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RED Hydrogen One: The ‘holographic’ smartphone taking on Apple and Samsung

The ‘Hydrogen One’ is a prototype smartphone made by camera manufacturer RED and it has some seriously cool features. Anyone for holograms?

Unless you are a videographer, you probably haven’t heard of RED before. That’s because they usually make high-end video cameras that cost anywhere from $15k to $30k plus. Now, however, RED is branching out to make their first smartphone.

The Hydrogen One’s specification list looks pretty standard at first glance: a 5.7 inch, Android-powered phone with a Snapdragon 835 processor – fairly common for a modern flagship. But dig a little deeper and there are some intriguing features, starting with the holographic mode.

RED is dubbing this feature ‘4-view’, and it allows the user to tilt and rotate the phone while watching 3D content without any lag or stutter. It gets better: 4-view doesn’t require the viewer to wear 3D glasses, and RED is also developing a streaming service with 3D content that makes use of 4-view.

The closest comparison to this feature is the 3D mode on the Nintendo 3DS, however, the console had to be positioned directly in front of the viewer. The Hydrogen One is still a prototype so they aren’t showing any images of the mode yet – presumably because a 2D image would struggle to do it justice – but it’s definitely got us excited.

The other headline feature is modularity, with users able to attach various accessories like camera lenses. Again, on the surface, this doesn’t seem that impressive. After all, Motorola tried this approach with limited success and Google entirely scrapped their plan for a modular phone system.

However RED already has an ecosystem of multimedia content creation products, including camera bodies, lens mounts, audio adapters and external screens. What’s more, RED has relationships with a variety of third-party manufacturers which is why RED CEO, Jim Jannard, could joke that “support for lenses will be pretty limited, working ‘just’ with Fuji, Canon, Nikon, Leica, and more”.

At $1195, the RED is priced in the same league as the iPhone X and Samsung S9, phones made by two industry veterans who have refined their products over many years. As Jim Jannard surmised, “we have no idea whatsoever what we are doing”.

We will have to wait and see whether RED can pull it off when the Hydrogen One launches in August.

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