This week at CTIA 2011 in Orlando we saw something that we really haven’t seen in smartphones before: glasses-free 3D displays. We knew they were coming, but it’s certainly something else to hold it in your hands and to see for yourself. The two showstoppers were most certainly the HTC EVO 3D for Sprint, and the LG Thrill 4G for AT&T. Both are capable of capturing and displaying three-dimensional photos and images that you can view on your phone, but that’s where our first problem comes up.
At a few parties in Orlando, I kept hearing the word “gimmick” when others would describe 3D smartphones. Indeed, it does seem like a gimmick because its usefulness is limited and your ability to share content is virtually non-existent. You can’t share 3D photos and videos on Twitter, Facebook or Flickr at the moment, but maybe that will change if this 3D thing really takes off.
3D phones have a long way to go. I spent a considerable amount of time with both the HTC EVO 3D and the LG Thrill 4G and neither one really wowed me. It’s neat to see the dual cameras on the back of the phones, which indicate the ability to record 3D photos and videos. It’s also pretty cool to see the content on the phone when you can actually see it–another problem with the technology right now.
The viewing angle is so limited that it’s hard to get it right when it’s in your hands. Sharing it with others standing around you makes it even more tricky. While waiting to get my hands on a device, the person before me would say, “Oh, this looks really cool! Check it out!” But no matter how hard they tried to angle it to make it viewable by me, it just never worked. Things have to be perfectly aligned and the phone needs to be in your own hands in order for the effect to work.
When it does work, however, it is really cool. It’s like there is a whole new world within your smartphone. The picture and video samples in the EVO 3D were just about perfect. Even without glasses, images and videos were crisp and colors were rich and vivid. But if you were nudged over and the smartphone moved a centimeter either way, you’d be hit with the blur effect.
Are 3D phones the future of multimedia on our smartphones? I wouldn’t bet against it, but right now the technology seems really limited and I can’t see users taking to it because it’s really a one-person experience. We’re so accustomed with sharing the minutiae of our lives through Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Flickr and other social networks that it’d be disappointing to have to experience the cool 3D photos and images we took ourselves.