Will 3D Phones Fall Flat?

3D technology isn’t just for blockbuster cinema releases and fancy home theaters. The technology is making huge splash on mobile devices, too. There are even rumors that the next iPad will sport 3D abilities, but you don’t have to wait for Apple’s next big product launch. Two new Android smartphones, the LG Thrill and the HTC Evo 3D, already have glasses-free 3D on board. These handsets promise to make watching movies, playing games, and showing off photos much more immersive than on your typical 2D phone. What’s more, both phones are equipped with special dual-lens cameras that let users shoot their own 3D photos and videos.

Even so, many are wondering whether 3D on phones and tablets is the next big thing or just the next big gimmick.

The Nintendo Effect

The first major mobile gadget to test the 3D waters was Nintendo’s 3DS, which launched in March. The device continues the company’s long portable gaming legacy, this time with a 3.5-inch glasses-free 3D screen. At least thus far, sales of the $249 3DS have been lackluster. According to the analyst firm NPD Group, Nintendo sold almost 400,000 3DS units in the first week following its U.S. launch. That’s 100,000 less than what the original Nintendo DS managed back in November 2010. However, the DS is about $100 cheaper than the new 3DS, which may be giving potential shoppers cold feet.

A dearth of compelling 3D content has also contributed to a lukewarm reception among consumers. Michael Pachter, managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities, feels that 3DS is still developing as a platform, telling us that, “there is not really enough software for the 3DS yet, so most gamers don’t feel compelled to go out and buy [[one]].” However, he added that “once there is a killer app for the 3DS—that means a game with Mario or Zelda in the title—I think that the 3DS will see a large sales surge.”

Almost on cue, Nintendo recently confirmed plans for a Super Mario 3D title on the 3DS due out later this year. A cross between Super Mario 64 and the very popular Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii, the game will let players use the 3DS’s 3D perspective to better gauge tricky jumps and tackle other tough in-game maneuvers.

Regardless of its slow start, the 3DS is a breakthrough device and certainly paves the way for easier adoption of glasses-free 3D in smart phones. As they say, content is king. Mr. Pachter agrees: “When the content gets there, the consumers will show up.”

Will 3D Phones Fall Flat?

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Will 3D Phones Fall Flat?

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