Have we almost seen the end of 3D smartphones?

Published: January 28, 2012

Do you want to talk about how this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas wasn’t that great? Or, are you someone who thinks that the show was a big hit, showcasing plenty of new gadgets and toys for you to be excited about in the coming months? For me, personally, I’m part of the latter, because I love new technology, no matter how it is implemented. Could the show have been better? Sure, probably, but I’ll take what I can get. There was also a huge bonus for me this year, too, which I’m all too giddy about: a lack of 3D-based devices. In fact, I think this is one reason why the whole show was a smash hit.

No new phones with 3D. No new TVs with the most incredible 3D technology ever. Yes, there were 3D-based devices out there, but the presence of the “next best thing” was at such a stark minimum that it was barely noticeable. I honestly believed, for just a brief moment that the 3D gimmick was over and done with far more quickly than I ever thought it would be. All done in a year?

Fantastic.

And then LG had to go ahead and burst that bubble.  And I bet they didn’t even care that they did it, either. I’m talking about the recently leaked LG CX2, or 3D MAX, or Optimus 3D MAX. It doesn’t quite have a name yet, considering that LG hasn’t even officially announced the device yet, but any one of those titles would probably be just fine for LG’s next premiere 3D handset.

It was hard for me to write that last bit. I can’t honestly say that I believe that a 3D-based handset is a “premiere” device, but to each his own. What makes it hard, honestly, is that I don’t think a device that is selling 3D as a major feature of the handset is really all that interesting. Because, frankly, 3D isn’t much more than a gimmick. No, it is a gimmick, and it’s a gimmick that isn’t easy on the eyes at all. With every 3D device I’ve used in the past, it was more of a strain on my eyes than something worthwhile.

But, I’ll admit that I understand that some people out there like the technology, and actually like it on their phones. Use it daily, even. It’s no surprise, considering the push for 3D-featured handsets manufacturers like HTC and LG did last year. And that’s exactly what it was: a push. We saw 3D technology as the main takeaway from CES in 2011, and then a subsequent “flood” of 3D-based devices come down the pipe afterward. After this year’s show I was expecting to see the same thing: no real focus on 3D, and smartphone manufacturers letting the technology fade into the sunset.

And then the leak of the CX2 happened, and my whole world came crashing down. (No, not that dramatic, but pretty close.) The device’s specifications aren’t all that terrible, of course. We shouldn’t expect them to be. It’s reportedly set to feature a 4.3-inch WVGA NOVA display, with a 1.2GHz dual-core processor under the hood. On the back, there’s a pair of 5MP cameras, to help you get all those 3D shots you want, and it’s supposed to measure in at less than 10mm thin. Not a complete stand-out device, but at the same time it isn’t all that terrible, either.

I’ll tell you right now, that if the LG CX2’s only point of 3D was the pair of cameras on the back, I may change my tune pretty definitively. Because it isn’t a bad phone, or it doesn’t seem to be in leaked information. (Anything is possible to change once it gets officially announced.) But, I don’t see that happening. The 3D gimmick will be laced throughout the phone in some way or another, whether it’s the display, or games, or something that is completely irrelevant. It won’t just be those cameras, or the pictures you take. Nope, I would be shocked if LG didn’t make sure you know 3D is part of the experience, outside of just the name.

I am happy that I have yet to hear about any 3D phones coming down the line from HTC or Samsung, and that’s probably a huge win in the fight against 3D on our smartphones. Will it change in the coming months? Maybe. But for now it looks like we’ve got a bright future with a very minimal amount of 3D smartphones this year.

Fantastic.

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