Camera maker RED announced its entry into the smartphone market in 2017, hyping up the Hydrogen One. It said the phone would have a “holographic” display, but it was the promise of a modular accessory ecosystem that included a real RED camera sensor that really got people excited. The phone didn’t get stellar reviews, but owners held out hope for that camera add-on. It may not happen, though. RED has removed all mention of the modular components from its website without explanation.
The only truly unique feature of the Hydrogen One at launch was the 4-view 3D screen, which could make it look like objects were coming out of the display without 3D glasses. Although, the effect wasn’t very impressive and only worked at just the right viewing angle. The Hydrogen One has similar internals to any 2017 flagship smartphone, except it launched in 2018. There’s a Snapdragon 835, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and dual 12.3MP cameras on the back. However, those are traditional smartphone sensors with mediocre performance — no RED camera technology. The company said that the modules could fix that.
According to the original Hydrogen One product page, RED planned modules that would add storage, extend your battery life, and integrate a real RED camera sensor with the phone. The diagram even showed the phone with interchangeable lenses. RED’s high-resolution video cameras are best-in-class, and also hideously expensive. While the One was no impulse purchase at $1,300, the idea you might be able to shoot with a RED sensor for a little more cash probably encouraged some camera enthusiasts to take the plunge.
The Hydrogen One has a bank of gold contacts on the back, similar to Motorola’s Mod platform. So, the phone people have in their hands is physically capable of connecting to modular accessories. However, RED hasn’t released any. It’s looking increasingly unlikely there ever will be any now that all mention of the modules has been scrubbed from the site.
You can check a cached version of the page to see what used to be there. The page listed a release timeline of “2019.” Rather than tightening the ETA to a quarter or even pushing it back to 2020, RED just removed everything. The only indication RED has plans for Hydrogen accessories is the recently teased Lithium 3D camera rig. However, that just uses the phone as a display for the camera’s 3D output. Whatever RED is up to, it’s not inspiring confidence.