From The Editors Technology

RED Hydrogen One: A Smartphone of a Distinctively Different Kind

Red Digital Cinema Camera Company – better known for its expertise in manufacturing digital cinematography and photography cameras and equipment, as the name suggests – is now making forays into the world of phones, but of a distinctively different kind – the RED Hydrogen One.

On Saturday, at the exclusive RED Hydrogen One Sneak Peek event in Hollywood, the company gave a demo of the phone’s prototype, and it’s the first impressions that we’re going to talk about, here.

You’ll be surprised to know, probably as much as everybody attending the event was, that there was a lot of a cloak-and-dagger stuff about the phone’s display, what with nobody being allowed to take video or photographs of the phone’s front – the 4 View (4V) holographic display, to be more precise.

So, what you’re going to get here is a bit about the hands-on experience of using the phone, as well as the audio codecs announced at the event.
Let’s start straight away with the display, which can only be described and spoken about, really, as there are no photographs to show.

However, according to Red founder and CEO Jim Jannard, no description would be good enough to do the display justice, and, you know what, he could actually be right.

“There is no way to describe or show the 4 view (4V) display other than seeing it in-person. There’s just no way,” he said at the Saturday event. “We want everybody’s first experience with Hydrogen One to be like yours: in-person.”

But, we’re going to give it a shot, nevertheless.


Well, for starters, the display can best be described as something quite unique that may, or may not, go on to revolutionize the phone concept. However, as this is only a prototype and, as with all prototypes, there’s a lot that can be done with them to make them commercially viable, based on feedback.

One such area where the company will have to do a bit of tweaking around is the blurring that happens when you tilt the phone off its axis and, while it’s not too big an issue, it does need to be fixed if RED is hoping to sell this for $1,200.

However, for the most part, the 4V experience and effect were really exceptional, to say the least.

Clips from movies like Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Pixar’s animated film Brave – obviously adapted to fit into the 4V scheme of things –played on the 4V display of the Hydrogen One was truly an immersive experience.

There was one more piece that was honestly unique and intriguing; it was a birthday party animation in which a little party popper kind of thing jumps out at you as streamers fall from the sky.

And, everything worked in, both, portrait and landscape orientations.
Even photos and videos shot with the phone played out quite remarkably on the display.

Now, whether this translates to sales or just ends up as a niche device that is pushed at AT&T and Verizon but, probably, not sold, is a matter of wait and watch.

Now, before we move on to some of the other things that the company allowed participation in, let’s just talk a little bit about the RED Hydrogen One’s substantial form factor.

Well, to give it perspective, it’s a bigger device than an iPhone 8 Plus in an Otterbox case and it has that rugged, industrial look to it, which, one has to say – at the expense of sounding somewhat chauvinistic, though – makes it look like a man’s phone.

On the left-hand side of the device you have the volume control buttons – yes, there are two separate buttons for volume up and volume down, respectively.

On the right-hand side you have your power button, with an embedded fingerprint scanner and at the bottom, there will be, what looks like, a little red dedicated camera button – which, actually, makes a lot of sense, considering you’re going to be using the camera with what is going to be extra modules from RED, and that’s where a dedicated button will come in handy.

In another demo, participants were made to video chat with another person, where the two front cameras come into play to create the 4V effect.
So, the person you’re chatting with appears on your screen with a kind of realistic depth that nothing but awes, and no amount of tilting will make any difference to the depth effect.

The A3D audio codec demo was another big highlight of the event, where 3D sound was presented to the participants in over-the-ear Bose QC 35 headphones, as well as through the device’s inbuilt speaker system.


The least you can say about that spatially oriented audio experience is that it was most impressive.

And, to be honest, the speaker experience was different – in a better way, of course – and definitely more immersive than the headphone demo.

Imagine what it would be like to be able to have a phone where you could watch 4V content with 3D sound; the combined effect of those two factors would really be some experience.

Also present at the event was a team of engineers from Leia, the company that manufactures the hush-hush 4V display, who were discussing gaming environments that they think would attract developers to write code for.

The RED Hydrogen network was also spoken about, which is, apparently, going to be a content-based network, somewhat along the lines of YouTube or Twitch, to name a couple, where people will provide the content to be shared with others.

While most people are likely to be kind of intrigued by the RED Hydrogen One, it remains to be seen if they’ll be intrigued enough to shell out $1,200 for the piece; but, then, there are many who would go for the sheer novelty of it all.

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