The hexagonal screws on the Hydrogen One reiterate its layered modular design patents
RED or dead. That seems to have been the slogan inside RED Digital Camera when designing their well-kept secret of a phone, the Hydrogen One. The only hint that the company, known for its expensive, top-shelf camera equipment, will announce a flagship handset, was a patent about it filed not long ago, which went under the radar anywhere but the photographic blogosphere.
In this day and age where nothing can be kept secret anymore, the Hydrogen One was a pleasant surprise. It is actually still a secret, and very tantalizing at that, as the press release is full of unique selling points like a holographic display, which, knowing RED as a company, we wouldn't just dismiss as marketing speak. Here's the gist:
Remember when Andy Rubin was explaining the process of creating his Essential Phone
? He mentioned that the team experimented with tens of different shapes, and loved the hourglass one for its excellent grippability, yet went with a more orthodox rectangular form instead. Well, at the time we thought why would you need an hourglass-shaped phone when you can just do wavy finger slots on the sides, and the grip would be just as strong. That's exactly what the Hydrogen One is doing, judging by the only press render you see above.
RED's phone will apparently put function before form, as it is not following the trend of ultrathin, smooth and shiny glass housings that are a dime a dozen these days in the flagship realm. The Hydrogen One has a significant camera bump, which may hint at an enhanced photographic prowess, as well as a prominent RED Digital Cinema logo on the back. The thing seems to be held together by four hexagonal screws, which would either indicate a modular design, or some kind of a rugged certification.
Well, modular design is in for sure, just like on Motorola or the Essential phones, just in a "plate" sandwich format, according to the patents, rather than only attaching small accessories with pins. RED's press release mentions that the pin connectors on the back are tied to a "new high-speed data bus" that will allow adding attachments that shoot even higher quality stills and video than the main camera, and also ones that can produce content for viewing on the "holographic" screen.
As we just mentioned the display again, we can't resist but expand a bit more on that. Remember the LG Optimus 3D, or even the Nintendo 3DS? Well, the Hydrogen One's 5.7" holographic display will be nothing like those. Why? According to RED's Jim Jannard:
It is multi-view (4-view) as compared to stereo 3D (2-view). Watching shocked faces light up when people see it is really motivating. There is no good way to describe it until you see it. Hopefully we will get some skeptics eyes on it soon… then they can tell you.
Our display is technology you haven’t seen before. It is not lenticular, which is inferior tech in every way, has been tried many times before and failed for good reason. (see Amazon 3D Fire, LG Optimus, etc). Lenticular display dramatically lowers resolution, cannot be turned off for standard 2D content, only works in one direction (usually landscape), has color crosstalk… to name just a few issues. My bet is that other “big” companies will try to re-package lenticular 3D displays with eye-tracking in response to our program. Don’t fall for it.
Obviously, the 3D stereo function is not even the main feature of this display, as the Hydrogen One is also deemed to be holographic (H4V), virtually-augmented and mixed-reality-ready smartphone. The panel can "switch seamlessly between traditional 2D content, holographic multi-view content, 3D content, and interactive games." Oh, let's not forget that it will be "nanotechnology" that will swap those regimes. Snap!
Specs and camera
Besides the 5.7" high-res display, a USB-C port, and a microSD slot for storage expansion, nothing else is listed in the press release about the phone's specs. A recent patent filing by RED about the Hydrogen One claims that it will allow mounting cameras able to shoot 6K video (yep), and/or 3D camera module with recessed lens. These will be the plate add-ons, it seems, as Mr Jannard expands a bit more about the specs on a Reduser forum thread with the following:
It [Hydrogen One] also comes with internal storage and an external micro SD card slot. And a headphone jack. A selfie camera and a back camera. These cameras will not produce cinema quality images. No cell phone does. What we will have is a modular system that adds image quality well beyond any other camera short of our professional cameras.
Price and release date
How much for this holographic universe of a phone? Well, RED is selling it right now on a preorder basis, and you can claim either the aluminum model for $1195, or the titanium one for $1595. Sounds steep? For RED's standards, these are actually decent prices for a modular smartphone with unique display and media features, plus you will get a mysterious "small token" as an early adopter. The problem is that RED envisions shipping the first batches in early 2018, and warns that due to the specificity of the holographic display, supply will be rather limited. Any takers?
The only thing indicating the Hydrogen One announcement were these RED patents