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Smartphones Are Just Too Small for 3D
Now don't get me wrong, nothing gets me excited more than a new gadget with some super-duper new feature that hasn't been used before, but the introduction of 3D smartphones leaves me cold. While I can see some merit in watching a movie or football game in 3D, surely the all-absorbing effect that 3D is designed to be, is really kind of lost on a smartphone.
I certainly don't choose whether to see a movie based on the fact that it is 3D, although a 3D film does offer an immersive experience. As much as I admire the tech in 3D televisions, I'm not about to go out and get one as, although I agree that the technology is amazing, even a decent sized TV screen isn't going to offer that all-immersive experience that 3D requires.
Scale that down then to the size of a smartphone screen, and you can see why it's an idea that hasn't really taken off.
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Slow Sales of 3D TVs ...
It's not all about the size of the screen though, as it's true to say that sales of 3D televisions have been poor too. So are there lessons to be learned from the failure of 3D TVs that can be applied to 3D smartphones? Panasonic's marketing director blames Hollywood for the lack of quality 3D films, therefore having the impact that 3D technology isn't anything to get that excited about. Unfortunately not all films are produced to the high standards of Avatar, and many production companies were trying to piggyback on the success of that film, but without really having the know-how to pull it off.
Is this is a stumbling block too then, for the likes of the LG Optimus 3D and the HTC Evo 3D smartphones? Is it the current lack of quality 3D games and movies on a mini-scale that is holding users back from buying them? After all, the non-3D versions of these phones are among the best smartphones on the market, so one would assume it's not the lack of quality hardware holding these babies back.
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... And the Nintendo 3DS
The lack of games is definitely something that is holding back Nintendo 3DS sales too. Although initially the demand for this tech was high, it was not as high as expected and the lack of 3D games is a reason cited by company president Satoru Iwata. He is also keen to point out, though, that sales of the original DS took a year to gain traction in the market -- so maybe it's too soon to make a judgment on 3D smartphones for the same reason.
It is interesting to note, that Nintendo has also just announced that the original DS is outselling its 3D counterpart by two to one. Although the original is obviously cheaper, one would assume that anyone considering a new handheld gaming system would likely go for the newer model as it can still play the older games as well as new 3D ones, so perhaps the current tech just isn't wowing consumers like it should.
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3D Tech - It's Not for Everyone
While the technology behind 3D without glasses is undoubtedly impressive, it is a little recognized truth that actually this form of 3D may not work for everyone anyway. Even those of us without eye problems are unlikely to appreciate 3D imagery as well as we might, as most of us will indeed have one eye that's stronger than the other. So until we all have prescription 3D glasses, this is never going to be the great tech vision that it first appears. Although 3D vision without glasses may not be for everyone, it's unlikely that this is any great reason for a slow start to the sales of 3D smartphones.
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Ahead of Its Time?
As there is such a scant choice of 3D handsets at the moment, maybe the market is still waiting to take off and surely the lack of games has to be at the forefront of the problem. Although there are promises of great games to come, maybe these devices were just released too early. LG was definitely touting their Optimus 3D as an alternative to a dedicated handheld console, but the fact LG have now cut their smartphone sales estimates for the year, may have something to do with the 3D version of the Optimus not selling as they thought it would.
Of course it's not just about the games, 3D smartphones can also offer the ability to take 3D photos. Although I've yet to see the local photo developing store offer 3D prints. Taking 3D videos with your dual 5 MP cameras is also a possibility -- you can even then watch them back on your 3D TV (oh right, no one is buying those either).
Despite all this, I just don't see 3D as being the future of smartphones. No matter how dazzling or large the display of a smartphone, it's still a phone and the screen just doesn't offer that full 3D experience to make you feel immersed. Although undoubtedly clever, it just seems like it's tech for tech's sake.
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- Poor 3D TV Sales, Wired, http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2011-07/11/3dtv-sales-hollywood
- Nintendo 3DS Sales Less Than Expected, http://www.slashgear.com/nintendo-3ds-sales-weaker-than-expected-admits-ceo-27148751/
- Nintendo DS Outselling 3DS, TGDaily, http://www.tgdaily.com/games-and-entertainment-brief/57263-nintendo-ds-outselling-3ds-two-to-one
- The Tech Truth, T3 Magazine, http://www.t3.com/feature/the-tech-truth-part-1