this perspective: When will the augmented reality features and other specs make them worth the investment?
While AR is truly an exciting experience, it hasn’t quite yet reached its maturity. Much like Android’s numerous updates over the years have made it far more capable an operating system, early users of AR are essentially paying to be beta testers when the next slate of products that are due out in the near future offer more robust operating systems and drastic improvements on features and specs.
In conclusion: Both of these phones offer a nice array of features and good functionality, not without their own sets of drawbacks. But patience will find you using a more capable phone in the near future, if you can just hold out a little longer.