The Phab 2 Pro is the first phone to feature Google's Tango. Tango is, to put it lightly, not really ready for anyone aside from curious tech reviewers and maybe developers looking to get into AR content. The Phab 2 Pro itself also isn't a very good phone, and frankly costs too much to justify a largely gimmicky feature. In short, this product has "commercial flop" written all over it, and I think even AR enthusiasts and Tango phones can understand that. I honestly didn't ever expect it to be commercially marketed: this is a gadget that has some novelty and development value, but essentially zero real consumer appeal at this time.

Do not tell Lenovo this, because they are apparently very much under the impression that people are going to want this thing. And it's getting a little cringe-y: with full paid YouTube videos from well-known creators explicitly promoting the product.* One is from jacksfilms, a pop culture meets tech and comedy channel that has over two million subscribers. Unlike Jack's typical videos, the Phab 2 Pro shot is highly produced (clearly, a professional film crew was used), and seeks to promote the Phab through some admittedly chuckle-worthy bits. It's actually not at all a bad video.

(*I want to be clear that I have no problem with creators doing this sort of thing. These are their channels, and more power to them for finding a good way to generate some revenue - they are running a business after all. I'm strictly critiquing Lenovo's approach here, which seems incredibly out of touch.)

Unfortunately, the Phab and Tango themselves really are the butt of the joke here: they feature so infrequently and under such laughably forced circumstances that it really does make you start to wonder if Lenovo might regret commissioning this spot in particular. The takeaway for the viewer here is that some suckers at a smartphone company paid to shoehorn their weird, largely useless product into a funny video starring their favorite person. This may provide some "brand awareness" advertising, but Lenovo itself doesn't feature strongly in the video, and the product is presented as little more than another absurd gag in Jack's absurd video. The fact that viewers are aware of the Phab 2 Pro isn't very helpful when their awareness is that it's a silly and pointless toy made by an out of touch tech company.

Lenovo also bought a paid spot from the exceptionally popular LinusTechTips (3 million-plus subscribers), in which... we get a rehash of all the demos Lenovo used when it introduced the product months ago.

This one seems to be relying on a more effective strategy: use a familiar, trusted face to demonstrate the product in a way that feels native to the channel's typical content. This is a commonly-employed approach on YouTube in the last couple of years for sponsored content, and one that seems to be more well-received by viewers.

The problem for Lenovo is that Linus' video is riddled with instances of the Tango experience bugging out, not working, and being generally... really, really boring. At not one point is a potentially practical use for the technology demonstrated, and at the end of the video Linus goes out his way to say the product is in "pretty early stages" and "experimental" - which is generally a polite way of intimating, in the world of tech reviews, that you probably shouldn't buy it because it's not done yet.

Now, for Google, this is fine! Tango clearly does have a long way to go before it's useful or will be interesting to any significant number of consumers. It has a lot of evolving to do and doesn't need to be ready for commercial success yet. But Lenovo doesn't really have an egg in that basket - Lenovo has to sell a phone, and the video they've likely paid a very significant sum of money to promote it essentially ends by telling people that it's understandable you wouldn't want to buy it. The ostensible aim of this promotion is to foster discussion around Tango (Linus ends the video asking for feedback), but again: that's not really a concern for Lenovo, is it?

The final video, from Austin Evans, is below.

He essentially laughs at the thing when he pulls it out of the box for its comical size (again, seemingly code for "haha, who would buy this?"). Evans does a more convincing job selling the hardware and specifications in the typical smartphone review fashion, and even starts his demos with a furniture placement tool by Wayfair. And then the next demo, predictably, bugs out almost immediately. When he tries to convince us that he "really thought" for a moment that a virtual domino was going to fall off the table and went to reach for it, though, the promotional horse is clearly out of the barn.

And, like Linus, Evans ends the video suggesting that it's not a product for everyone, merely that it's cool that you can buy it today. If you want. Just when it looks like he's going to bring the pitch home, he asterisks it again, bringing out the "this will probably be a lot better in 6-12 months" line that is commonly the conclusion of product reviews for products that are a bad idea to buy.

So, what is Lenovo's end game here? After all, Lenovo doesn't own or really have anything to do with Tango - that's all Google. Lenovo just built the first commercially available vessel for the technology, their only real goal can be to sell those devices. And the content they're buying to do it doesn't ever muster a cohesive argument for a practical reason to do so.

You get a feeling that, at some level, someone or some group of people at Lenovo are very excited that they get to work on a phone that is co-branded with a Google product. And that they believe this is some kind of major chance to break into the US smartphone market, or get in on the ground floor of a new technology with consumers. But this seems so monumentally out of touch with reality: the Phab 2 Pro and Tango are the very definition of niche, bleeding-edge technology - something that most enthusiasts would even avoid buying, let alone more mainstream tech consumers. The Phab 2 Pro honestly doesn't even need to be exciting - it just needs to be a workable reference platform for developers to create AR content on. That's it. Instead, Lenovo seems convinced there's money to be made here. I have a feeling they're about to be sorely disappointed.

Additionally, I'm not sure this is great PR for Tango, and wouldn't be surprised if it's making Googlers on the project a bit squeamish - it sends a very misleading message, that Tango is "open for business" and a compelling reason for a consumer to buy a product. That, of course, is setting up Tango for a letdown: Tango clearly isn't ready for normal consumers. And that's fine! But apparently no one told Lenovo that.