After numerous talks and rumors this past year, RED’s Hydrogen One smartphone is officially on its way. Tech giants Verizon and AT&T confirmed this morning that they’ll be opening sales for the phones on Friday, November 2nd. The price is reportedly quite steep, almost reaching USD$1,300. They both plan to offer them on monthly payment plans as well; Verizon is going to offer a 24-month plan, and AT&T is going to offer a 30-month plan.
Priced at USD$1,295 (and USD$1,599 for the titanium version), the phone is $100 more than it was for customers who pre-ordered the device when it was first announced last summer.
The Hydrogen One was set to launch earlier this year, but its release was pushed back due to technical issues. The delay forced the company to equip the phones with a Snapdragon 835 chip (the processor seen in last year’s flagships) instead of the Snapdragon 845 seen in models such as the Pixel 3 and Samsung Galaxy S9.
Marketing appeal based on its new high-tech holographic screen
Without a doubt, public attention for this product has been almost exclusively based on its 3D camera and holographic screens, unforeseen in recent flagships.
Its handset’s 3D image capabilities and dual stereo rear-facing 12-megapixel cameras seem to have garnered public hype. It has a front-facing Holographic 4 view display whose quality goes beyond past models.
Red has created a new take on 3D displays that we see on products like Nintendo’s 3DS. Created in conjunction with a tech firm called Leia, the tech works like this:
“Leia leverages recent breakthroughs in Nano-Photonic design and manufacturing to provide a complete lightfield “holographic” display solution for mobile devices, through proprietary hardware and software. The Silicon Valley firm commercializes LCD-based mobile screens able to synthesize light field holographic content while preserving the normal operation of the display.”
This results in a sense of depth for the viewer without the common eyestrain found in most 3D technology. At face value though, it looks akin to some holographic baseball cards from back in the day. This also means that despite the 515ppi 5.7-inch display, images can feel somewhat fuzzy. Another side effect of the 3D feature is that significant amounts of light come through from the top and bottom screen while the phone is in four-view mode.
Tech experts skeptical of the phone’s appeal
According to TechCrunch, this product is significantly overpriced. The Hydrogen One is almost an idea that came into existence through “force of will”. In a way, it shows that an idea which sounds interesting wouldn’t necessarily make it good idea.
While their handset functions may be superior, many of their other features seem underdeveloped. The design of the device is oversized, sporting a massive footprint that surpasses the Pixel XL, and is enhanced by serrated edges that looks a lot like a hunting knife.
Essentially, the appeal of the product is not specs but this holographic screen. Even though these features may seem noteworthy, it seems unlikely that anyone would be using this device exclusively for picture/video viewing. Most tech experts who have examined the phone say that it does not live up the hype and its USD$1,295 price tag might have a difficult time competing in the market with the iPhone XS, Galaxy Note 9, or any other of this year’s primary flagships.