The first phone with both Google Tango and Google daydream has arrived, and it’s made by Asus. This is the same company which made the successful Nexus 7 tablet. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Asus first showed off the ZenFone AR, the second Tango-enabled smartphone. It also supports Google Daydream platform, which promises to deliver deep virtual reality experiences. Now, the company has launched the phone in India at Rs 49,999. I have got a chance to try out the ZenFone AR at the launch event, and here are my first impressions.
Asus ZenFone AR Design, display
At CES, I had tried the jumbo Phab 2 Pro from Lenovo – the first handset to run Google’s Tango AR platform. Compared to the Phab 2 Pro, Asus ZenFone AR looks ghastly different. At 170 grams, the phone isn’t exactly super light, but it weighs a bit less than the iPhone 7 Plus, which weighs 188 grams. Yes, it is light enough to slip into any pocket, and features a ZenFone Zoom like leatherette back. I actually loved the design, though I’d like to say that the size of the phone might be an issue for those looking for a compact device.
The 5.7-inch display is of the Super AMOLED variety and has a Quad HD (2560 x 1440p) resolution. The screen looked crisp and vivid; a higher-resolution display will be extra important when the phone is Daydream ready.
Asus ZenFone AR Processor, battery
Asus ZenFone AR is powered by the Snapdragon 821 processor and 8GB RAM fitted inside. I tested several apps in my brief time and all of them ran fast and smoothly. The result should be super smooth, though I wish the phone had the Snapdragon 835 chipset.
As for battery life I suspect the 3300mAh cell will dole out a day and a half of use on a single charge. Let’s not forget that both AR and VR technologies are known for draining juice from the phone. The ZenFone AR has 128GB of internal memory and a microSD card slot for memory expansion. You also get USB-C charging, and a standard headphone jack.
Asus ZenFone AR Software
The Asus ZenFone AR runs Android 7.0 Nougat out-of-the-box with Asus’ Zen UI 3.0. And I’m still not impressed with the user interface. Zen 3.0 is easy to navigate, though the interface has a lot of learning curve to it.
Asus ZenFone AR Camera
Asus ZenFone AR uses the three cameras on the back – one a regular 23-megapixel shooter, one for motion tracking and the other for depth – to map your surroundings. The phone can shoot in RAW, and save up to 92-megapixel high-resolution photos by combining four 23-megapixel ones. It also shoots 4K video recording and comes with four-axis OIS. I couldn’t test that the camera because of the harsh lighting in the demo area , but even in those conditions the phone was able to focus properly.
Asus ZenFone AR Early impressions
Asus ZenFone AR is an interesting device, after all it’s the first phone to support both Tango and Daydream platforms. Out of the two, I’m more inclined to the Tango augmented reality technology. A Tango-enabled phone can understand the physical space by measuring the distance between the device and objects in a real world. I see a great future for augmented reality soon. This means the ZenFone AR can soon be used for virtual shopping, gaming, and mapping an in-door space.
Asus has partnered with Gap to develop Dressing Room, an AR experience that let’s users try clothes virtually. There’s a collaboration with BMW on i Visualiser, an app that allows users to configure, customise, and walk around the car maker’s i3 and i8 cars in a digital space. There are currently over 45 Tango apps in the Play Store; however, users in India can only access around 15 of them.
Tango and Daydream sound like a winning combo. However, I’m worried that not many people will be able to experience these fantastic technologies. At Rs 49,999, Asus has slapped a high price on the ZenFone AR which restricts many from owning the phone.