Tech: Here's our first look at the mysterious $1,200 smartphone from RED, a company that makes cameras for blockbuster films
YouTube personality MKBHD got a sneak peek at the Hydrogen One, a $1,200 modular phone from film camera company RED with a 'holographic' display.
Professional camera company RED made waves last month when it announced plans to launch its first smartphone, the Hydrogen One.
The company hasn’t divulged many details about the device in the time since, but has hyped up some of the phone's higher-level features: a "modular" accessory system that will support higher-quality camera tools and a "holographic" display that’s said to be capable of presenting images with a 3D-like effect without the need for specialized glasses.
All of that comes in a phone whose pre-orders start at $1,195.
Up to now, RED has only released one obscured teaser image of the device. But the company recently gave popular YouTube tech reviewer Marques Brownlee — also known as “MKBHD" — a non-functional prototype of what it says the Hydrogen One will ultimately look like.
Here’s a closer look:
This is the RED Hydrogen One. Right away you can see that its design is much busier than most other smartphones: The back has a mix of metal and Kevlar, with a big dual-lens camera, four screws in the corners, a big ruby-like logo, and those modular accessory pins at the bottom.
RED says the base version of the Hydrogen One will use aluminum, while a pricier model will be comprised of titanium.
The sides of the phone, meanwhile, are grooved to fit individual fingers. On one side, there’s a power button that doubles as a fingerprint scanner along with a dedicated button for video recording.
On the other, there are separated volume buttons.
At the bottom, there’s a USB-C port and headphone jack.
The front of the phone looks pretty standard, with a handful of speaker grilles dotted around a 5.7-inch display. Don’t expect the slim bezels of a Samsung Galaxy S8 here.
It’s also not clear what resolution the display will have, but for $1,200, it’d be a shock if it wasn’t sharp.
Altogether, the Hydrogen One is a pretty large rectangle. As Brownlee shows below, it’s a bit taller and wider than an iPhone 7 Plus and OnePlus 5. It’s a good ways thicker, too.
Brownlee says RED walked him through an early demo of the Hydrogen One’s “holographic" display tech, but that he wasn’t able to show it on camera. The jury is still out on how well it’ll work — Brownlee suggests it was a tad rough around the edges at this point — and how much video content will actually make use of it.
Note that the "holographic" tech itself is optional; if you just want to use the Hydrogen One the normal way, you can. But you'll probably want the display tricks to work well if you're dropping $1,200 on the phone.
Brownlee also tested out a potential modular camera accessory. The idea here is to snap on lenses and sensors that’d make the Hydrogen One’s image quality competitive with higher-end mirrorless and other small form-factor shooters, and possibly even work as part of a larger professional-style rig.
Again, it's way too soon to say how well any of that will work. But, unsurprisingly, it does look like it’d make the phone pretty thick.
You can watch Brownlee’s full video below.
There's still plenty to learn about the Hydrogen One, and we'll have to see a model that fully works before we can say anything substantive about it. Modular phones have sputtered for years now, glasses-free 3D isn’t exactly a new concept, and the phone itself is still chunky and expensive.
But, assuming RED can get it out the door, the Hydrogen One is shaping up to be one of the more purely interesting smartphones to arrive in some time.