It isn’t vaporware! Or is it? AT&T and Verizon announced today that they will carry the Red Hydrogen One, a strange, costly smartphone from a video camera company that’s garnered a lot of buzz on social media.
Red is showing off the phone at its Hollywood offices on May 19 and AT&T will demo it at its Shape conference on June 2. AT&T will release the phone later this summer, the carrier says. Verizon says the phone will come to that carrier “later this year.”
“This revolutionary smartphone will provide you with significant advancements in the way you create and view content on the leading network for entertainment,” said Kevin Petersen, AT&T’s SVP of Device and Network Services Marketing. “When the Red Hydrogen One launches, you’ll be able to look around, below and into your screen’s image with a 4-view holographic display, which is even better than 3D.”
AT&T has a history of taking a flyer on weird phones. The company’s lineup has included the folding, dual-screen ZTE Axon M, the phone/tablet Asus PadFone X, the HTC First “Facebook Phone”, and Apple’s original iPhone. Some of those bets have paid off.
Verizon’s participation is more surprising, as the carrier has generally been more conservative about the phones it carries.
The Red Hydrogen One, which we are extremely skeptical about, is expected to cost $1,195 for an aluminum model and $1,595 for a titanium unit. The phone has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, a large 4500mAh battery, and a modular connector much like the Moto Z’s, which supports additional accessories like higher-quality cameras.
Its most unusual feature is the “four-view holographic” display, which I am having trouble describing because all descriptions I’ve seen of it are totally nonsensical. Here’s a line from Red’s promotional forums:
“In 4V mode (holographic), the screen dims a bit and out pops a ‘better than 3D’ image… no glasses needed. There is no way to describe this. You just have to see it. So far, everyone that has seen it gasps, swears or just grins. I wish we had recorded all the reactions. Priceless.”
So far, only one outsider, YouTuber Marques Brownlee, has been allowed to see the “holographic” display, but he didn’t show it in action in his video.
I’m going to be honest with my bias here, as PCMag’s head of mobile who has reviewed nearly 1,100 products. When a company is this vague and hypey about its core technology, and has zero experience in the product area it’s developing for, it’s rarely a good sign. Red’s hype reminds me of when I was reporting on the Segway scooter back in 2000. Then known as “Ginger,” the mysterious transportation device was supposed to reshape cities and change how we all get around. It ended up being used by mall cops.
If Red is actually describing a glasses-free 3D screen, we’ve seen those on phones before; there was a bit of a fad for them in 2011, but narrow viewing angles, dim images, and a lack of 3D content led to the trend dying in the market.
In any case, we’ll see it for real on June 2, and we’ll take some photos and videos to explain what’s truly going on here.