Red Digital Cinema isn't the first brand name you think of when thinking about smartphone. In fact, unless you're into high end cinematography gear, there's a chance you've never heard of the company at all.
It's well known in the industry for producing the excellent camera systems normally used to shoot the movies you watch in the cinema. They're bold in design, and produce amazing end results.
Now, the cinema camera builder is turning its hand to smartphones, because it thinks the phone market is in need of some fresh impetus. It sees the need for something much better, and more unique, and has decided to launch a very interesting modular smartphone.
Red Hydrogen: Design
- Modular design
- Integrates with existing RED systems
- Attach batteries and cameras
Thanks to an early prototype being shown in a detailed hands-on video by popular tech YouTuber, Marques Brownlee (better known as MKBHD), we've got a very good idea of how the phone will look in its final form.
As was indicated in the earliest teaser renders, the phone has quite a big, blockish design, but it does have some unique design quirks and some high-end materials in use.
The back panel is made from two primary materials. The middle, striped section featuring the prominent RED logo is built from metal, while the top and bottom portions are Kevlar weave. These act pretty large windows for the antenna transmission, but also add a huge amount of strength to the device. You also have a series of gold contact points, presumably for the modular functionality of the phone, similar to the way Moto Mods connect with Moto phones.
What's most unusual is the design of the side edges. These have a weird series of divets and ridges all the way up the phone, which sort of look like they're designed to make the phone easy to grip. For some people, it might feel incredible, for others it could be dreadful. It's certainly intriguing and unique, if nothing else.
Because of this, the volume up and down buttons are separated on the left edge, while the power button lives on the right and will also double as the fingerprint sensor. There's also a dedicated camera/video button right near the bottom of the right edge.
As is standard in most phones the bottom edge has a USB-C port as well as a headphone jack. On the front, it looks as though we'll see a stereo speaker system on either side of the screen.
Red Hydrogen has been designed to be "the foundation of a future multi-dimensional media system", according to the company's details. This Hydrogen System incorporates a new high speed data bus and while allow you to add various modular components in the future, including those that help shoot higher quality video and photos, as well as holographic images bespoke to the Hydrogen phone.
It's not just going to be the central cog in a new Hydrogen System though, it will integrate with current professional Red cameras like the Scarlet, Epic and Weapon as a user interface and monitor.
Nothing's been announced yet on exactly how this modular system will look or work, but, if published diagrams from a patent application are anything to go by, this will be unlike any modular phone system we've seen so far.
You'll not only be able to bolt on extra batteries and mobile camera units, but also make it the heart of a full camera rig. It's all rather ambitious, almost unbelievable, like most things Red makes.
Red Hydrogen: Display
- Advanced 3D, holographic display
Hydrogen's display is promising to be as interesting as its design. All we know so far is that it will span 5.7-inches diagonally. We don't know its resolution, but it will feature some kind of 3D/holographic content.
Red says its display will be able to easily switch between regular 2D content, holographic multi-view content, 3D content and games in landscape and portrait.
What makes this holographic display different - according to a Red forum post - is that multi-view word. It claims that its technology is vastly different to that used in previous attempts at 3D displays, resulting in high resolution images that don't bleed, and that look as good whether you're viewing regular 2D or the enhanced holographic images.
In order for this to work well, it'll need some kind of face or eye-tracking so that it knows which angle you're looking at it from. Like a - hopefully - much better incarnation of the 3D tech used in devices like the Amazon Fire Phone and the Nintendo 3DS.
Then again, the problem with comparing it to those products is that it, apparently, is nothing like them. It has to be seen to be believed and described, according to Red Founder Jim Jannard.
Red Hydrogen: Camera
- Front and back cameras
- Sensor size and resolution unknown
As with many of the phone's details, this one is a little vague. We know that the phone will have a front and rear camera, but we don't know the size or resolution of the sensors. Not yet anyway.
The built in camera "won't produce cinema quality images", so don't go expecting a Red cinema quality picture or video from the phone's own cameras. With that said, the modular system will allow you to attach other cameras and produce very high quality stills and video. In other words - and in the words of Marques Brownlee - the only cameras that will be better, will be the Red cinema cameras. So, it'll be pretty good.
Red Hydrogen: Software
There's limited information here, except the assumption that it runs Android.
We suspect, given the unique nature of the phone, it will be a customised version of Android with baked-in bespoke elements which make it compatible with the new screen technology and enable it to work with other Red products as the central hub.
Red Hydrogen: Pricing and availability
- Start at $1,195
- Pricing could change after pre-order period
Since pre-orders have been available for a little while now, we do know the price at least. The aluminium model will cost $1,195 while the titanium will set you back $1,595.
It's expensive for a smartphone, but this sounds about as far from your traditional smartphone as anything that's been announced in the last 10 years. Orders will arrive in the first quarter of 2018.
According to a recent update from the project leader on the company's forums, we do know that a "major world carrier" has be signed to sell the Red Hydrogen in all of its stores. We don't know which carrier that is, but there are only a handful that can truly be described as "world carrier".
We also know that the pre-order offer is going to end soon, and once that's gone, you'll be left waiting until you can buy one after launch.
It's worth noting, that because of the screen technology and how hard it is to produce, Red can't guarantee that orders placed after this pre-order time period will arrive on time. The company also won't guarantee that the prices will remain the same post-launch.
Jim from RED shared some updates on the Hydrogen phone. #3 is by far the most interesting to me… pic.twitter.com/h7llA7kuoy— Marques Brownlee (@MKBHD) July 26, 2017
One snippet of good news is that, currently, the design and integration is ahead of schedule, so let's hope that continues so that we can see this thing in the flesh sooner rather than later.