Verizon has sent us an Asus ZenFone AR, the second Google Tango smartphone on the market. So if you’re completely new to Google Tango, basically it’s an Augmented Reality computing platform developed by Google. The Lenovo Phab 2 Pro is actually the first phone to include the sensors and the cameras required to work with Tango. But it definitely wasn’t a huge seller. I doubt that you’ve even heard of the Phab 2 Pro. It is neat to see Asus release a high-end Tango smartphone for America’s largest network.
We are going to unbox it to show you what’s inside but I do want to note that this is a review unit and it was opened before. But essentially, you will find the ZenFone AR sitting right on top and underneath, you’ll find some Get Started paperwork for setting up this device on Verizon’s network as well as a paper providing some info on Project Tango. Below, there’s a pair of earphones, a wall wart, and a USB-C charging cable.
The ZenFone AR is being sold for about $648 off-contract so it’s certainly among the other high-end smartphones on the market. Thankfully, you do get some pretty high-end features.
So the rear of the phone consists of a leather-like back cover that feels really good in the hands, lots of grip. You’ll see towards the top, there are two camera sensors and two depth sensors. This will all be used for Augmented Reality. Some other things to note include an aluminum frame that gives this phone some rigidity. There’s a headphone jack, thankfully; a USB-C port and speaker grille on the bottom, a SIM and microSD card slot for expandable storage on the side, and a power and volume rocker here as well. The fingerprint scanner is flanked by two capacitive touch navigation buttons. It lies on the front of the phone underneath the display. And the sensor itself protrudes about a millimeter from the display so if you lie this phone flat on a surface, it’s actually going to be elevated ever so slightly; thanks to this fingerprint scanner.
The Google Tango app is where the magic happens. The app will introduce you to other apps that let you add Augmented Reality items to your environment. For example, the app, Wayfair, will place digital furniture in your apartment so you can essentially shop in 3D. There’s a Laws app, a Wall Street Journal app for viewing the stock market in Augmented Reality, which is super cool. And there are many others.
Project Tango is certainly a neat project that Google’s working on. But it’s still in its infancy stage and it’s still being developed constantly and it will need more developers to ultimately develop truly useful applications for it.
One perk, aside from having access to Project Tango, is a high quality camera. The ZenFone AR features a 23-megapixel f/2.0 camera sensor with optical image stabilization and face detection autofocus. Megapixels aren’t everything but since Google Tango relies so heavily on hardware and good optics, I’m optimistic the cameras on here will be pretty solid.
Of course, the ZenFone AR has some other attractive features. It’s a fully functional, fairly high-end smartphone after. It sports a 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display with a QHD resolution. There’s a Snapdragon A21 processor under the hood paired with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage or a configuration with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. The phone feels pretty snappy based upon first impressions but I can’t say that I’m a fan of the skin running on top of Android Nougat. It feels like I’m navigating Windows Vista but on a smartphone. I know that sounds very odd but maybe some of you who use Asus phones can relate. The good news is this is Android and you can customize the launcher, app icons and all that stuff to change the appearance of the device. Also worth mentioning, under the hood is a 3300mAh battery.
So starting at $648, the ZenFone AR rivals the iPhone 7, Galaxy S8, and other high-end smartphones but it has one feature that these phones do not have: Google Tango. I can’t say that Tango is worth it without fully reviewing the device but I will say that you should be more than a little bit interested in the project if you’re going to buy the ZenFone AR.