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The Verge Goes Hands-On With the 'Wildly Ambitious' RED Hydrogen One Smartphone (theverge.com) 53

It's been almost a year since RED, a company known for its high-end $10,000+ cameras, teased a smartphone called the RED Hydrogen One. Several months have passed since the phone was announced and we still don't know much about it, aside from it having a very industrial design and "Hydrogen holographic display." Earlier this week, AT&T and Verizon confirmed that they'll launch the device later this year. Now, The Verge's Dieter Bohn has shared his hands-on impressions with the device, which he claims to be "one of the most ambitious smartphones in years from a company not named Apple, Google, or Samsung." Here's an excerpt from the report: The company better known for high-end 4K cameras with names like "Weapon" and "Epic-w" isn't entering the smartphone game simply to sell you a better Android phone. No, this phone is meant to be one piece of a modular system of cameras and other media creation equipment -- the company claims it will be "the foundation of a future multi-dimensional media system." To that end, it has a big set of pogo-pins on the back to connect it to RED's other cameras also to allow users to attach (forthcoming) modules to it, including lens mounts. If it were just a modular smartphone, we'd be talking about whether we really expected the company to produce enough modules to support it.

RED is planning on starting with a module that is essentially a huge camera sensor -- the company is not ready to give exact details, but the plan is definitely more towards DSLR size than smartphone size. Then, according to CEO Jim Jannard, the company wants any traditional big camera lens to be attached to it. Answering a fan question, he joked that support for lenses will be "pretty limited," working "just" with Fuji, Canon, Nikon, Leica, and more. [...] The processor inside will be a slightly-out-of-date Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, but it seemed fast enough in the few demos I was able to try. Honestly, though, if you're looking to get this thing just as a phone, you're probably making your decision based on the wrong metrics. It's probably going to be a perfectly capable phone, but at this price (starting at $1,195) what you're buying into is the module ecosystem.

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The Verge Goes Hands-On With the 'Wildly Ambitious' RED Hydrogen One Smartphone

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  • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Sunday May 20, 2018 @02:21PM (#56643376)
    since the Hindenburg....
  • by sheramil ( 921315 ) on Sunday May 20, 2018 @02:34PM (#56643418)
    "It's probably going to be a perfectly capable phone, but at this price (starting at $1,195) what you're buying into is bragging rights. "
    • Not at all. You don't get bragging rights by having to explain why it is your thing is worth bragging about:

      "Pfffft. You got an iPhone? How lame. I got a RED Hydrogen One"
      "A what?"
      "It's a phone that is from RED, a company know for it's cam.."
      *yawn*

    • So, just like when you buy a 256 GB iPhone X?
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Sunday May 20, 2018 @02:42PM (#56643440)

    This is honestly the first Android phone that has appealed to me much, because of the really impressive camera and the module system. Plus the RED guys really seem to do a great job with hardware design... I came super close to pre-ordering one hoping I could use it for a trip in January, though I'm kind of glad I did not since it's still not even shipping yet. :-)

    • because of the really impressive camera and the module system

      If you like modules on your phone, take a look at the Motorola Z series [motorola.com]. Current modules include an optical zoom camera, projector, speaker, batteries, etc.

  • The processor inside will be a slightly-out-of-date Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, but it seemed fast enough in the few demos I was able to try.

    If you're trying to get people to actually carry this thing as a phone, and not just to sell it to a small handful of people who want it attached to a camera, and you want to sell it for all the money, then it should have the fastest processor as well.

    • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Sunday May 20, 2018 @03:13PM (#56643530)

      then it should have the fastest processor as well.

      If you were building a $1k gaming phone, then I would agree with you...

      But for a phone specialized around photography, the CPU doesn't matter as much as GPU, and just overall system architecture. Can it capture and edit 4K footage well? That's a much more important issue than mere CPU specs. A phone like this rides way more on how well it functions, than absolute specs...

      I personally think it looks like it could be really interesting to have such a highly programmable compact camera with really high quality output.

    • Android could do something to make the phone app snappier too. In my galaxy s8 it takes two full rings before I can get to the screen to answer the call, even when the phone is unlocked. There was never that lag on my old iphone 4.
  • This is what modular phones should've been about. I love reusing stuff and only buying parts you can afford, along with the ease of upgrading. The base smartphone should have a stable updated secure platform that can go through generations of patches kind of like iPhones/iOS but unlike other flagships today which can barely get 2 new OS releases. I could see this going through every industry.. having a base modular slate/pad/phone call it whatever you want in automobiles, appliances like tvs, stereos, fridg
    • Except that the stuff in the base will not have enough performance to run the next generation of add-ons. It's also a lot harder to develop for a platform that can have a large number of different configurations.

  • Do want. I can't wait to see how the holographic display works in practice.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Wildly Ambitious is not yet another large, thin, incredibly fragile phablet.

    Wildly Ambitious would be a small, thick, sturdy phone with a good CPU and long-life battery that can stand a 2m fall onto concrete.

    But no-one will make one.
    I wonder why ?
    But not much.

    • by green1 ( 322787 )

      Near as I can tell this is a thick sturdy phone with a decent CPU and a long life battery. Nobody has released drop test results yet.

      I'd call it ambitious.

      That said, I'm not really it's target market, and I don't want one, but I am glad someone is entering the market with something different. Line up all the flagship phones from all the manufacturers right now and they're all almost identical. Nothing at all to set them apart from eachother, and nobody has released any feature that counts as exciting in a v

    • Wildly Ambitious would be a small, thick, sturdy phone

      You just questioned the sturdiness of a thick phone machined out of solid titanium...

  • Niche (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It's certainly no iphone or Samsung killer. Your average person has no use for it, and big corporations already have better tech. But for the niche audience of indy A/V people like me, it sounds really interesting.

    • by green1 ( 322787 )

      Near as I can tell I'm not really it's target market, and I don't want one, but I am glad someone is entering the market with something different. Line up all the flagship phones from all the manufacturers right now and they're all almost identical. Nothing at all to set them apart from eachother, and nobody has released any feature that counts as exciting in a very long time. I don't want to buy this phone, but I do want other manufacturers to actually compete with it. We may yet see some innovation in an

      • > Line up all the flagship phones from all the manufacturers right now and they're all almost identical. I think thatâ(TM)s a typical âoeasymptote,â given the design requirements of the devices. You make calls and send texts and you want it small enough to fit in a pocket. All devices of such nature - except for the wierd one-offs that fit a niche - will tend toward a common appearance and construction. To meet those requirements, thereâ(TM)s only so much differentiation you can do.
        • Sorry for the crappy formatting...
        • by green1 ( 322787 )

          I disagree. It's a symptom of insufficient competition to push them to innovate. You only have to go back a couple years to see a wide range of phones with different features. Many of which were in high demand and are no longer available.

          The SUV example you give us another market ripe for some innovation and disruption.

    • It's certainly no iphone or Samsung killer. Your average person has no use for it,

      And what use has your average person got for a $1K phone that cannot be met by a $300 phone?

  • Holographic looking video chat might be a nice toy for those who can afford to get multiple phones for family members, and I am curious to see the sensor size on the Red version of QX100, but it all feels like incremental improvements in a design that suggests that more is happening than actually is. I get the impression of lots of cooling fins but nothing that generates much heat. My smartphone ownership path has been Treo650 -> N900 -> XZ Premium so it's possible that the sameness of what's out ther
  • Do you need to read more than "blanket ban on taking any photos or video of the front of the phone" to know that the emporer has no clothes? If they cannot show the public how "great" their only "new, distinguishing feature" is by now, it is certain to be embarrasingly underwhelming.

    Seriously, it will be just an overpriced phone with a certain brand name printed on it.
    • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Sunday May 20, 2018 @08:04PM (#56644520) Homepage

      Do you need to read more than "blanket ban on taking any photos or video of the front of the phone" to know that the emporer has no clothes? If they cannot show the public how "great" their only "new, distinguishing feature" is by now, it is certain to be embarrasingly underwhelming.

      Is it any surprise that a 3D effect can't be presented well in a 2D photo? Maybe you don't know Red as it's hardly a household name, but they've made a business selling $10k-$100k cameras to Hollywood and is second only to Arri in that market. And before that, Jim Jannard became a billionaire on Oakley sunglasses that he founded. This is not some scam or a fool with a fancy presentation. I don't know if this is a winner, as I think the whole 3D/VR/AR/Hologram market is seriously overhyped but somebody with lots of money and lots of successful experience think they have a business case. Which means there's a lot more to this than smoke and mirrors. Though to be honest I don't think Red knows how to make anything at mainstream prices, like they don't make $1000 cameras or $100 camera modules for phone. It's a $1000+ phone and it'll probably be as niche as their cameras, but they make money so I don't see why this can't. It just needs to deliver something unique to justify the price.

  • It doesn't run on a hydrogen-burning turbine (or butane) like some phone chargers. You're welcome.
  • Opinionated design and quality shouldn't be left to Apple alone. I very much appreciate red getting into the smartphone business and I hope they succeed.

  • What the fuck is hydrogen fourview content? Is it better than a Virtualboy?

  • He screwed the economy and foreign policy, which means the midterms will result in a long-needed political reset.

  • $1200 is too much for a phone.
    $1600 for a titanium camera that I can use as a phone, with an APSC (or bigger) sensor? That could well make me shift system.

    I can't afford RED cameras but getting their technology in my pocket? Tempting.

  • I guess I'm missing the point of this press event. The primary mainstream feature of the phone is the hologram display (and a video chat app that will only work holographically with two of the same phones), but we can't see it ? RED is primarily a camera company, but no discussion of the camera or sample images/clips?

    So basically the presser was about the case. Good luck guys.

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