Cutting Room: LG takes a multi-dimensional risk

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While LG’s Optimus 3D might be the first phone of its kind to market, Paul Withers isn’t convinced such devices will be able to stick – especially in the B2B sector

The 3D technology featured on LG’s most recent Optimus handset release will excite many consumers – and being the manufacturer to get its nose in ahead of its rivals will be seen as a real step forward for the Korean electronics giant.

3D will appeal to the youth market in particular, who want to make their videos and downloaded films seem and feel as real as possible. But there are many failings that could appear in the mobile market, best proven by 3D’s dwindling reputation in neighbouring industries.

3D fading already?

The film industry is probably the best example. The Daily Mail recently reported that 80 per cent of viewers chose to watch Avatar in 3D when it was released in December 2009. However, just 38 per cent of the US box office revenue for the fourth instalment of the popular Pirates of the Caribbean films – On Stranger Tides – came from 3D ticket sales, following its release this May. This highlights how out of favour the format is becoming.

The report stated that the latest box office figures show the British are following their American counterparts in a reluctance to pay extra for 3D tickets, with major cinema groups charging customers up to 41 per cent more than those seeing standard films.

On top of the added cost, significant numbers of cinema-goers have felt sick when watching 3D films, an experience shared by those who bought the Nintendo 3DS mini games console when it was released last February. So, already the perception of 3D is poor and losing its appeal.

With mobiles, even though the screen on the Optimus 3D comes in at a very credible 4.3 inches, is it big enough to be able to fully experience the full effects of 3D technology? Probably not. Perhaps this should have been delayed for mobiles, tested first on tablet devices that have much larger screens and when that market had become more established.

Then companies would have been able to get a better understanding of what demand was like.

LG simply cannot afford to base what is seen as such an important handset solely focused on the 3D aspect, which is increasingly being seen as a bit of a gimmick.

Bad strategy

It should be trying to market it as an all-round powerful smartphone – a strategy rival smartphone vendors are building their success on.

The likes of Samsung with the Galaxy S devices, HTC with the Sensation and Desire phones, Motorola with the ATRIX and Sony Ericsson with its Xperia portfolio are all succeeding. Relying on one untried feature on smartphones is a peculiar strategy.

I also struggle to see what place 3D has in the business market. For starters, LG has very little presence in this area, and again should probably be releasing devices that cater in some way for the consumer and B2B markets. Nobody is going to want to view their emails or read business documents in 3D.

LG probably would have thought that 3D could be a unique selling point for it but HTC has responded quickly and will introduce the EVO 3D – its first handset to incorporate the technology – later this month. LG’s tag as first to market with it is in danger of being forgotten.

The wrong phone

If LG is pinning its hopes of a revival in the smartphone market on the Optimus 3D, then it is taking an almighty risk, because based on recent 3D market trends in neighbouring industries, the outlook isn’t great. It should be focusing a lot more attention on the Optimus 2X, a powerful smartphone that has a dual-core processor and caters for a much wider target audience.

While it may be good to just about get to market with an innovative feature first, LG will also be seen as the company to test the waters for the level of consumer demand for any rivals that may wish to follow suit. But it will also be the first to feel a backlash if this demand is low, which is already becoming a real possibility.

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