UPDATE: This very preliminary review was written after just a short time with this smartphone. A more in-depth version based on long-term testing is now available:
When LG delivered a sneak peek at a smartphone offering glasses-free 3D, I was there to take a close look at the upcoming LG Thrill 4G, plus 3D content ranging from eBooks like Gulliver's Travels to a car racing game and user-contributed YouTube videos of extreme sports.
"We think 3D is the next frontier for smartphones," said Tim O'Brien, LG's vice president of marketing, LG Mobile Phones, as he talked up plans to use LG's upcoming Thrill 4G for overcoming barriers to 3D phones around technology, cost, and software content.
Set for release by AT&T at an unspecified date this summer, this will be a re-branded edition of the LG Optimus, a 3D smartphone unveiled at the CTIA conference earlier this year. The Thrill is now slated to come with 3D games, videos and other apps aimed specifically aimed at US customers.
When I checked out the 3D content in a demo later, though, I detected a lack of evenness in the quality of the proverbial "3D experience."
LG Battles 3D Skepticism
During a press conference at the recent CEA Line Show in New York City, O'Brien acknowledged that many users remain skeptical about the notion of 3D smartphones. According to O'Brien, some potential customers are saying to themselves, "[3D phones can be] cool, but what will I watch on them?" Consequently, LG has forged content deals with Gameloft for 3D games and with YouTube for user-generated 3D videos.
Customers also wonder whether 3D technology will slow down smartphone performance -- and, of course, they don't want to tote 3D goggles around with them for use with a phone. Users tend to be wary, too, about paying extra for a phone simply because it's touted as a 3D device, O'Brien conceded.
For faster performance, the Thrill 4G is going to be not only the first 3D phone for the US market with dual-core processing, but also the first with "dual-channel" technology, he contended.
AT&T still hasn't announced pricing for the Android OS 2.2-enabled Thrill. According to O'Brien, however, the glasses-free 3D phone will be "price competitive with other premiere smartphones."
3D Space, an Animation, and an eBook
In taking a look at the 3D content at Pepcom's Digital Experience press event that evening, I found that it incudes not just games from Gameloft and access to user-produced YouTube videos, but also short animations like Coral Dreams and phone-based ebooks such as Gulliver's Travels.
All of this 3D content -- along with controls for the Thrill's dual-lens, 5 megapixel (MP) 3D camera -- will be available through a 3D Space icon on the Thrill's 4.3-inch WVGA touch display.
More specifically, 3D Space is going to contain 3D Games and Apps, 3D Gallery, YouTube 3D, and 3D Guide. Games demo'd at the Pepcom press event in New York City included the Asphalt 6 car racing game and Let's Golf 2.
In Coral Dreams, for example, you swim slowly like a scuba diver along the bottom of the ocean, encountering various sea creatures along the way. The creatures are whimsically appealing, but the 3D effects are so exaggerated that I came away with more of a sense of surrealism than one of realism.
On the other hand, the 3D effects were much less palpable in Asphalt 6. When my car hit another one or veered off the road, the sensation wasn't really all that different from what I'd get from a "primitive" 2D arcade game.
Some of the 3D YouTube videos I tried actually made the best use of 3D. Videos of skiing and extreme winter sports, shot in the mountains, gave a rather true impression of what it's like to be careening down steep terrain in real life.
When AT&T releases the Thrill 4G, owners of the LG smartphone will be able to upload their own 3D videos -- taken with the handset's 3D camera -- to YouTube.
LG plans to promote the camera through a "3D-generated user concert" starring the band Jane's Addict, scheduled to happen in New York City this month. Attendees will post 3D videos shot at the concert on YouTube.
For sharing videos and still photos with friends and family members who don't own 3D cameras, the Thrill's camera can also output in 2D mode.
Entertaining for How Long?
Measuring 5.1 x 2.7 x 0.5 inches -- and weighing in at 5.7 ounces, a tad less than the competing HTC EVO 3D -- the Thrill came across as light, thin and comfortable to hold, whether for playing 3D games, snapping 3D photos, or carrying out conventional 2D smartphone tasks.
Other specs include a 1 GHz Texas Instruments OMAP processor; HDMI out; Bluetooth 3.0; Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n; and 512 MB of RAM (in comparison to 1GB of RAM for the EVO 3D).
On the whole, I found playing around with the Thrill's 3D content to be sort of entertaining. Yet at this point, I'm among those who wouldn't be willing to pay much more for the LG Thrill 4G than for any other high-end Android OS phone. I'm not sure how long the 3D attributes of this device would continue to hold my interest. However, if 3D videos really do fly on YouTube, that might turn into a slightly different matter.
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