We all want our smartphones filled with groundbreaking tech - but that can either be the kind that's perfect for everyday use, or something that isn't quite as useful, but demonstrates plenty of potential to bridge a technological gap in our lives.
Lenovo's Phab 2 Pro falls into the latter category. It's the world's first smartphone with Project Tango, Google's foray into Augmented Reality (AR).
Wait. Haven't we seen this all before? Well, yes and no. It sounds a lot like the setup you'll find in Dell's Venue 8 7000 tablet. That used an Intel RealSense camera setup, and could do clever stuff like measuring objects just by pointing the lens at them.
Lenovo's version fits in your pocket, but is the Phab 2 Pro just as gimmicky - or does it do enough to make us rethink how we use AR?
POWER ME UP
For such cutting edge tech, the Phab2 Pro is a surprisingly affordable US$499. Just keep in mind that it only has the guts of a mid-range phone, though.
There's a Snapdragon 652 CPU running the show, paired with 4GB of RAM. It's an octa-core chip, but clock speeds aren't the highest - which begs the question: is the Phab2 Pro underpowered?
With modest Geekbench scores of 1474 (single-core) and 3540 (multi-core), it gets the job done on paper. In real world use too, the phone is zippy enough to get you through your daily routine without any noticeable lag or slowdown.
Loading up a Tango-enabled app does, however, feel a little on the slow side. The experience is generally fine once you're using it though, so we're not too worried. 3D models are rendered quickly enough and it doesn't feel too sluggish, albeit barely – but more on that later.
On first impressions at least, it doesn't give me the confidence that the next generation of apps will run smoothly on it.
You get 64GB of on-board storage, and there's a microSD card slot too, so you won't run out of space in a hurry. Like most other phones, though, the slot also accommodates a second SIM card, meaning that it's shared. Pretty standard fare here.
THE INCREDIBLE BULK
Performance aside, the Phab 2 Pro otherwise feels like a premium phone. It's certainly quite well-made.
There's nary a flaw on its body, and they took the effort to chamfer and polish the edges perfectly, even on the USB port – now that's premium-level effort for you.
The 6.4in, 2560x1440 display certainly adds to the upmarket feel, and it's a real visual treat. Lenovo has picked an LCD panel, so while contrast and black levels won't rival OLED screens from Samsung, it still looks sharp and has great viewing angles.
Dolby Atmos is along for the ride, too, tweaking the sound EQ and letting you record multi-channel audio using the built-in microphones. The external speaker is loud and clear as well.
However, the ergonomics, size and weight aren't quite singing the same song.
Nothing can disguise the fact that this is a rather bulky and heavy phone - I couldn't change volume and then use the fingerprint sensor without changing my grip first. You just can't reach it all, and it slides off non-flat surfaces easily when you put it down.
It would be tricky to make the phone any slimmer though, seeing as it's packed with cameras and sensors. You get an RGB camera, a time-of-flight camera, a motion-tracking camera, and an IR depth sensor, in addition to the usual array of motion sensors to make Tango possible.
The large, 4050mAh battery probably didn't help, either - but it does let you go for well over a day between charges. Stay away from power-intensive apps, and the Tango AR modes, and you'll be waking up on day three with a small amount of juice left.
If I'm honest, I wasn't expecting much from the Phab 2 Pro's main camera. A 16MP sensor and phase detection autofocus should do a respectable job, so with those expectations in mind, I wasn't disappointed.
You get decent enough results in daylight, but things aren't so great at night.
However, you should note that it struggles to focus when lighting conditions aren't optimal, so you have to be selective about your subject matter and composition. You'll have a better time if you choose a clear focal point, or compose the picture so that it's not difficult for the autofocus to figure out what you want to do.
Image quality is decent enough, provided you have the right amount of light. In low light, the algorithm is rather heavy-handed; while the images aren't grainy at all, it does come at the cost of detail.
Despite the camera-heavy nature of the Phab 2 Pro, it seems that the photography element wasn't quite high on the agenda. Its focus speed of 0.3 seconds was touted as a feature, but in practice, it felt no faster than most cameras.