Lenovo looks beyond computers with slick new phones

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Chinese computer titan Lenovo showed off a keenly-awaited Tango smartphone on Thursday as it focused on a future at the heart of the Internet of Things.

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 game play to figuring out which size sofa would fit in a room.

PHAB2 Pro 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 while taking part in a keynote presentation at the event.

In what Lenovo chief executive 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.

For example, 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.

“This phone can transform itself,” said actor and Lenovo spokesman Ashton Kutcher.

“This is actually a full-blown game-changer.”

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

Moto Z will be available in the United States in coming months through telecom carrier Verizon, then models will debut globally later in the year, according to Lenovo.

Pricing was not disclosed.

Moto Z is made by Motorola, which Lenovo bought from Google in early 2014 in a deal valued at $2.91 billion.

The acquisition was part of a strategy by Lenovo to look beyond personal computers, where it is a market powerhouse, to a future of nearly everything being made smart and connected to the Internet, according to chief executive Yang Yuanqing.

“We are heading toward an age of an Internet of things,” Yang said.

“Devices will become entry points for diverse content and services.”

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.

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