Small-sized liquid crystal displays are widely used for mobile applications such as cell phones. Electronic control of a viewing angle range is desired in order to maintain privacy for viewing in public as well as to provide wide viewing angles for solitary viewing. Conventionally, a polymer-dispersed liquid crystal (PDLC) panel is inserted between a backlight and a liquid crystal panel. The PDLC layer either transmits or scatters the light from the backlight, thus providing an electronic control of viewing angles. However, such a display system is obviously thick and expensive. Here, we propose to place an electronically-controlled, light-deflecting device between an LED and a light-guide of a backlight. For example, a liquid crystal lens is investigated for other applications and its focal length is controlled electronically. A liquid crystal phase grating either transmits or diffracts an incoming light depending on whether or not a periodic phase distribution is formed inside its liquid crystal layer. A bias applied to such a device will control the angular distribution of the light propagating inside a light-guide. Output couplers built in the light-guide extract the propagating light to outside. They can be V-shaped grooves, pyramids, or any other structures that can refract, reflect or diffract light. When any of such interactions occur, the output couplers translate the changes in the propagation angles into the angular distribution of the output light. Hence the viewing-angle characteristic can be switched. The designs of the output couplers and the LC devices are important for such a backlight system.© (2006) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.