Without more OEM support, Tango could be DOA

We finally get introduced to Project Tango, now simply known as Tango. Tango made its grand entrance today on the Lenovo PHAB2 Pro, a 6.4-inch monster of a phone with built in sensors for camera, depth, motion, and I think making grilled cheese. This is the world’s first Tango enabled phone, which is very exciting, but it also gives me pause. We’ll get to that in a bit.

Tango is essentially Microsoft’s Hololens on your phone. Instead of a self-contained helmet, you’re getting a self-contained phone which offers certain advantages and disadvantages over Microsoft’s implementation. But we’re not here to talk about advantages or disadvantages yet because I haven’t gone hands on with Tango yet. But the bottom line is that Tango is bringing augmented reality to a big time smartphone in a big time way. But I’m concerned as I mentioned earlier and this is why.

Tango_Domino01_v02No variety

Tango in and of itself is pretty cool, but as far as I can tell it’s pretty much stuck to a single phone. Perhaps the upcoming Moto Z and Moto Z Force will also be Tango-enabled and if so, that’s nice. But we find ourselves running into a problem in the field of VR and its close cousin on its mom’s side, AR. Everyone is doing something different. Everyone is bringing their own methodology and ecosystem to the party, and what that’s doing is making a mess of the field.

Tango is pretty cool, even if it can’t drop dominoes off a table. But if Tango is only going to be on Lenovo and Moto devices, well then we may as well pack up the campsite and head home. Because in the Android space there is one major player and a bunch of other small players. And if Samsung isn’t on board with Tango, then there isn’t much of a chance of it gaining any traction. I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but Tango is probably DOA before it has even gotten off the ground.

Minority report

Moto and Lenovo don’t sell very many phones – at least by Android standards. And judging by the number of extra sensors and cameras and hardware that would need to be integrated into a Tango phone, that’s probably not something that Samsung is going to do, if Lenovo even allowed it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s probably something that Samsung ~should~ do, simply because Tango looks pretty awesome. But I don’t see Samsung actually doing it. It would likely prefer to deliver its own solution, which also makes a lot of sense.

The main problem we have in the Android space is that it’s a Samsung-dominated market. Nowadays, that isn’t really a big deal because Samsung is arguably making some of the best, if not the best hardware on the market. What that means though is that if Samsung, or the rest of the Android field as a whole doesn’t adopt Tango, there will be no incentive to develop for it, and as we’ve said time and time again, apps make the platform.

Tango_Wayfair04There is hope

I’m not saying that Tango is completely screwed. After all, offering the PHAB2 Pro at a $500 price point is a wonderful move, even considering its awful name. So Lenovo knows that it needs to get hardware into users’ hands in order to make this project take off. Pricing that much quality at $100 – $200 below the standard is a great way to go about doing it. But, there needs to be a lot more OEM support of Tango if it is going to attract developers which will ultimately decide whether or not this platform lives or dies.

Because without significant market share, which I doubt Lenovo can generate on its own, Tango may as well still be Project Tango, because it will turn into a hobbyist platform, or a parlor trick to show off at parties. One of the worst labels you can bestow on a concept in mobile is the term “gimmick” but sadly Tango will be a gimmick until it gets picked up in the mainstream and neither Lenovo nor Moto are mainstream enough. So Lenovo needs to generate support from outside or Project Tango will end up much like augmented reality itself – there, but not really there.

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About The Author
Adam Doud
Adam joined the tech world after watching Jon Rubenstein demo the most epic phone ever at CES 2009. He is webOS enthusiast, Windows Phone fan, and Android skeptic. He loves the outdoors, is an avid Geocacher, Cubs/Blackhawks fan, and family man living in Sweet Home Chicago, where he STILL hosts monthly webOS meetups (Don’t call it a comeback!). He can be found tweeting all things tech as @DeadTechnology, or chi-town sports at @oneminutecubs. Read more about Adam Doud!