The world's first, and the most anticipated, glass-less 3D phone hits Indian stores by the end of this month.Let's get it out of the way at the very outset – I am not a fan of 3D. Yes, I do like watching 3D movies every now and then, but I refuse to believe the pundits who aver that 3D is the future. The biggest problem with viewing 3D is that you have to wear special glasses. This is fine for around an hour or two in a cinema hall, but quite an annoyance over extended periods of time. Besides, if you already wear prescription glasses, it's quite a balancing act keeping the 3D ones on.
Some manufacturers—most notably Nintendo with its 3DS gaming console have done away with glasses by using 'auto stereoscopic screens' which give you the impression of action happening on and in front of the display, although this works only from a specific viewing angle. But even this has met with limited success. India's first 3D phone—the Spice M-67 3D—for instance, generated more interest than actual sales.
So, it was with a fair amount of curiosity that I approached the LG Optimus 3D, the world's first glass-less 3D smartphone that was announced with much fanfare at CES this year and which is expected to launch in the country by the end of this month.
Smart phone, 3D entertainer
Straight off, and no two ways about it: The Optimus 3D is bulky. It is 12mm thick and tips the scales at 160-odd gms; a far-cry from the sub-10 mm smartphones of today. However, what marks it out as special is its display. It boasts a 4.3-inch , 800x480 auto stereoscopic screen – the biggest and the highest-resolution display I have seen in a handheld 3D gadget.
As far as specs are concerned, the device packs in a 1GHz dual core processor, 512MB of dual channel RAM, HDMI connectivity, and two 5 megapixel cameras. I was, however, surprised to see it running Froyo (Android 2.2) rather than Gingerbread (Android 2.3) – shades of the Optimus 2X, in which the latest hardware rubbed shoulders with a relatively dated OS. Surely, such a powerful device would have been better served by Gingerbread.
In terms of appearance, the Optimus 3D seems like a regular (if chunky) Android phone. The touchscreen dominates the front with four touch keys beneath it, but its main selling point is its 3D prowess. Before you ask, no, not everything on the phone is in 3D – you can view images and videos (there is even a link to view 3D videos uploaded on YouTube) and play games in 3D, and also add a third dimension to routine 2D images and videos by hitting the 3D button (which is on the side of the phone). You can even create 3D content – the Optimus 3D's dual cameras let you take images and videos, which you can view on its display or on a 3D TV, if you have one.The camera threw up ordinary results in videos, where there was a fair deal of blurring, but was awesome for still images, especially for landscapes – you could almost see the clouds floating in front of the display. Interestingly, the camera works better in 3D mode than in 2D.
But where the device's 3D really shone was in gaming. LG has done well by including four very high-profile titles on the handset – NOVA, Asphalt 6, Let's Golf 2 and Gulliver's Travels. My own favourite was NOVA, a first person shooter where I could actually feel the gun in front of me. The large display, very responsive touchscreen and the uber-fast processor made gaming buttery smooth. The 3D experience itself was not as good as with glasses in a cinema hall or in front of a 3D TV – you do not get the kind of depth, colour and "real 3D" feel as with glasses – but truth be told, I found this more convenient, simply because I could use it anywhere – in public transport, outdoors; and without any glasses.
Worth the moolah?
All of which can make you forget the fact that the Optimus 3D is as powerful a phone as any in the market. The 'big display-fast processor' combo ensures that tasks such as surfing the web, watching videos, checking out social networks (yes, you can upload 3D pictures to them), and sending and receiving texts and mails, work without a hitch. Using 3D does chew up battery – and you will be lucky to survive the day on a single charge if you use the 3D features for more than an hour – but I still found myself liking the device, simply because I could do my normal phone stuff just as on any good smartphone.
So, would I shell out the very stiff Rs 36,000 (approximately) that the Optimus 3D is expected to retail at? For a pure 3D experience on the move, the Nintendo 3DS with a price tag of around Rs 20,000 seems a better deal, especially since it has more games. However, if one is looking for a novel "convergence" device, the Optimus 3D seems like a decent deal. And no, I still do not believe that 3D is the future, but I wouldn't mind a few more days with this LG Optimus.The dizzy side of 3D
While viewing 3D content without any glasses can be fun, it can also leave you slightly disoriented. Viewing content from the wrong angle can leave you feeling dizzy or mildly nauseated. In fact, experts recommend that people suffering from epilepsy, pregnant women and young children refrain from viewing 3D content. Children beneath the age of six are best kept away from stereoscopic 3D content as it could damage their eyes. The last word goes to the warning that accompanies all the games on the LG Optimus 3D: "While viewing 3D content, it is recommended to take a break if your eyes are tired or you experience any dizziness."
Ability to view as well as create 3D content, zippy performance as can be expected from an Android smartphone, excellent hardware
Older Android OS, bulky and not the prettiest phone around, definitely on the expensive side, 3D usage drains battery heavily
Price: Rs 36,000 (expected retail)
thanks to bmarlo for this signature