When RED first announced their new Hydrogen smartphone last April, details were sketchy, and while we've seen some more info and especially response videos since then, we are finally get some finalized specs and refreshed timeline information that should be comforting to those who put down more than $1,000 to pre-order a device last April on only the earliest of pre-renders. The Hydrogen will be a 2560 x 1440 resolution smartphone (at least in 2D mode), running on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835x processor, which is a powerful unit that drives 4K up to 30fps, in HEVC and H.264, with the plain 835 running both the Pixel 2 and the Samsung S8.

While RED is still promoting the modular system, which will use the external pins to allow for attachments such as a cinema quality camera, the focus of this release is more on how much functionalitity you get out of the base unit. It's described as being thicker and slightly heavier than your average 5.7" phone, though that is fine with us, since they are using that thickness to shove in a 4500mA battery, which should help the phone actually make it through the day, something ultra thing phones have a tendency not to do. In addition, 4V "holographic" capture will be supported natively in the unit without the need for an accessory, and they are working on social sharing features with the major platforms, but they don't have final resolution specs on the format yet though they claim that even on the 2560 display, the way the technology works it appears to have more resolution than 2D, even when it doesn't.

Red-hydrogen_1Credit: RED

Frankly, one of the key features here is the remaining headphone jack, and while that might seem like a joke, we don't mean it as one. A lot of old school folks were initially reluctant about the initial RED One because it threw everything out the door: it had great innovations (Wavelet! 4K! Windowing for slow-motion), and then it had those crazy mini-SDI connectors and sold lenses in F-stops instead of T-stops. The headphone jack tells us a lot about RED's ambition for the Hydrogen platform: this is meant to be transitional—to both work as the day-to-day phone you always have with you (where most users frankly still prefer a normal headphone jack), and also to show us the future of screen technology. Dropping the headphone jack has slowed adaptation of the iPhone X and the Pixel 2 (it's amazing the number of people I still see with iPhone 6 and original Pixel units dragging their feet on the upgrade), and by giving users a phone with a headphone jack, RED is making sure there is absolutely no reason not to consider the jump.

Delivery date is still estimated, but RED expects to be showing it off to the public in events in April (curiously, NAB is in April), and hopes to start shipping unlocked pre-order units by the summer, with carrier based phones after that. This is later than the Q1 estimated ship time when the unit was originally announced, but RED has never worried too much about deadlines and they admit that dealing with carriers has been more time consuming than originally expected. Considering the fall iPhone upgrade cycle, we suspect fall shipments for the Hydrogen with carrier support is the goal, and we look forward to seeing the competition play out. We're also curious to see if this fall's iPhone might have some competitive technology of its own.

Tech Specs:

  • Full-sized headphone jack
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835x
  • Dual Sim Slots
  • 4500 mA battery
  • 2560 x 1440 2D mode resolution, 4V mode resolution built on that