Lenovo's Phab 2 Pro is for workers who are tired of squinting at their smartphone's small screen. The phone sports an absolutely gigantic 6.4-inch display. It's easily the biggest smartphone I’ve ever seen, and unsurprisingly, it's harder to handle than any other phone I've used.
Size aside, the Phab 2 Pro's other claim to fame is its support for unique augmented-reality (AR) capabilities, which have a few interesting applications for workers. Plus, it provides solid security and pretty good battery life. But while it's nice to have extra screen space, the sheer size and heft of this $499 (unlocked) smartphone will be too much for most people.
The Phab 2 Pro's name is a play on the term "phablet," which refers to larger phones that are somewhere in between the size of a typical smartphone and a tablet. But Lenovo's phone comes closer to crossing over into the tablet category than any other phone on the market. My personal smartphone – the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 5 – is usually considered a very large smartphone, but it looks downright diminutive next to this thing.
In practical terms, that means the Phab 2 Pro is virtually impossible to use one-handed for most mere mortals. I have average-size hands, and my fingers aren't nearly long enough to stretch across the wide expanse of this phone's display. When I really reached with my thumb, I could make it about two-thirds of the way to the top. That means I had to employ my second hand to do simple tasks like swiping down the notification tray. At least there's a setting that lets you squish the keyboard into the bottom corner of the screen to help with one-handed typing.
And it's not just big – it's hefty, too. The Phab 2 Pro tips the scales at 9.1 ounces, making it significantly heavier than other recent big-screen phones, such as the Google Pixel XL (5.9 ounces) and the Apple iPhone 7 Plus (6.6 ounces). And Lenovo's phone weighs nearly twice as much as Apple's 4.7-inch iPhone 7 (4.9 ounces). If you spend a few hours lifting this phone up in front of your face, you will definitely notice its heft.
The Phab 2 Pro's physical size does help show off its stylish design, though. The phone sports a slick matte silver finish, and its gently rounded back helps it fit nicely in my palm. I also like the shiny diamond-cut edging, which adds a premium touch to the design. And if you're not a fan of silver, the Phab 2 Pro is also available in Champagne Gold, which looks equally classy.
Of course, there's a big advantage to having such a large display: it gives you a lot of room to work. Even compared with other big-screen phones like the iPhone 7 Plus and the Pixel XL, the Phab 2 Pro's 6.4-inch display feels positively expansive. Viewing documents, spreadsheets and web pages is more comfortable than ever before, without the need to squint and zoom nearly as often. I felt more productive while managing my email inbox, too, since I could see so many messages at once.
The 2560 x 1440-pixel panel is crisp and vibrant. When I watched the trailers for "Transformer: The Last Knight" on the Phab 2 Pro, the movie's massive explosions and rippling blue energy effects looked dazzling. Simply put, the Phab 2 Pro's big, beautiful display provides a more engrossing cinematic experience than any other smartphone on the market, which is a perk for workers who want to relax with some streaming content after work.
It's nice and bright, too, topping out at 463 nits of brightness. That's a bit better than the category average, though the iPhone 7 Plus is noticeably brighter (578 nits). Regardless, the Phab 2 Pro's screen is easy to view outdoors or in direct sunlight.
I do have one big complaint, though: there's no split-screen multitasking mode available on this phone. The feature – which is available on other big-screen Android phones like the Galaxy Note 5 – would have let you take advantage of the extra space that the Phab 2 Pro affords, so you could reference a web page or documents while drafting an email, for example. Sadly, you can only view a single app on-screen at once.
Now here's where things get interesting. The Phab 2 Pro's large size makes room for special hardware that enables a variety of augmented-reality (AR) features. If you've never heard of augmented reality, imagine holding your phone up in front of your face like you're about to take a picture. But instead of snapping a photo, you'll see objects, tools and games projected virtually into your real environment. The AR features fall under the umbrella of Google's "Tango" brand, which includes a growing library of augmented-reality apps.
It works because the Phab 2 Pro is the first smartphone on the market with dual cameras that can detect depth, in addition to a gyroscope and an accelerometer that determine how the phone is moving in space. That allows it to detect the orientation of walls, tables and other objects with surprising accuracy – even as you move around the space ̶ then project a variety of elements onto them.
It's a nifty feature that opens up plenty of entertainment options. I tried out a spooky game that let me wander around my office, ransacking cabinets and drawers in a virtual haunted house. Another app projected virtual dinosaurs into the room, who stomped around and roared.
But while the currently available AR apps mostly skew toward entertainment, the feature might actually help some people do their jobs. The most useful augmented-reality tool is the ability to measure distances just by holding up the phone.
I measured several walls and pieces of furniture using the Phab 2 Pro, and found it to be amazingly accurate when I pulled out my tape measure to double-check its findings. Interior designers or contractors could definitely use this to take initial estimates while planning a project. And even if measuring stuff isn't part of your daily routine, I can easily imagine using the Phab 2 Pro to check to see if there's enough room for a new desk or copier along one wall in my office.
Speaking of redecorating your office, several apps actually allow you to project digital furniture into the room, then place and rotate it however you like. That lets you see how that new conference table will look before buying it – and even whether it will fit into the space. The WayfairView and Lowes apps both let you test out real, life-size pieces of furniture, then buy them with a few taps. More companies are sure to get in on it as additional handsets adopt Google Tango AR capabilities.
A fingerprint reader on Phab 2 Pro gives the device a nice security boost. The one-touch reader is located about halfway up the phone's back, which is a pretty convenient spot that was easy to reach with my index finger while holding the phone. And the reader proved reliable and accurate during my testing period, whisking me away to the home screen each time I used it.
OS & Apps
The Phab 2 Pro offers a relatively clean Android experience, running on the Android 6.0 Marshmallow operating system. It's worth pointing out that there is a newer version of Android ― Android 7.0 Nougat – which adds some handy features but is currently available only on a few smartphones. Regardless, Lenovo mostly stuck to the stock Android installation, without many of the interface tweaks that other manufacturers, such as Samsung and LG, are known for.
A handful of Lenovo-branded apps come installed on the phone. They include Shareit, a cloud service for sharing files and media across devices, and Syncit, which lets you back up contacts, text messages and call logs.
Given its massive 4,050-mAh battery, you might expect the phone to run for days. It doesn't quite hit that mark, but it still provides pretty good battery life for a phone with such a big, bright display to power. It ran for just about 9 hours and 14 minutes on our battery test, which involves continuous web browsing over Wi-Fi. That's about on a par with the smartphone average, which means it can last through the end of the workday with no issues.
Competing phones ran for longer on the same battery test, though. That includes the iPhone 7 Plus (10:38) and the Google Pixel XL (11:11).
The Phab 2 Pro is a reasonably speedy smartphone, with more than enough power to handle multitasking without noticeable stutter. Performance felt smooth, but I did encounter the occasional bit of lag while editing a spreadsheet in Google sheets and tabbing through a dozen websites in the Chrome browser.
The phone is equipped with a specialized Snapdragon 625 processor with 4GB of RAM, which was optimized for running Tango AR apps. That hardware helped Phab 2 Pro rack up a decent score of 3,189 on the Geekbench 4 test, which measures overall performance. That's not bad – it's close to the smartphone average. Rival phones were significantly speedier, though, including the Pixel XL (4,146) and the iPhone 7 Plus (5,392).
If your desire for smartphone screen space is insatiable, Lenovo's Phab 2 Pro might deserve a look. The phone is absolutely massive, with a big screen that provides tons of room for serious productivity tasks. It also boasts a slick design and pretty good battery for such a beast of a smartphone. And while the phone's AR capabilities mostly cater to games and media for now, they also include a few handy tools for workers.
But despite those nifty features, most people will be turned off by the Phab 2 Pro's unwieldy dimensions. I definitely felt inconvenienced when I found I couldn't even check an alert without reaching over with my second hand. And to be honest, I feel that slightly smaller phablets – such as the iPhone 7 Plus and the Pixel XL – provide plenty of screen space already, and they can fit comfortably in my pocket to boot. If you really need something with a bigger display, you could consider carrying a tablet in your work bag as well.