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Amazon smartphone rumored to have 3D capabilities. How have others fared?

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos walks off after unveiling the Kindle Paperwhite, Kindle Fire HD 8.9" and 7" during Amazon's Kindle Fire event in Santa Monica, Calif. in this Sept. 6, 2012 file photograph. (Gus Ruelas/Reuters)

The lure of 3D video has drawn many gadget makers. In the post-“Avatar” world, it seemed like a good idea to bring that sort of realism into living rooms and pockets around the world. But, it hasn’t quite managed to catch fire with general consumers.

Not that it’s stopped folks from trying. And the latest company rumored to be taking on the 3D challenge is a big one: Amazon, which The Wall Street Journal says is working on a smartphone with a very advanced display. According to the report, the smartphone would have a hologram-like display — shades, it seems, of “Star Wars” — and may even let users track through the images using only their eyes.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

While that goes beyond the kind of technology we’ve seen from major smartphone makers, Amazon would not be the first to introduce a smartphone with 3D capabilities.

Both HTC and LG offered phones that shot and played three-dimensional video a couple of years ago, with the HTC Evo 3D and the LG Thrill 4G. Both offered glasses-less 3D displays and sported two cameras on the back to compile their pop-out images. The displays on both were good but nothing groundbreaking, and neither phone ended up being a big hit for their companies. HTC does still offer the HTC EVO V 4G, an update of its older 3D phone, on Virgin Wireless.

An HTC spokesman told CNET last year that the company had decided not to make more 3D phones in part based on “customer feedback” and the read from the smartphone market.

“I wouldn’t say 3D was necessarily dead, I mean never say never, but we don't have any new products with 3D in the lineup,” Global Online Communications Manager Jeff Gordon told the tech site.

Even the most enthusiastic supporters of 3D video, television makers, were much quieter about the technology at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, possibly because of limited content for 3D televisions, and the fact that many sets still require glasses. Instead, TV makers opted to focus on sets that had super-high quality “4K” displays.

If Amazon is working on a 3D smartphone, it should take that lesson to heart. The company’s hardware pushes have been very successful so far, largely because it backed up its cheap tablets with a trove of valuable content that’s kept people shopping on its site. If the content’s not there, then the customers won’t be either.

Related stories:

VentureBeat: Amazon’s Kindle smartphone is coming! It’s 3-D! We’ve heard this before! But this time it’s true!

Innovations: Plans for 3D-printed gun downloaded 100,000 times; State Department in contact with Defense Distributed

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.



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