The bright orange banners outside Lenovo's main IFA event promised 'Different is better' - but the company's announcements were (mostly) more of the same.
Lenovo's ‘different', said CMO David Robertson, is about focusing on innovation - which made it a shame that the new Moto X4 is, in many ways, just another smartphone, if an exceedingly pretty one.
Available in Super Black and Sterling Blue, the X4 will be launched in September for €400. It has a glass and metal design, protected by Gorilla Glass and rated to IP68 (the highest possible). A reflective film is installed underneath the glass on the rear of the case, which makes all sorts of interesting patterns as it bounces light away. Sadly, that does seem to be the phone's most unique feature.
Okay, the above is sort of a lie: the camera is also interesting, but not new. The X4 uses dual rear cameras, at 12MP and 8MP. Like Huawei's P9, these enable Post-Shot Selective Focus, which can be used to re-focus pictures after they've been taken; it also ties in to two more photo modes, called Selective Black and White (removing colour from the fore- or background) and Spot Colour (removing all but one colour from a picture): sure to make those pictures of your post-workout salad really pop.
All three of the above functions will work with the X4's panoramic selfie mode, which utilises the 16MP front camera (there's also an LED flash and adaptive low light mode).
Android runs on an eight-core Snapdragon 630 processor, with up to 4GB RAM and a 2TB SD card (64GB internal storage). Amazon Alexa was built in - and Amazon was clearly supporting Lenovo, with the website used as an example three times in the 20-minute announcement.
Aesthetically, the new Yoga 920 convertible is just as pleasing as the X4. It's less than 14mm thick and weighs 1.37kg, available in three colours (platinum, silver and bronze) and with four different cover designs.
The first design is the bog-standard ‘This is the lid in the colour you chose', but the other three are a bit more exciting (or naff, depending on your point of view).
Through a partnership with Disney, Lenovo has produced two versions of the 920 with Star Wars branding (and hey, everyone at the launch was a geek - the crowd went wild): one emblazoned with the Rebel Alliance logo and one promoting the Empire. We'd favour the white Rebel version, if only because it doesn't pick up fingerprints anything like as much as the Dark Side 2-in-1.
The other design was created by the winner of a competition that Lenovo ran at the Istituto Europeo di Design in Italy, and is called the Vibes Edition.
Much like the Yoga 910, the 920 has a 13.9 in 4k display with touch and the signature ‘watchband' hinge that means it can lie flat or rotate 180°. The camera, previously resting in the bottom bezel, has been moved to the more traditional spot at the top of the display - avoiding those unattractive nostril shots.
One of the biggest complaints that we had with the 910 was the lack of Thunderbolt ports, which has happily been fixed on the 920; the new model has two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 inputs.
Like other mobile products at IFA, the 920 was using Intel's eighth-gen processors (quad-core), with integrated Intel HD graphics; up to 16GB RAM; 1TB SSD storage; and a 70Whr battery. SVP Jeff Meredith said on-stage that this can last more than 15 hours, and while that claim was technically true, it refers to the 1920 x 1080 model; the 4k version will get about 11 hours from a single charge.
Other convertibles launched at IFA were the Yoga 720 and Miix 520. The Yoga is a 12 in model with a 1920 x 1080 IPS panel behind the display and seventh-gen processors; and the Miix is a detachable tablet/keyboard bundle with eighth-gen processors and optional 4G.
The Star Wars obsession carried on into the VR space, but we'll get to that in a moment.
Lenovo announced a standalone (wireless) VR headset running Google's Daydream platform at Google I/O this year, and will share more details about it and other smart devices at CES. That segued into news about a (totally unexpected, honest) Mixed Reality VR headset called the Explorer. No surprises here: it's slightly lighter than others we saw at IFA (380g), but otherwise more of the same. You'll be able to get your grubby mitts on one in October.
In a pretty transparent attempt at replicating Steve Jobs, we heard that there was "one more thing" on the agenda: the cue for Mike Goslin of Disney to come up and share more details about the augmented reality headset (‘Mirage'), announced by Lucasfilm and Lenovo at the D23 expo in July.
We might not get a real lightsaber (seriously, what's the hold up?), but Lenovo will sell a lightsaber controller, tracking beacon and the headset itself. Unlike other AR headsets, which use the camera to show real-world images, the Mirage has a space for the phone to lie flat; images are then projected into the wearer's eyes. The effect is that the user can actually see the real world, but also the virtual graphics from content created by Disney.
That content comes from the Jedi Challenges app, and it seems to be reasonably fully-featured at launch: lightsaber battles against various opponents, Jedi training and even Holo Chess.
Field of view, like other AR headsets, is pretty limited: 60° horizontal and only 30° vertical. In our hands-on time we fought Kylo Ren and navigated through a variety of 2D menus; without the need to render backgrounds, any hardware is unlikely to be challenged by anything that Jedi Challenges can throw at it.
The controller connects to a phone via Bluetooth, but despite our fears, the experience was pleasantly lag-free. Today only the blue variant is available, although the ‘blade' does go red when it's running low on batteries (take that, Sith).
Because the app was the result of a partnership between Lenovo and Disney, rather than Lucasfilm, there could be plenty more IP to explore in the future.
Shipments will start in November, with the list price at £250/€300 for the bundle.
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