A few weeks ago, ASUS enthusiastically launched its flagship ASUS Zenfone AR, claimed to be the world’s first smartphone to feature both Daydream (Google’s VR platform) and Tango (Google’s AR platform). And just a few days ago, Google proudly unveiled their ARCore — an answer to Apple’s AR Kit and a tool to make the standard smartphone AR compatible. So, what about Project Tango? Is it necessary anymore?
In 2014, Google unveiled Project Tango to the world, promising the availability of Augmented Reality on smartphones. Google’s Tango required the smartphone to feature multiple sensors at the back, which eventually made making a practically slim smartphone difficult. Nonetheless, Google found two major smartphone manufacturers of the world interested in building Tango smartphones — Lenovo and ASUS. Lenovo’s Phab 2 Pro catered to budget segment whereas ASUS’ flagship Zenfone AR wanted to offer the best experience.
Lenovo’s Tango phone never caught up with the masses, partly due to mediocre specifications and partly due to an impractical form factor, ASUS wanted to tackle these two problems with the Zenfone AR. At its India launch event, ASUS stressed on the Zenfone AR to be a flagship smartphone that aimed to provide the best experience with whatever’s possible in the world of smartphones. In our first-hand experience of the Zenfone AR (read here), we found it to be a well-built smartphone with flagship specifications — apart from the camera module, it was similar to a flagship smartphone.
The Zenfone AR had massive potential to become either a play toy or a developer’s product, like Google’s Nexus line-up. However, with Google’s new ARCore, there’s no need for developers to get a smartphone with additional sensors. Also, ARCore will let most existing smartphone users (particularly the flagship ones) in the world enjoy AR content, without investing in additional hardware upgrades.
It is really difficult to understand why Google let ASUS develop such an expensive product that would be rendered useless after a few days of its launch. They could have halted the development of the Zenfone AR to save time ASUS’ time and efforts, considering they have named ASUS among other major manufacturers to implement ARCore in their offerings. The ASUS Zenfone AR looks like a waste of time and resources for the company unless Google updates Tango phones to ARCore.
Not only the manufacturers, even AR app developers are in a fix, especially the ones that offer paid apps in this genre. If they manage to make it compatible with ARCore, they might be able to reap benefits of their hard work even after Tango gets scrapped.
If you have already owned or are planning to get the Zenfone AR, then there’s no need to worry as it is a remarkable flagship smartphone in everyday usage scenarios. We don’t know the support timeline for the Tango platform but we expect it to stick around for some time. Till then, the Zenfone AR will hold its worth before ARCore reaches the masses....