Lenovo is hoping its joint venture with Google to launch a smartphone with augmented reality and a new handset from subsidiary Motorola with a range of snap-on accessories will help the Chinese electronics giant step up its challenge Apple and Samsung.
Google's Project Tango is a technology platform that allows mobile devices to use augmented reality (AR) – the ability to superimpose computer images onto the real world and have them interact with objects in the picture.
Lenovo's new PHAB2 Pro, is the first smartphone to be powered by Tango. The 6.4 inch device, unveiled Thursday, has a so-called "quad HD" screen and uses Qualcomm's Snapdragon 652 processor.
While much of this is similar to many Android devices on the market, Lenovo's camera has special depth-sensing hardware to allow it to use AR technology. The main camera is 16 megapixels.
There are a number of AR apps and Lenovo outlined how the technology could be used for:
- Learning – where students can place dinosaurs or famous monuments in their classroom to explore them
- Gaming – the electronics firm showed off a game where users had to shoot aliens that were running around a living room
- Mapping an indoor area allowing you to walk around a museum so users can hold their phone up to a work of art and get lots of detailed information
- Check out how furniture looks in your house before you buy it
Device-makers are pushing hard to differentiate their products amid a slowing smartphone market that is only set to grow 3.1 percent this year, down significantly from the 10.5 percent seen last year, according to IDC.
And Lenovo, which was the fourth-biggest smartphone vendor in the fourth-quarter of 2015, was knocked out of the top five by young Chinese players OPPO and Vivo. Lenovo is looking to muscle back into the top five vendor list but also challenge the likes of Samsung, Apple and Huawei in the premium end of the market.
Augmented reality is also seen as a big growth area for companies with giants such as Microsoft and Google all pushing forward with developing the technology.
The PHAB2 Pro will be available globally from September and will start at $499.
Motorola – which is owned by Lenovo – showed off two new devices on Thursday – the Moto Z and Moto Z force.
The Moto Z is made from "military aircraft-grade aluminium and stainless steel" and boasts a 5.5 inch Quad HD display with a 13 megapixel main camera. The Moto Z Force is all-metal and apparently has a screen that won't crack or shatter if dropped.
But the main highlight of the phone is the "modular" features – accessories that can snap on to the devices. These so-called Moto Mods include a speaker made by JBL, a projector or a power pack.
High-powered magnets connect the Moto Mods to the phone so accessories just snap on.
Motorola is not the first phone maker to release a modular smartphone. Earlier this year, South Korea's LG released the G5 in Februarywhich also has attachable accessories.