New patent award suggests that Apple is testing 3D for the iPhone and iPad

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Apple tests iPhone with 3D screen
Do you remember when Android handsets with 3D screens became available? And users did not have to wear a special pair of glasses to see the effect. The HTC Evo 3D and the LG Optimus 3D were two such models offering users 3D images on compatible YouTube videos, certain apps, and on photographs shot with the 3D cameras on the handsets.

There were some drawbacks including the lack of enough 3D compatible apps, the inability to share 3D photos with a different phone make and model, and the headaches that some users suffered from after staring at the 3D display. The 3D age did not last that long, but could it be making a comeback. A patent recently awarded to Apple and named Split-Screen Driving of Electronic Device Displays shows that Apple has been looking at the use of 3D displays without the use of special glasses.

In the patent, Apple notes how movie theaters often hand out polarized or colored glasses that allow viewers, because of the separation of their eyes, to see the images in 3D. This can be also used for Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) content on a screen. 

Apple says that it "can be difficult to provide this type of content on a multi-function device such as a smartphone or a tablet without generating visible artifacts such as motion blur, luminance offsets, or other effects which can be unpleasant or even dizzying to a viewer." Still, Apple has a plan to create 3D images without using glasses or other accessories for an iPhone or iPad. Apple says that as long as an image is split with an image sent to each eye, the 3D effect can be created and that leads Apple to discuss something it calls "split-screen mode."

In split-screen mode, each eye gets a different view of an image thus creating the 3D effect. Apple's plan involves the use of a display "showing content for the left eye of the viewer and a second portion of the display is used to display content for the right eye of the viewer." Apple notes that in split-screen mode, pixel rows are controlled separately.

Despite receiving the patent, it is unlikely that we will see a 3D iPhone anytime soon. Apple has some other things on its "to-do" list that come first such as the 120Hz refresh rate expected on the iPhone 13 Pro models that updates the screen 120 times per second. This delivers smoother scrolling and enhanced animation for video games. Apple is also reportedly working on a foldable iPhone which could see the light of day no earlier than 2023.

Some day we might see a manufacturer-perhaps Apple-give 3D another chance on a smartphone, or maybe on a tablet. But for now, we'd imagine that it is way down near the bottom of the company's list.
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