Kelly Sullivan, Getty Images
Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing introduces various products Thursday at the company’s Tech World event in San Francisco.

Lenovo Adds Smartphones to Computer Portfolio

June 10, 2016
Augmented reality, magnetic modifications, shatterproof screens ... all are a part of new or in-development phones from Lenovo. Seems the Chinese computer company is catching up.

SAN FRANCISCO — Chinese computer titan Lenovo showcased a series of new smartphones Thursday, including a keenly-awaited Tango handset and new Moto Z models that can be transformed into video projectors or powerful speakers.

A market-ready PHAB2 Pro smartphone imbued with Google-created Tango augmented reality technology was given star treatment at a Lenovo Tech World gathering in San Francisco. PHAB2 can sense and map its surroundings, enabling holograms to be overlaid on real-world settings for anything from gameplay to figuring out which size sofa would fit in a room.

The big-screen gadget will be available globally in September for $499.

“It is a pretty incredible piece of technology for, really, a great price,” Tango engineering director Johnny Lee said.

In what Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing billed as perhaps the most important announcement at the event, Lenovo also unveiled new Moto Z smartphones that can be customized with “mods” — specialized pieces of hardware that snap into place magnetically to give handsets added capabilities.

One mod let a Moto Z project video on walls or ceilings at sizes as large as a 70-inch television screen. Another mod turned Moto Z handsets into powerful speakers.

Lenovo also launched a smartphone mod program for developers, enticing them with a $1 million prize for a mod that best integrates handsets with services hosted in the cloud.

Moto Z will be available in the United States in coming months through Verizon, with models debuting globally later in the year, according to Lenovo. Pricing was not disclosed.

Lenovo’s core business will remain personal computers, but it wants to use its expertise to combine hardware and cloud capabilities to help devices “listen, see, sense and understand the world,” according to Yang.

Lenovo’s innovative offerings showed that the company is committed to smartphones even though it only broke into the market with the purchase of Motorola, according to Gartner principal research analyst Mikako Kitagawa.

Gartner ranked Lenovo as the seventh-biggest player in the smartphone market last quarter.

“They are really catching up as a late-comer to the market, but they are already successful,” Kitagawa said. “I am pretty happy about the innovations I saw today.”

Lenovo innovations included a smartphone with a shatterproof screen, which spokesperson Ashton Kutcher demonstrated by dropping a handset from high above the stage.

“Customers drop phones a lot,” Lenovo chief technology officer Peter Hortensius said during the demonstration. “This gave us an idea. What about a screen that won’t break?”

Hortensius also provided a peek at work Lenovo is doing on smartphones and tablets that can bend. YouTube star Meghan McCarthy wrapped a prototype smartphone around one wrist like a bracelet and folded a tablet in half while watching a cat video.

“This isn’t a product yet,” Hortensius said, “but it is a sign of things to come.”

By Glenn Chapman

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2016

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