LG bets again on a niche feature with Optimus Max 3D

At the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona later this month, LG will introduce the Optimus Max 3D smartphone (PDF). The Google Android 2.3(s goog) handset will continue the company’s push toward using 3D technology to differentiate its phones from competitors. That strategy has yet to see a reward, however, as LG slashed smartphone sales estimates by 20 percent in the middle of 2011. The company didn’t hit its revised overall handset sales estimate of 114 million devices either: research firm Gartner estimates LG sold 86.3 million phones in 2011.

On paper, it sounds like the Optimus Max 3D has most of the right specifications to compete in the mid-range market, even without 3D capabilities on the 4.3-inch display, which is limited to 800 x 480 resolution; something we’ve seen on phones for two years now. LG chose TI’s(s txn) OMAP 4430 chip; a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor to power Android 2.3 and, later, Android 4.0, which LG says will be available soon after the phone launches in Korea and Europe.

Other key specifications include support for 21 Mbps HSPA+ networks, HDMI output in 2D and 3D to an HDTV set, 8 GB of internal storage, an integrated NFC chip and a 5 megapixel dual lens camera. The 3D functionality includes a 3D converter feature, allowing users to convert Google Earth, Google Maps and other road views into a 3D image.

For a select few that have embraced 3D imagery, the Optimus Max 3D could appeal. But for most consumers, 3D is still considered gimmicky on a handset; it’s simply not enough to create a hit handset. I like that LG is trying to break out from the pack, but it could be better served by taking an Apple-like(s aapl) approach — something that Samsung successfully did with its original Galaxy S — and devote resources toward one great handset model that appeals to a wider audience.