James Cameron’s Avatar was a watershed movie, not just because it was the most expensive (ever?) but also because it marked the return to popularity of 3D movies. Movie theatres all over the world fitted new 3D projectors and some factory in China is making its owner rich, churning out 3D glasses by the container load. It’s all the rage.
Consumer electronics is just beginning to see the integration of 3D, and LG has managed to get in first in the mobile market, with announcements at Mobile World Congress (MWC) of both a 3D smartphone and 3D tablet. I saw a lot of talk and tech around 3D, but LG appear to be right that they’re first-to-market with almost-available 3D mobile devices.
LG introduced both the Optimus 3D smartphone and the Optimus Pad (sold in the US as the G-Slate). Both are 3D devices, meaning that you can both record and playback in 3D. And we’re not talking annoying and headache-inducing glasses here, but a more natural approach using a dual-layer screen and techno-geekery that’s way over my head.
But the point is it really does work and I’m here to tell you it’s not a gimmick. There’s a lot of money and effort going into 3D devices, as was clear at MWC. I spoke to a number of respected journalists and tech bloggers and the consistent feedback I got was that the “3D thing” works and that LG are on track to becoming a far more serious and respected frontline player in the smartphone market. Up until now there has been a sense that LG was still getting their product line up to standard; that they were a bit of an also-ran in the mobile market, but I think it’s fair to say MWC 2011 has demanded that LG be taken far more seriously.
By comparison, a number of the other leading mobile and smartphone manufacturers were, at best, only offering incremental improvements to existing product lines, but not anything as dramatic or (potentially) game-changing as 3D. A number of commentators told me they were disappointed with MWC for the lack of “big” announcements from leading manufacturers, but LG was a clear exception.
As is always the case at such tradeshows, the 3D Optimus smartphones and tablets on display were “beta” versions of what you and I will be able to purchase in a few months’ time. You can just imagine the effort LG went to, to get as-stable-as-possible devices on the showroom floor in time for MWC. Back in Korea I imagined engineers crossing their fingers and toes hoping their “builds” were good enough, so to speak.
Cool technology is great but it can’t create a mass shift in consumer behaviour without an “ecosystem”. LG obviously understand this, and have inked a partnership with YouTube to allow tight integration between their 3D devices and YouTube’s 3D channel. To my mind, this is at least 50% of the success equation. It means 3D smartphone and tablet owners can record and playback 3D content of their own, upload it all (in one click) to YouTube to share with others, watch 3D content from other YouTube users, and finally, access “partner” content such as movie previews. So props to LG for joining the dots here and announcing the YouTube partnership at the same time as the devices. It’s smart and I don’t doubt it will work well.
A Form Factor for Movies
LG have decided they know better than Apple, and have a wider and narrower tablet than the iPad. Their promotional videos insist that the thinking behind this is logical and solid. The narrowness is about being able to comfortably hold the Optimus Pad in one hand with your thumb and fingers hooked around each side. You could do that with the iPad if you were a freak of nature with hands the size of Robert Waldow, but otherwise one-handed iPad holding either means a thumb on the glass or something a little less that completely confidence that you won’t drop it. The Optimus Pad’s longer width is to ensure that a 16×9 movie plays without black bands above and below the frame. In other words, LG are making a big deal about the Pad and video content, and have made a form factor decision in keeping with that.
That said, the Optimus Pad is still a nice big tablet. It’s my feeling that there is a fair bit of curious experimentation among tablet manufacturers, as regards form factor, and a lot of it doesn’t make much sense to me. You can decide if you prefer the iPad dimensions or those of the Optimus Pad, but at least both are in the same ballpark for display size, and a decent size at that.
That’s a confusing subheading. But the point of it is simple – it’s about power. Both the Optimus 3D smartphone and Pad boast dual-core processors, dual-channel architecture and dual-memory. Somewhere in all of that they’ve made both devices very fast, without compromising battery life. Sure, if you want to talk on the phone to your mum while recording a one-hour-long 3D video of your bonsai kitten being cute, then I’m sure you can, and you will hammer the battery. But on idle, they’ll do fine.
Both devices “officially” fly though their respective Quadrant tests and anecdotally, I enjoyed their smooth scrolling and speedy app loading. Web pages came up really quickly for me, and an LG promotional video demonstrated the Optimus 3D smartphone beating an iPhone 4 at loading a webpage.
Would I buy one?
I’ve been an iPhone user for a couple of years now. Before that I used a Windows Mobile smartphone, which wasn’t very smart. I was happy to move to the iPhone and I’ve not looked back since. As far as I am concerned, technology should always be in service of a good “use case” and mine is largely about business use, and I’m happy with the iPhone. If you’re an Android user, I’m betting you’ll be pretty impressed with the new Optimus devices. They feel really solid, they make Android 2.x look really good and they do 3D!
In my case
I’ll hold onto my iPhone 4 for now, but when it comes to the Optimus Pad, I’m much more easily pursuaded. It’s just a really nice piece of technology. It’s 100g lighter than the iPad and it’s easier to hold. It will launched with the latest Android release and it will do movies very nicely, thank you very much
I’ll keep you posted on my tablet decision. Right now I’m holding off for Optimus Pad pricing. We’ll let you know here at Mr Gadget as soon as local pricing and availability are announced.
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I (Alister Cameron) was a guest of LG at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. They covered my expenses so I could fly over there to review their new smartphone and tablet products. My opinions are my own.