One of the most anticipated phones of 2018 isn’t from Apple, Samsung, Google or any major phone maker. It’s the Red Hydrogen One, by cinema camera company Red and it’s out this week. According to Red, preorders for the Hydrogen One will start shipping this Thursday, Oct. 18.
The phone costs $1,295 (which converts to about £985 or AU$1,800) for an aluminum version or $1,595 for a titanium version — at least that’s how much preorders cost. To put that in perspective, a brand-new iPhone XS Max costs $1,099 for a 64GB model or $1,449 for the 512GB version. Yep, the Red costs more than the most expensive iPhone ($999 at Sprint).
Read: Red Hydrogen One: Here’s what its photos look like
But there is room in the phone market for more expensive niche phones, especially ones made by a high-end camera maker.
You might not be familiar with Red or its cameras, but if you’ve watched Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, The Hobbit, Straight Outta Compton or pretty much any Netflix original show (Stranger Things 2, Jessica Jones), then you’ve seen what the company’s high-end cinema cameras are capable of capturing.
Your first real photos of the Red Hydrogen smartphone
The Hydrogen One eschews design trends found on other flagship phones. There’s no notch, no glass back and the headphone jack is still in place. Where Apple and Samsung prioritize thin, curved bodies, Red opts for a thicker squared-off body with scalloped edges.
Probably the most intriguing part of the design is its 3D screen, which you’d be forgiven for feeling “meh” about, especially if you saw how 3D was implemented on the Amazon Fire Phone or Nintendo 3DS ($230 at Amazon).
I got to see a prototype of the phone a few months ago and came away beyond impressed. The Red Hydrogen One phone has a “holographic” display called 4-View (4V) that provides a glasses-free 3D image. There are dual cameras on both the front and back, which can shoot 4V photos and video. What’s ingenious here is you can create and share 4V photos and videos on YouTube (with some conversion) or a new service Red is creating. You can also play video games in 4V, which, from the demo I saw, can make mobile phone gaming more appealing.
Red Hydrogen One phone specs
Snapdragon 835 processor
6GB of RAM
128GB of storage
5.7-inch, 2,560×1,440-pixel, 4-View display
Dual front and back cameras
Supports modular attachments, including an upgraded camera module
Charges over USB-C
MicroSD card slot for expanded storage
Google AR Core
Can serve as a touchscreen monitor for Red’s other cameras
Available in titanium ($1,595) or aluminum ($1,295)
Red Hydrogen One 4-View display
Initially what got much of the attention was the phone’s “holographic” display. A previous effort at a 3D phone, the Amazon Fire Phone, used four motion-tracking cameras on the front to create its 3D-like experience. The result wasn’t impressive.
Red is doing things a bit differently. The 5.7-inch 2,560×1,440-pixel 4V “holographic” screen is made in partnership with the company Leica and uses “Diffractive Lightfield Backlighting” that displays different images and textures in different spatial directions to give the appearance of depth. For example, human skin might reflect light in one direction while a texture like metal might reflect it in a different directions. It can display content in 3D or 2D.
On the 3D device spectrum, the Amazon Fire Phone would be on the bad end. The prototype of the Hydrogen One phone I saw would be on the good end. And the Nintendo 3DS is somewhere in between.