The Phab2 Pro is Lenovo's introduction of Google's Tango platform to the world. Honestly, that is all this phone has going for it. There is not much if anything in the UI that differentiates it from any other Chinese smartphone manufacturer with the only exception being Lenovo's cloud backup and content sharing service. There isn't even a one-handed mode in the UI, which would be nice to have for a screen of this caliber.
The Tango platform (which is showcased on this device) is the only feature that somewhat justifies the $499 price tag in the US. Only recently, Moto has confirmed that a Tango-enabled Moto Mod will become available for the Moto Z family. This would allow for the same Tango sensors needed to use Tango apps and it would make the Moto Z phones nice alternatives for would-be early adopters of Tango.
The phone does have a huge screen, and we are glad to see that Lenovo went with a QHD resolution for the Phab2 Pro, but that is probably the most premium feature of this phone. Tango aside, the phone feels like they've shrunk a dull Android tablet due to the lack of any other differentiating feature. There are many areas where the phone could improve, most notably the camera department with the poor low light performance, long HDR-taking times, and the overall UI inconsistencies.
Because of the very specific type of product that the Phab2 Pro is, with Tango and all, it's hard to choose direct alternatives to a phone like this one. However, we just reviewed the Xiaomi Mi Mix and it offers the same size screen with a much smaller footprint thanks to its virtually edgeless display. While its camera doesn't impress either, it performs notably better in video recording with electronic image stabilization.
If you are okay with the Phab2 Pro's budget, there are a couple of alternatives that you might enjoy. If you get a good deal, the Moto Z, Moto Z Force, and Moto Z Play can offer a better Android experience for a similar price, and it's even been confirmed that Moto is working to the get the Tango sensors into a MotoMod, though it's not certain if the Moto Z Play's Snapdragon 625 will be enough to support Tango. If battery life is important to you, the Moto Z might disappoint you with only a 2,600 mAh battery.
If you are indeed looking for a phablet that will provide a longer list of features for professionals or otherwise, look no further than the Huawei Mate 9. Its 5.9 inch screen is larger than most, and if you don't mind the 1080p resolution, it offers a similar design with Huawei's superior built quality. Unfortunately, its price is a bit above the Phab2 Pro's budget but it's an excellent phone to consider.
Coming out of this review, one thing became clear. If you are not strictly after the Tango functionality, your money will perhaps be better spent elsewhere. And even if you are interested in the capabilities that Tango offers, you should remember that it's still in its infancy and it's still rough around the edges, while the benefits of having the technology on your daily phone are somewhat doubtful. The idea of having it as an add-on for your phone seems a better option to us but we'll see if the industry even takes it in that direction.
We can definitely see some developers using the Phab2 Pro as a development platform and we can imagine that the Tango functionality can become much richer down the line.
The Lenovo Phab2 Pro didn't manage to win us over in terms of smartphone experience but we're sure we'll see more of Tango in the future, especially since it has the backing of a major tech company such as Google. We hope to see more interesting applications for it as well - even outside phones. How about in our living room? The possibilities surely are endless and we're eager to see how Tango evolves.