There are currently only two 3D phones in Australia: the HTC EVO 3D and the LG Optimus 3D. Both were announced for the Australian market at about the same time, but our hands-on time has revealed that one trumps the other in specs and usability.
These glasses-free 3D phones are among the first to hit the global smartphone market, and it's good for us consumers that there's at least two to pick from. Not a whole lot of choice, but let's be honest -- how many people really want a 3D phone?
On the whole, the 3D experience is the same on both phones, so the decision ultimately comes down to each phone's respective hardware and software features. Each device has its pros and cons, but there's no one major factor that makes one phone better than the other, at least on paper.
Although most people seem to think 3D is really crap, including the Gizmodo team (both in the US and here in Australia), I love the novelty of it. Having said that, 3D phones have a long way to go -- if they don't die off before then -- to be a truly enjoyable experience. I don't usually get headaches or nausea from viewing 3D material, but many times my eyes were just not in the mood for looking at these phones in 3D mode. Glare made it impossible to see in bright sunlight, and it was often a struggle even in ideal conditions. It might not be a bad idea to get a matte screen protector on it... if you can find one.
Unlike the HTC EVO 3D, the LG Optimus 3D allows you to adjust the depth of 3D in a photo that you've taken and thereby reduce ghosting. Other annoyances like specular highlighting are unavoidable -- such is the nature of 3D -- but what I found most irritating was the low resolution of 3D content. Because both phones have sharp high-resolution screens in 2D, you can't help but feel disappointed once you flick the 3D switch and everything on the screen suddenly becomes a blur of pixelated vertical lines. The contrast is really noticeable. Also, the Optimus 3D is limited to 3MP 3D photos, while the EVO 3D's 3D camera is only capable of 2MP shots.
The Optimus 3D offers more preloaded 3D content than the EVO 3D, and it does it in an intuitive way. Holding down the 3D hot key on the right-hand side of the Optimus 3D pops up a 3D menu that brings you all of the phone's pre-installed 3D content, including the camera, gallery, a bunch of games, and even 3D videos on YouTube. On the EVO 3D, you have to go into the apps menu and find the preloaded 3D content, which includes NFS Shift, The Sims 3 and Spider-Man 3D (which requires a nearly 300MB download before you can play it). The first 3500 EVO 3D phones that Telstra sells will also have The Green Hornet movie, but my review unit didn't come with it. Update: HTC says that The Green Hornet will also be available for the first 3500 EVO 3Ds sold by Vodafone.
I've always been a fan of HTC's build quality, and the EVO 3D is no exception. Both phones are satisfyingly weighty in the hand, but they're also quite fat. I guess you need more space to get all those 3D guts in. Although both phones come with the awesomeness that is Gorilla Glass, I did manage to somehow scratch the EVO 3D's aluminium body. Not sure when or where that happened to be honest, but that's the silver scratch you might have noticed in the photos.
While some may prefer the smooth back of the LG Optimus 3D, I found the HTC's textured back and quirky red ring to be more appealing in look and feel. From the front, there's not all that much separating the two. Both have 4.3-inch screens, although the Optimus 3D has a slightly wider and shorter aspect than the EVO 3D. The EVO 3D's screen resolution is higher at 540x960, but the LG's 480x800 resolution resulted in bigger text size that made for less-squinty reading.
One distinctive difference between the two phones is that the the Optimus 3D provides HDMI output -- although you need to BYO cable -- while the EVO 3D lacks this feature altogether. Update: As commenter Chris points out, you can purchase an HDMI adaptor from HTC that connects via the microUSB port, but it's an additional purchase, while the Optimus 3D's HDMI port lets you use any generic HDMI cable. If you want to be able to connect your 3D phone to your 3D TV, or view presentations on a bigger screen, the Optimus 3D has to be the pick of the two.
While the EVO 3D lacks the Optimus 3D's hot key for quickly accessing 3D content, it does have a hard button shutter and toggle for switching between 2D and 3D mode when taking photos. This is not just a plus in terms of usability -- it's also great for people who love taking self-portraits. On the Optimus 3D, you have to rely on the on-screen buttons for these things. The volume up and down buttons on the side of the phone also let you zoom in and out on both phones, but only when you're in 2D mode.
One notable oddity on the LG phone is that the home and back buttons have swapped positions. There are a few Android phones out there that have the menu-home-back-search layout, but if you're used to the home-menu-back-search layout, it will be a little fiddly at first. Also, the backlight on the Optimus 3D's touch buttons turn off after a little while, making it a nuisance in the dark, whereas the EVO 3D's touch buttons stay backlit the entire time you're using the phone, which is the way it should be done.
Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread) is one of the main reasons why the HTC EVO 3D has a leg up on the LG Optimus 3D, which only comes with Android 2.2.2 (Froyo). Gingerbread is supposedly on the way for the latter, but who knows how long Optus will take to roll that out. Australian carriers are always stupidly slow at releasing Android OS updates, so I'm really sceptical that we'll get much time with Gingerbread on the Optimus 3D before the phone ends up in the junk drawer.
The EVO 3D comes with HTC's Sense 3.0 UI. I've mentioned before how much I dislike it -- I think its widgets are ugly and I always end up installing a third-party launcher and widgets so that I can customise the shit out of the home screen. This time, however, for the purposes of comparison with the Optimus 3D's UI, I left it alone. LG's UI isn't bad in its simplicity, but HTC's Sense feels more polished and sophisticated.
One notable thing I did love about the LG Optimus 3D was its keyboard. Compared to the HTC's keyboard, the letters were spaced out better and predictive text automatically inserted spaces after selecting a word. HTC's annoyingly did not, which to me is a basic failure of Usability 101. Neither are as good as Swype or SwiftKey X -- two great third-party keyboards for Android.
The HTC EVO 3D's battery life came out on top during my hands-on time, and it should be considering that it has the larger battery of the two at 1730mAh versus the Optimus 3D's 1500mAh. The Optimus 3D's battery life isn't bad though, and I got more juice out of these phones than I did with the non-3D HTC Sensation. Both phones comfortably lasted a full day, and moderate use of the 3D features didn't seem to have too much of an impact on battery life.
The HTC EVO 3D and the LG Optimus 3D are being marketed as a high-end phone for the masses, but if you don't care for the 3D features and content, there are non-3D phones out there that will serve you better, such as the highly rated HTC Sensation or Samsung Galaxy S II. There's nothing remarkable about either of these phones other than the 3D factor, and once you get over them, it just becomes a regular smartphone with 3D content taking up precious memory. So don't buy either of these phones unless you're really after the 3D experience.
But if you are interested in 3D content and 3D mobile gaming, the HTC EVO 3D and LG Optimus 3D are great all-round phones. If HDMI output and 1080p video recording is important to you, the LG Optimus 3D is the pick, but the HTC EVO 3D comes out on top as it offers a better smartphone experience thanks to a more polished UI, Gingerbread and faster processor.
I would strongly recommend that you get some hands-on time before handing over your money for any 3D phone. HTC recently had these demo zones at Westfield locations around the country, so if you had a go with the EVO 3D there, you can be sure that the 3D experience on LG's Optimus 3D will be the same on the whole.
Both phones are available outright or on a variety of plans from their respective carriers. Telstra is selling the HTC EVO 3D for $912 outright, while Vodafone has it for slightly less at $849. The LG Optimus 3D is available from Optus outright for $799.