The LG Optimus 3D has one thing going for it. It's the first mobile phone to offer glasses-free 3D. So, if that's what you want, go ahead and buy it. But, if you think 3D on a phone is as useful as a chocolate teapot, then there's no other compelling reason to invest in this big, heavy beast of a phone.
The Optimus 3D is available from Carphone Warehouse for free on a £35 per month contract. You can also buy it SIM-free and unlocked for around £490.
In the 3D zone
The Optimus 3D packs a 4.3-inch touchscreen that displays 3D pictures and videos without the need for daft glasses, unless you normally wear glasses anyway. All the phone's pre-loaded 3D content is gathered in one place in an app called 3D Zone. Getting at it is easy via a shortcut on the home screen or the dedicated hot-key that sits on the side where the camera button would normally be. Outside the 3D Zone and the camera app, the rest of the Optimus 3D is in normal 2D.
The 3D effect on the phone is clear and easy to see. However, it suffers from the same drawbacks as all glasses-free 3D. It's slightly dimmer than a 2D version, because the screen's pixels are split into two images. You can also see tiny vertical dark lines, for the same reason. It only works in landscape mode, and you have to hold the phone at just the right distance from your eyes to get the effect without nauseating double-vision.
If you don't fancy the 3D effect, you can turn it down with an on-screen slider when you're playing 3D games or watching 3D video.
The Optimus 3D comes pre-loaded with a handful of apps, games and videos so that you can start enjoying the third dimension right out of the box. But after that initial thrill, most of the 3D content you'll be watching is likely to come from YouTube or from your own efforts on the phone's 3D camera. There are a handful of 3D games available from the phone's Gameloft app, most for around 99p. But 3D content in the Android app store is non-existent, so far. We'd love to see a 3D channel in the Android Market, but until that happens, you may struggle to get content that really shows of the phone's capabilities.
You're the director
The plus side of this dearth of content is the fact that it may inspire you to create your own masterpiece on the Optimus 3D's camera. Stills and videos were both easy to shoot in 3D and looked properly chock-a-block with depth. But we were annoyed that the camera seemed to default back to 2D every time we turned it on. We'd rather that it stay set to 3D if that's how we've left it.
Since we didn't have a troupe of Lipizzaner stallions or a performance of Swan Lake, we filmed a Rory waving around a mug to show of the phone's 3D prowess.
We can see the appeal of shooting stills and videos in 3D if you have a 3D television. The Optimus 3D has an HDMI port, so you can easily hook up the phone to your telly for watching your creations on the big screen. Alternately, you can connect wirelessly if your TV supports DLNA.
The quickest way to share your 3D videos is by popping them up on YouTube, where they can be viewed by anyone with a pair of red and blue anaglyph 3D glasses. We thought that uploading videos should have been easier, though. You can do it from the gallery index page, but not from the video viewer once you've opened the movie.
Thankfully, sharing 3D photos is easy to a plethora of services from Twitter to Picasa. However, uploading a 3D image to most of these services simply results in two, 2D images (see below), not a red-blue 3D image like on YouTube.
You can also choose to flatten your images so that you can upload them without seeing this double image.
Of course, all this assumes that you're desperate for a phone that shoots, and shows, 3D. But if you're not sure whether 3D is for you, it's a different story.
Having 3D on board makes the Optimus 3D bigger and bulkier. Compared to the Optimus 2X, LG's top-of-the-line dual-core phone without 3D, the Optimus 3D is 30g heavier, 4mm wider and 2mm thicker. That means it clocks in at 129x68x12mm and 168g.
There's no question that you get a lot of phone packed into that size. It has a huge 4.3-inch screen and two 5-megapixel cameras to shoot in 3D. But if you're not that bothered about the third dimension, there's no reason to cart around such a huge phone.
Don't forget that the 3D only appears in a handful of games and videos on the phone, and you have to hold it in the right position to see the effect. So, overall, 3D doesn't feel like a fundamental part of the phone. Depending on how much you enjoy it, it's either icing on the cake, or just a gimmick. We're leaning towards gimmick, but if you love 3D films and telly, you may feel differently.
Android in command
If you're committed to shouldering the extra heft of a 3D phone, the Optimus 3D is a solid smart phone.
With Android 2.2 Froyo on board, it's doesn't quite have the latest version of the software, which is now up to 2.3 Gingerbread. However, you don't miss out on many features by being a mere point version behind. For example, one of the most important features, Flash, is present and correct in the excellent browser.
The Optimus 3D has access to thousands of apps in the Android market, and support for Google apps like Maps and Gmail is second to none.
However, LG's version of Android isn't quite as smooth as some of its competitors. Although it seems to be improving its user interface design slowly but surely, many of its custom tweaks to Android don't add much pizzazz. For example, the slide-up lock screen lacks the straightforward appeal of default Android, or the glossy style of a competitor such as HTC. Overall, we think it's just a hint less stylish than Samsung, which also struggles to improve Android on its own phones.
We do enjoy LG's useful, unadorned widgets for Facebook and the calendar, however. The on-screen keyboard is also usable, if unspectacular.
The outside of the Optimus 3D matches the inside. It is workmanlike and unsurprising, with a dark metal strip along the back that fails to add much interest.
The LG Optimus 3D can stand tall as the first phone in Britain to deliver glasses-free 3D. If you're planning to invest in a 3D camcorder anyway, or you're a 3D addict with a telly to match, the Optimus 3D does a solid job creating and displaying 3D on the move. But if you're not that bothered about 3D -- or the paltry content that's currently available -- the Optimus 3D isn't much to get excited about. It's a powerful, zippy Android smart phone, but it's on the chunky side and it lacks stylishness inside and out.
We'll have to wait until the autumn before the Optimus 3D's main competitor, the HTC Evo 3D, shows up on shelves. In the meantime, we prefer the slicker, lighter, 2D-only Samsung Galaxy S 2 or HTC Sensation to the Optimus 3D.
Edited by Jennifer Whitehead