Comcast launches 4K app the same week it kills Xfinity 3D

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If you need more convincing that 4K is the next big thing for HDTV and the push for 3D is toast, look no further than Comcast's announcements this week. On Tuesday, Comcast shut down its Xfinity 3D channel first launched in 2011. The company followed-up on Thursday by getting into 4K with a small pilot project.

Comcast subscribers with a 2014 Samsung UHD TV can now download Comcast's Xfinity in UHD app from Samsung's Smart Hub for free. To get the new app to work you'll need to login with your Xfinity credentials. Comcast's UHD programming is pretty limited at launch, with the latest seasons of just four shows from NBC and USA, including Chicago Fire, Covert Affairs, Suits, and Parks and Recreation (debuts in February).

Comcast says the programming will expand in the coming months. UHD, also known as 4K, is a significant boost in display resolution from current HDTV standards. 4K sets display images at 3840-by-2160, which is four times the resolution of 1080p, which is 1920-by-1080.

Why this matters: It's a little ironic that Comcast is killing its 3D effort at the same time it's moving into 4K. A few years ago, 3D was seen as the next big thing for television makers and every major set was loaded with the technology. HDTVs still generally come with 3D compatibility, but the feature is not the selling point it once was.

3D was done in thanks to the hassle of managing 3D glasses for a family (not to mention guests); more restrictive viewing angles than 2D images; a glasses-less version of 3D that never came; a sizable chunk of the population suffering from when staring at 3D content;  and the arrival of 4K. 

Not totally gone

Even though Comcast is giving up on its own 3D effort with the Xfinity channel, Comcast subscribers can still get their fill of glasses-laden TV. HBO and Starz are still offering 3D viewing via Comcast's on-demand offerings.

It's also important to note that Comcast's new 4K effort is using Internet streaming, rather than a live cable stream. The cable provider doesn't appear to be ready yet to offer 4K live broadcasts, which requires upgrades to existing infrastructure.

It simply may be too early to invest too heavily in 4K, especially since some experts say 4K needs more than just a resolution bump to boost sales of UHD TVs. Other considerations for high quality images—such as better frame rates and color reproduction—will also need to be top notch before the world is ready to dump their 1080p screens.

For early adopters hungry for 4K content, however, Comcast's new UHD app is a good step forward.

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