If rumors are true, Microsoft may be one of the few major consumer tech giants that doesn’t have a smart, voice-guided speaker in the works… but that doesn’t mean it’s sitting on its thumbs. In an expansion of recent code discoveries, Windows Central sources claim that Windows 10 is getting a Home Hub feature that will turn supporting PCs into rivals for the Amazon Echo and Google Home. You’d have a shared, login-free desktop that shares family resources like calendars and shopping lists, and a smart home app that would make it easy to control all your connected devices. And as you might surmise, the Cortana voice assistant would play a much, much more important role.
Under Home Hub, Cortana would have access to both shared content as well as that of individual users who are signed in. That would tackle one of the biggest issues with devices like Google Home — that they’re frequently limited to supporting a single user’s account. Supporting PCs would also be much more Cortana-friendly. You could use voice commands from a greater distance, and wake up the PC with voice alone. Home Hub-ready systems could even tout light and motion sensors to wake up whenever someone enters the room.
Provided the leak is accurate, it could be a while before you see every element of Home Hub. It’s reportedly scheduled to arrive through three significant Windows 10 updates (nicknamed Redstone 2, 3 and 4) that would start arriving in 2017. And if you want a PC designed for the feature from the ground up, you may have to wait until the very end of the year. Microsoft is said to be asking vendors (including HP and Lenovo) to step up with Home Hub-optimized all-in-one PCs in late 2017.
There’s no certainty that everything will pan out as planned. WC is quick to warn that delays and cancellations could change features and timelines, assuming Home Hub ships at all. However, it’s easy to see the incentive for Microsoft to make this a reality. In some ways, Echo-like speakers reduce the need for a family computer — you can’t do your homework through a speaker, but you can accomplish tasks that would normally require breaking out your phone or sitting at a desk. Home Hub would keep the PC relevant for homes where a shared machine makes sense, and might even provide an edge over smart speakers by offering the visual, multi-user info that you don’t get right now.
Source: Windows Central
We might not see a successor to the 2015 Moto 360 in the near future, or even at all. Motorola and its parent company Lenovo have confirmed to The Verge that they’re not working on a new smartwatch to be released in time for Android Wear 2’s launch next year. Moto’s head of global product development Shakil Barkat told the publication that the company doesn’t “see enough pull in the market” to justify developing a new smartwatch at this point in time. He even went on to say that “wearables do not have broad enough appeal for [Moto] to continue to build on it year after year.”
Based on Barkat’s statements, smartwatches and other wearable devices aren’t doing too well and haven’t been able to attract enough audience to make a regular refresh viable. It’s unclear if we’ll ever see another Moto 360, since it sounds like it’s not doing anything for the company. According to Barkat, though, Moto believes that the “wrist still has value,” hinting that the company hasn’t closed its doors on the possibility of releasing another wearable device.
Source: The Verge
Motorola’s magnetic Mods are the reason to own a Moto Z, and the company just pulled back the curtain on two more of them. If the existing bolt-on batteries weren’t big enough for you, a new 3,000mAh Mophie JuicePack (with a USB Type-C port for independent charging) is now available for $80. And since the holidays are nearly upon us — meaning lots of roadtrips to see family — Motorola also teamed up with Incipio on a $65 car dock that charges your Z and can be used to automatically launch apps like Android Auto. Keep your eyes peeled for that next week.
Alright, fine: These new Mods don’t seem all that inspiring. We’ve seen similar battery add-ons in the past, and the car dock concept is one that has been thoroughly explored in the past. (Motorola, for what it’s worth, doesn’t seem concerned about supporting multiple Mods that do the same thing.) Practicality is great and all, but the beauty of Motorola’s modularity is how it can offer experiences wildly different from rival smartphones. One of Motorola’s biggest jobs going forward will to be nurture the kind of thoughtful weirdness that will make for Mods people didn’t know they wanted. Thankfully, that work is already under way.
Motorola partnered with IndieGoGo last month to solicit ideas from a community of ardent product nerds — so far the company has received close to 380 pitches, for everything from Moto Mod game controllers to YotaPhone-style e-ink displays to a “mood” case that change colors. Participants with the best ideas will move on to subsequent rounds of judging, ending in a sort of Shark Tank-style event that should be rife with startup drama. The company’s first public hackathon is also set to take place in New York this month, and if it’s anything like previous internal events, we’re in for some weird, useful new Mods. Case in point: A recent hackathon attended by Motorola employees has yielded a breathalyzer and a Mod with potential to alert parents on the status of their babies. While practicality is the name of the game with today’s new Mod announcements, stay tuned for weirder, wilder augmentations to come.
Lenovo’s Phab 2 Pro might be the first smartphone out there with Google’s Tango technology, but other parts of the company are interested too. While addressing press at an event in Chicago, Motorola Mobility president Aymar de Lencquesaing said that the Lenovo subsidiary is “likely to have a Tango module” for the Moto Z line of smartphones… though he stopped short of confirming such an add-on was currently in the works.
“Augmented reality on a phone is a technology that’s likely to stick,” de Lencquesaing added later. “Of course we’ll follow, or lead, the market in this area.”
In case you’re new to Tango, Google’s work combines multiple cameras — mostly for measuring depth and motion — with additional sensors to give a phone a very fine understanding of where it is and what’s in front of it. The issue so far is that Tango, or the way it’s implemented in Lenovo’s enormous phablet, is far from perfect. Depth-sensing is sketchy at best, the interfaces for Tango apps can be cumbersome and in general, there’s still plenty of work to be done. The upside, however, is the staggering potential that becomes evident when Tango experiences work the way they’re supposed to. Tango, for lack of a better word, can feel like magic.
While it’s unclear if we’ll ever actually see a Tango mod magnetically lashed to a Moto Z, it’s no surprise it’s under consideration. After all, the idea of squeezing the requisite technology into a smartphone add-on is a damned good one. Consider this: the Phab 2 Pro wound up being enormous in part because of all the Tango technology Lenovo had to fit into a relatively sleek body, and that size made the phone cumbersome to use as a daily driver.
By off-loading those extra cameras and adding an external battery, Motorola could maintain its flagship devices’ trim physiques and provide the (undeniably neat) augmented reality experiences Tango is known for. And let’s not forget that the Moto Z series runs cleaner, more functional versions of Android than the Phab 2 Pro does — that means you’d get a better all-around phone with the option of dipping in to augmented reality when the mood strikes. Google has said in the past that other Tango devices are coming, and some of them are sure to pack flagship levels of power. Until device makers figure out how build Tango into phones seamlessly, though, the optional approach Motorola could deliver just seems brilliant.
Letter from the Editor
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! We’re hitting you with the Weekend Edition a few days early in honor of the holiday — and so we can enjoy some turkey, too — but we’ll be back to our regular schedule starting next Monday. I’d like to take this opportunity to let you all know how thankful I am, and the entire staff is, to have you as readers. The work we do wouldn’t be possible without your support, and you have our gratitude for reading, watching and contributing to Engadget.
Before you sit down to give thanks and break bread with those close to you, here are our finest cuts — and best conversation starters — from the week that was.
For the philosophical thinkers out there, Aaron Souppouris tackled a difficult conundrum: Can and should the politics of an individual affect our ability to appreciate and enjoy his or her work? He poses the question regarding the video game “RimWorld” and its creator’s apparent biases regarding sexuality and gender, but it’s a philosophical query that begs answering in many other contexts, too.
Aaron also explored the reasons for the proliferation of fake news online, and the techniques employed to get folks reading it. It might not make for the most comfortable of Thanksgiving discussions, but it’s a worthy topic, assuming you’re not OK living in a post-truth world.
If you’re looking for more, ahem, lighthearted fare, perhaps reminiscing about Dave Chappelle’s best work in preparation for his three new forthcoming Netflix specials is in order. And everyone in the family will be interested to know that supercapacitors could someday have us measuring battery life in terms of weeks instead of hours, while reducing charging times to mere seconds.
An impossible drive?
Scientists are trying to figure out this drive that produces thrust without any fuel
If humanity plans to reach locations beyond our own solar system, new methods of propulsion will be required. We’re still not sure how the EM Drive’s microwave thruster works (or if it really works), but NASA’s first peer-reviewed paper on it is now available. Ultimately, that just means more research is in order, but if we can harness the power of bouncing microwaves, there could be a 41-day voyage to Mars in your future.
Tango is still a work in progress
Review: Lenovo Phab 2 Pro
Bleeding-edge tech isn’t everything, as Chris Velazco found out reviewing Lenovo’s Phab 2 Pro. It’s the first device shipping with Google’s Project Tango tech built-in, which lets it recognize and operate as an augmented reality device in all new ways. Unfortunately, the hardware and software combo isn’t quite polished, it’s huge, and there’s no killer app available yet.
Just a taste
24 hours with Sony’s A99 II
Sony’s new DSLR-like shooter is almost here, and while we don’t have a full review yet, you can experience its 42.2MP capabilities via these sample photos.
Some of the best discounts in gadgets and gamesBlack Friday 2016 deals
After Thanksgiving dinner, it’s time for Black Friday shopping. We’ve sorted through the best deals on phones, drones, TVs and more to put them all in one place for you.
In the eyes of a Model XTesla’s latest autonomous drive video shows you what the car sees
Not everyone is ready to trust self-driving cars, but maybe they should check out this demo. Tesla posted another video of one of its cars making a trip entirely under its own control, overlaid with views of exactly what its onboard cameras and computer are seeing as it drives down the road.
Clickbait battleTo battle fake news is to battle brain chemistry
That fake news is proliferating online isn’t a question, but why do people press “share”? Data shows that headlines with extreme emotion induce people to click, so we had researchers look at fake news headlines through the prism of sentiment analysis.
“SNL” was just the startDave Chappelle will release three comedy specials on Netflix
Right on time, Dave Chappelle is returning to the spotlight. After an impressive spot hosting “Saturday Night Live,” the comedian has signed a deal with Netflix for a rumored $60 million. Their agreement will apparently cover one all-new special, plus two others based on unreleased material from previous performances.
But wait, there’s more…
- New battery tech lasts for days, charges in seconds
- Review: LG V20
- Should a developer’s politics ruin a game I love?
- Mark Zuckerberg on how Facebook is fighting fake news
I just spent 15 minutes wandering around the office, trying to shoot ghouls in the face with lightning. Before that, I dropped a virtual rococo sofa into the empty space next to my desk, just to see if it would fit. And before that, I measured… well, everything. Welcome to the augmented life, courtesy of Google and Lenovo. Google has spent more than two years taking its “Tango” technology from project to full-blown product. The goal: to help our gadgets examine the world around them and overlay information — or even whole new worlds — on top of the reality we already know. Along the way, Google tapped Lenovo to help craft the first consumer-ready Tango device: an enormous slab of a phone called the Phab 2 Pro. And now it’s here.
If the Tango stuff alone didn’t make the Phab 2 Pro a groundbreaking device, this is also the first Lenovo-branded smartphone to land in the United States. Too bad it’s not quite ready for primetime.
I can’t emphasize this enough: The Phab 2 Pro ($500) is enormous. Then again, how could it be anything but? We have plenty of things to thank for that, from the phone’s 6.4-inch IPS LCD screen to the bank of capacitive buttons below it, to the massive 4,050mAh battery under the hood. Of course, the real reason the Phab 2 Pro is so big is because of all the Tango tech Google helped squeeze inside. It’s worth remembering that Google’s Tango reference device for developers was a tablet with a 7-inch screen, one of NVIDIA’s Tegra K1 chipsets and two — two! — batteries.
That Google and Lenovo managed to squeeze all the requisite bits into a mostly pocketable smartphone is a feat unto itself. There are, after all, plenty of non-standard parts here. Just look at the Phab 2’s back if you don’t believe me. Nestled between the 16-megapixel camera and the fingerprint sensor are two more cameras — one has an infrared emitter to determine how far things are from the phone, and the other is a wide-angle camera with a fisheye lens that works as part of Tango’s motion tracking system. Turns out, Lenovo had to punch a hole in the phone’s main circuit board to make room for all those sensors.
Those cameras and sensors work in tandem with a customized version of Qualcomm’s octa-core Snapdragon 652 processor. We’ve seen more conventional versions of this mid-range chip pop up in devices like ASUS’s new ZenFone, but the version we have here has been tuned to more accurately timestamp the data captured by all of the phone’s sensors. Why? To keep the phone’s location in lockstep with all the crazy AR stuff you’ll see on screen. Also onboard are 4GB of RAM, an Adreno 510 GPU, 64GB of storage, a micro-USB port and a tray that takes either two SIM cards or a SIM card and a microSD card as big as 128GB.
So, long story short, the Phab 2 Pro is massive, and for good reason. The last time I played with a non-Phab phone this big was three years ago, when Sony launched a version of its Xperia Z Ultra running a clean version Android in the Google Play Store. Since then, the market has coalesced around big smartphones with screens about 5.5 inches big. Years of similarly sized devices, then, means the Phab 2 Pro feels extra unwieldy.
It would’ve been more of a problem if Lenovo hadn’t done such a good job putting the Phab 2 Pro together; the body is carved out of a single block of aluminum and the screen is covered by a sheet of Gorilla Glass that’s ever-so-slightly curved around the edges for that subtle “2.5D” effect everyone seems to love. The aesthetic is pleasant enough if you’re into minimalist design, and big-phone fans are probably going to drool too. If you’re thinking of getting one, though, best if you can get hands-on before taking the plunge.
Display and sound
The 6.4-inch screen on the Phab 2 Pro is indeed massive, but mostly unremarkable. Lenovo went with an “assertive” IPS LCD screen, which basically means the panel can optimize colors and contrast on the pixel level. It’s a handy trick for when you’re traipsing around outdoors — it’s excellent under direct sunlight — but the screen is otherwise forgettable.
Don’t get me wrong: Its 2,560 x 1,440 resolution means it’s still plenty crisp, even if it isn’t as pixel dense as other devices because of how big the panel is. Color reproduction is accurate too, though it’ll definitely feel a little flat if you’re coming from a device with an AMOLED screen like the Galaxy S7. What’s more, brightness is respectable — this screen is just a touch dimmer than the iPhone 7 Plus’ — and viewing angles are also pretty great. I half-expected the screen to be worse since it would have been a likely place for Lenovo to cut corners on a $500 phone.
The sound quality lags behind screen quality, but that’s no surprise. The Phab 2 Pro has a single speaker carved into its bottom edge, which makes for anemic, muddy sounding music, with bass notes utterly lacking in oomph. It’s fine for sound effects in Tango-enabled games, but headphones are otherwise a must. It helps that the Phab 2 Pro ships with a Dolby Atmos app that launches automatically when headphones are plugged in. Included are presets for music, movies, games and voices (say, for podcasts), and in general they added a decent amount of oomph to my audio. Music in particular felt a little punchier and more expansive, though the results seemed to vary from song to song.
Motorola has long been a fan of near-stock Android, and I’m glad its parent company Lenovo seems just as fond of it. The Phab 2 Pro ships with a build of Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow that has been left almost completely untouched. Seriously, there are no extra widgets, no visual junk, no bloatware. If you put the Tango-specific stuff aside, there are but a few add-ons: an app for simple file sharing, another for cloud backups, a sound recorder, a Dolby Atmos app for audio tuning and Accuweather. The rest of Lenovo’s work on the software front is much subtler, and largely meant to make using such a big phone easier.
Rather than picking up the phone to see what time it is, for instance, you can toggle an option to wake the device by double-tapping the screen. Still another option causes the lock screen’s PIN input pad and the phone’s dialer pad to slide to the left or right depending on how the Phab 2 is tilted so you don’t have to stretch your thumbs across the screen.
And if you’re in luck if you’ve been looking for a smarter alternative to the traditional home button. There’s an option for a floating on-screen button that provides quick access to all three traditional Android navigation keys, plus the screen lock, calculator, audio recorder and flashlight. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need to whip out a calculator all that often, so the inability to change any of those shortcuts is a little frustrating. You can add a second page of app shortcuts too, though the resulting grid of icons looks pretty ugly.
Lenovo’s light touch with software is appreciated, but it’s far from perfect. Certain apps (here’s looking at you, Gmail) offer notifications that are hard to read because some of the text is too dark against the translucent gray notification shade. The problem is even worse when you’re using a dark wallpaper, and surprise: a good chunk of the included wallpapers, including the one that’s on by default, do indeed fall into that category.
Life with Tango
As I write this, there are 35 Tango apps available in the Google Play Store, and broadly speaking they fall into one of two categories: tools and games. I’m not going to dissect all of them — not unless you all really, really want me to — but there are recurring themes across these apps that speak to the larger experience of living with Tango.
Despite all the whimsical, weird stuff we’ve seen Tango do in the past, Google is making it clear the tech can help you get stuff done too. The Phab 2 Pro ships with Google’s Measure app, for one, which does exactly what its name suggests. Fire up the app, point at something, tap to drop an anchor, then tap to drop an anchor at that something’s endpoint. Congratulations, you just measured something without having to grab a tape measure. The Lowe’s Vision app has a similar trick, and when Tango’s sensors cooperate, the results can be very accurate indeed.
That’s definitely not a given, though. Let’s say you’re measuring the edge of a box or a desk. The depth sensor sometimes has trouble figuring out where the edge begins, and you have to maneuver just right to tap on the correct spot. (To Google’s credit, Measure says it offers estimates instead of hard numbers.)
Tango recurring theme #1: The Phab 2 Pro occasionally fails at figuring out what it’s pointed at, even in bright conditions.
Speaking of, we’ve seen Lowe’s app used in Tango demos for ages now. In fact, the Phab 2 Pro will even be sold in select Lowe’s stores. Even so, it’s still fun filling an empty room with virtual ovens, sofas and end tables. Online retailer Wayfair has a similar app, which generally seems to work much better; the dressers and couches and cabinets I’ve dropped into the world around me were faster to load and didn’t randomly appear right on top of me as in the Lowe’s app. In fact, the Wayfair app is a joy to use at least partially because it doesn’t try to do too much — just plop furniture down and that’s it. Same goes for Amazon’s Product Preview app, which lets you see how different TVs would look on your wall. It does one thing, and does it well.
Tango recurring theme #2: When it comes to augmented reality apps, the simpler the better.
Tango’s tools aren’t just about seeing how junk fits in your home, by the way. One of my early favorites is Signal Mapper, which prompts you to wander around and visualize how strong your WiFi signal is (future versions will support cellular networks too). Keep at it long enough and you’re left with a signal strength heat map that doubles as a rough blueprint of… wherever you happened to be. Then there are apps like Cydalion, meant to help the visually impaired get around more easily. In brief, these apps provide audio and touch feedback when they start getting too close to a nearby object.
Tango recurring theme #3: The technology might not be perfect yet, but the potential here is just astounding.
So yes, there are plenty of Tango utilities for you to play with. But let’s be real: The first thing I did after receiving the Phab 2 Pro was load up a handful of games. As it turns out, though, games are where Tango’s shortcomings become most apparent. We’ve seen some of these augmented reality games before, like Domino World, which scans your surroundings and lets you build convoluted structures out of those tiny tiles. But there’s a tendency for the app to think a flat surface like a tabletop goes on longer than it does, so you’ll often build a long string of dominos that jut out the air, just waiting to be knocked over.
Other games, like Woorld, are heavier on the whimsy. Designed in part by Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi, Woorld turns the space around you into a playground where the only real goal is figuring out how to find new pieces — like a sun, clouds, sprouts and picnic tables — to add your tiny domain. It’s cute, it’s fun and I blew the better part of an afternoon on it. Woorld is, by the way, the one game I played that really threw the Phab 2 Pro for a loop. It was the second time I had fired up the game, and less than 10 minutes after I started plopping cottages and clouds and sprouts on a conference room desk, the real-world view provided by the RGB camera nearly ground to a halt.
I’m not exactly sure what caused the issue — maybe a memory leak somewhere — but it hasn’t happened again. Suffice to say, this sort of laggy behavior was an exception, not the rule. I’m actually still surprised that the Phab 2 Pro performed these AR tasks as well as it did, but I probably shouldn’t have been: This phone was supposed to launch at the end of the summer, and it’s clear Google and Lenovo used the extra time to to tighten up
Even so, the software is buggy. Playing Phantogeist, the ghost-blasting game I mentioned in the beginning of this review, was great until said ghost spookily hunkered down inside a wall, rendering my lightning-gun-thing useless. When it wandered back into the field, I nuked it from a distance and continued doing that to all its nasty, non-corporeal friends.
Tango recurring theme #4: When everything works the way it’s supposed to, Tango can feel like magic.
These past two years have turned Tango into a functional product, but it’s a long way from seamlessly good. There were, however, plenty of those moments where everything came together just so and I felt I like I was playing with a tricorder pulled out of storage on the USS Enterprise. Some of these issues will be addressed in future Tango hardware — Google’s Tango program lead Johnny Lee has said more is coming — but here’s hoping software fixes patch up some of these early troubles. The potential benefits are just too great to give up on.
Since the Phab 2 Pro’s 16-megapixel camera plays such an important role in making Tango’s augmented reality work, you’d think Lenovo would’ve chosen a top-flight sensor. Not quite, but it has its moments. When the conditions are right — by which I mean there’s plenty of light — the camera yields detailed shots with colors that are mostly true to life. Pro tip: You’ll probably want HDR mode on all the time to give your photos a dose of verve that would otherwise be missing.
My biggest gripe so far has been the finicky autofocus, an issue that only gets more bothersome in low light. Our office already has a Christmas tree in the lobby, and it posed no problem for the iPhone 7 Plus or the Galaxy S7. The Phab 2 Pro, on the other hand, refused to lock onto the tree no matter how many times I tapped to focus on the screen. This doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s a pervasive enough issue that Lenovo should really issue a software update to address it.
I wish I could say the 8-megapixel front camera was better, but it has a lot of trouble accurately rendering colors in selfies. Take me, for example: Around this time of year I’m sort of a pale, milky coffee color, an observation backed up by selfies taken with the iPhone 7 Plus and the Galaxy S7. For reasons beyond comprehension, though, the Phab 2 Pro’s front camera made me a deep orange-brown. That’s with the face-smoothing mode off and everything else set to auto too. Seriously disappointing, Lenovo.
The camera app itself isn’t much to write home about, either. Sure, there might not be much in way of manual controls, but there are eight scene modes, a “touchup” mode for cleaning up your face in selfies and some basic white balance and exposure controls. The thing is, they’re tucked away inside a settings menu making them easy to miss. It’s just bad design. (Then again, looking at the interface Lenovo slapped together, is another bit of bad design really a surprise?)
Since the Phab 2 Pro is all about augmenting reality, it’s no shock that there’s an AR mode within the camera app too. Tapping the AR button brings up a live view of what’s in front of you (duh) along with options to turn that space into some sort of bizarre fairy garden (complete with freaky child-fairy) or a playground for a kitty, a puppy or a chubby, oddly designed dragon. Sound familiar? These sorts of AR tricks figured prominently in Sony smartphones like the Xperia X line, where they were just as hokey. They’re good for a chuckle or two, but the novelty doesn’t last long (unless you have kids). At least the Phab 2 Pro does a better job dispelling the heat that tends to build up during intense AR kitty play sessions.
Performance and battery life
We’ve already established that, beyond the occasional hiccup, the Phab 2 Pro can keep Tango apps running at a decent clip. But what about everything else? Even though the Snapdragon 625 is specifically tuned for Tango, the Phab 2 Pro should be able to handle most people’s daily routines without issue. My days, for instance, are filled with lots of frantic app launching and multitasking; I’m constantly bouncing between Slack, Outlook, Spotify, Trello, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud and more for hours on end.
The Phab 2 Pro took that mild insanity like a champ, with occasional stutters punctuating long stretches of smoothness. Not bad. If your day features a lot of hardcore gaming, however, you might want to look elsewhere. Graphically intense games like Asphalt 8 (with the visual settings cranked to the max) sometimes proved to be a little much for the Phab 2 Pro. In other words, don’t freak out if you see the occasional jerkiness or dropped frame. Though this is an important device, you’re not exactly getting flagship-level power.
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
Lenovo Phab 2 Pro
3DMark IS Unlimited
GFXBench 3.0 1080p Manhattan Offscreen (fps)
I was also expecting more from the Phab 2 Pro’s 4,050mAh battery — it’s the biggest I’ve seen in a recent smartphone, after all. The usage time skewed more middle-of-the-road than I expected, but that’s still sort of a win after all the time I’ve spent playing with Tango apps. Since seeing the sun for any appreciable period of time now requires me to be up early, I usually pulled the Phab 2 Pro off its charger at around 6:45AM, then put it through the daily wringer, with lots of time to get acquainted with Tango. I mean, who could resist?
Over the course of a few days like that, the phone settled into a predictable pattern: It’d power through 12-hour workdays just fine with about 10 to 15 percent left in the tank. On weekends where I spent much less time glued to the phone, it generally stuck around for closer to two days on a charge.
Things were a little less promising in Engadget’s standard rundown test, wherein we loop a high-definition video with the phone connected to WiFi and the screen’s brightness fixed at 50 percent. The Phab 2 Pro lasted for 12 hours and 8 minutes — 20 minutes less than the Google Pixel, and a full two hours less than the larger Google Pixel XL. Such is the downside of having to power such a big display.
The Lenovo Phab 2 Pro is an incredible thing, and it’s just brimming with potential. It’s also unpolished and frustrating to use a lot of the time. When the hardware and software don’t come together as they should, it makes me wish Google and Lenovo spent a little more time ironing out the bugs. But when everything does come together — which happens frequently — I feel like I’m playing with something from the future.
Even so, there’s work to be done. Hardly any of the Tango apps available for the Phab 2 Pro feel like killer apps. As developers continue to get a feel for what Tango is capable of, we’ll see the platform become more useful — at least, I hope so. Part of that growth hinges on people starting to adopt Tango devices like the Phab 2 Pro, but it’s pretty clear that in its current form, no one needs this phone. For all Lenovo’s work cramming Tango into a well-built body, the Phab 2 Pro still feels like a proof of concept. If you’re a developer or an early adopter, then by all means, go get one.
Everyone else should remember that Tango doesn’t end with this phone. It’s special, it’s immersive and I think it could be huge for the future of mobile computing. It just needs time. I’m glad the Phab 2 Pro exists, but if there were ever a phone that wasn’t meant for everyone, this is it. The race is on now, though, and who knows: Maybe the next device with this tech is the one that truly delivers on Tango’s promise
Motorola has just launched the 5.5-inch mid-range Moto M by way of its listing on Tmall (China’s equivalent of Amazon). The Moto lineup always garners a lot of interest, thanks to previous stellar models like the Moto G and Moto X Pure Edition. However, the latest model is a bit disappointing. It does have a splash-proof metal unibody and brand new rear fingerprint sensor, but at $295, it’s specifications are wanting next to rival devices.
The device doesn’t pack a massive 5,100 mAh battery as had been rumored, but that was a rather doubtful claim. And the 4GB of RAM, 16-megapixel rear camera and P2i hydrophobic coating are nice, but the eight-core MediaTek Helio P15 processor seems weirdly out of place on a Motorola device. Other specs, at least on the China version, include a 1080p screen, dual SIMs, 32GB of storage and Dolby Atmos sound.
The specs aren’t bad overall, but the device has serious competition now, especially in China. For the same price, you can get the Xiaomi Mi 5s, for instance, which comes with the latest Snapdragon 821 CPU and a front, ultrasonic fingerprint sensor. Perhaps the Moto M will have a better chance outside of China.
Via: Engadget Chinese
It’s been years in the making but Tango, Google’s depth-sensing tech, is ready to make its consumer debut. That’s because today is when the first-ever Tango phone, the Lenovo Phab2 Pro, goes on sale for $499. To accompany the Phab2 Pro’s launch, Google is announcing over 35 new Tango apps, all of which will be available in the Play Store today. I had a chance to play around with several of them, talked to a few app developers and delved further into the future of Tango, including its relationship with Daydream, that other well-known Google project.
Tango first started life as a project within ATAP, Google’s Advanced Technologies and Projects division. The idea was to integrate an array of sensors and cameras into a mobile device so that it could figure out its position relative to its surroundings. We’ve already seen how Tango’s 3D-mapping can be used to give directions in a museum, assist in home improvement projects and create cartoon worlds, but there are a few new ones that caught my eye.
One of them is Crayola Color Blaster, which is described as a “zombie color-blasting game.” Created by Legacy Games, the object here is to deal with incoming zombies by pelting them with paint. The zombies appear in an augmented reality view on the display, so it looks as if they’re there in your actual living room. It’s a very active game, and I found myself wandering around from one area of the room to the other just to get enough distance between me and the color-hungry undead.
Arielle Lehrer, CEO of Legacy Games, said that there’s also a “horde mode” for smaller spaces, where you’re just pivoting and shooting instead of running around. Lehrer said that the game was originally conceived as juat a coloring book in real space until they figured out there was so much more you could do with the technology. “We started to think about the magic window idea of Tango,” said Andrew Duncan, the game’s lead designer. “Anywhere you look, you change the environment. It really plays in any space.”
Next, I played with Sockethead Games’ Slingshot Island, which is pretty much as the name describes. Again utilizing augmented reality, you place a virtual island in your physical space — be it your dining table or your kitchen floor. From there, you’ll use a slingshot to shoot projectiles at it in order to solve puzzles, like knocking an egg off a structure. The interesting thing here is that instead of swiping down to aim the slingshot, your phone is the controller. That means as soon as you aim your target, you actually move the phone around to establish the shot — as if your entire phone is the slingshot itself. It took a little bit of getting used to, but I learned it eventually.
“This is the one big challenge that we had,” said Randall Eike, the CTO of Sockethead Games. “Users had no concept whatsoever that they can use their phone as a motion controller. It’s completely foreign to them.” After they figure it out though, Eike said, it feels a lot more intuitive. “This motion control ability of using your device and interacting with the object… It’s going to open up this huge class of mobile games.”
I also played a couple of titles that didn’t use augmented reality. One was Hot Wheels Track Builder, which had me racing toy cars down virtual tracks that I could create myself. You could pick up pieces by grabbing a hand and then move them into place by moving the phone to the right place. It’s once again using the idea of the phone as the controller. “We figured out a control scheme where you wouldn’t need a touch screen to build your tracks,” said Kris Jackson, the lead game designer. “That’s the thing you usually struggle with the most.” Another was Ghostly Mansion, where I collected clues in a virtual room by walking around a physical space. I could lean down to open a drawer or lift the phone up to grab a picture on the wall.
A few years after its debut, Tango then graduated to become its own project division in 2015. Now, it’s a part of Daydream, Google’s VR initiative. It doesn’t take much imagination to think of how useful depth-sensing and 3D-mapping would be in virtual reality. Indeed, the combination of the two could lead to perhaps a standalone headset in the future.
“A lot of the work we’re doing will enable inside out tracking in VR,” said Johnny Lee, Tango’s Director of Engineering. “There’s no product that we can talk about. But as Tango matures, as Daydream matures, there’s an obvious crossroads that we’re excited about.”
But before integrating that tech into VR, Google thought it was important to incorporate Tango into phones first.
“There are still a lot of phones being manufactured today,” said Lee. “We feel like this form factor is one that we’ll have with us for quite awhile.” Indeed, one of the reasons Eike was drawn to Tango is because he felt that smartphones are a lot more accessible than VR headsets. “A VR headset isn’t something you whip out of your pocket at a Starbucks,” he said, whereas everyone has a smartphone. “There’s a chance [Tango] will be more ubiquitous than VR.”
Lee shares the same sentiment. He thinks of Tango in the same way as GPS; we were able to get through our lives before it came along, but now we can’t imagine our phones without it. The spatial reasoning and depth sensing allowed by Tango, he said, will be just as important. “I believe there is a whole new suite of experiences that are possible. The way we interact with our computers will change.” Plus, he said, the rise of Pokemon Go shows that the public is a lot more accepting of augmented reality apps than it used to be, which is good news for Tango.
Google is so bullish on Tango that it’s already built up a pipeline of partners. In other words, look forward to more Tango-enabled phones next year. According to the company, they’ll come in varying price points, designs and form factors. So if you’re wary of the giant 6.4-inch screen on the Phab2 Pro, maybe wait a few months for a smaller Tango phone.
“This is not just a research product. It’s a product in the market today,” said Nikhil Chandhok, Tango’s product director. “Should every phone have GPS? Yes. Should every phone have a camera? Yes. Should every phone have inside-out tracking? Yes,” Chandhok continued. “Every phone should have it.”
Apple’s share of the tablet market has been sliding for a while, but it’s making a comeback… if not for the reasons the company might prefer. Strategy Analytics estimates that the iPad climbed from 19.1 percent of the market in the third quarter of 2015 to 19.9 percent a year later. However, that’s mainly because the market as a whole shrank 10 percent. The analysts believe that many tablet manufacturers’ shipments dropped year-to-year, and that Apple simply experienced a smaller decline than most. The one major exception is Amazon, whose $49 Fire tablet helped its shipments more than double.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that Apple is on the wrong track. Strategy Analytics argues that the iPad Pro line puts Apple “on the path to recovery” by giving the company a laptop-like tablet that wasn’t an option before. However, it does show that Apple is consciously veering away from the strategies of its peers. Many of its Android rivals are shifting attention to 2-in-1 Windows tablets, like Lenovo’s Yoga series or Samsung’s TabPro S. Researchers say that Windows hybrid and tablet shipments jumped 25 percent year-over-year in the third quarter — some of those are bound to be from companies no longer convinced they can sell Android tablets as full-on computer substitutes.
The data suggests that the tablet market isn’t so much dying as maturing. Basic mobile tablets will still have an audience among those who just want to read books or watch video, but higher-end slates are taking hold. People want “everyday computing devices” that really can fill in for a conventional PC, according to analysts, and they’re willing to pay more for these devices.
Source: Strategy Analytics
We don’t have an official release date for Lenovo’s next Moto handset just yet, but we do have a leaked set of specs that hint at what’s to come. According to some grainy renders that made the rounds earlier this week, the Moto M will be the first Motorola smartphone to feature a rear-facing fingerprint sensor and its unibody frame puts it solidly in the mid-tier of current generation handsets. But the big spec surprise here is a huge 5,100mAh battery which Lenovo estimates will give you more than a month of standby time.
Your mileage may vary, of course, but that battery is still about 47 percent larger than the Pixel XL and more than 75 percent larger than the iPhone 7 Plus. And even larger than the last big-battery-packing phone we spotted, the LG X Power. To charge a battery that size, Lenovo is also including a 4.5A rapid charger in the box.
— krispitech (@krispitech) October 27, 2016
As for the rest of the specs: the Moto M will run Android 6.0 Marshmallow with an octa-core 2.0 GHz Snapdragon processor, 4 or 4GB RAM, and 32 or 64GB of storage expandable to 128GB via microSD. According to Krispitech, the Moto M will land in December, although that date is still unconfirmed.
Source: TechDroider, Krispitech