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RED says its Hydrogen One smartphone will ship this summer

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Half a year after taking preorders for its very first smartphone, RED says that the Hydrogen One phone is still months away from being released. But it does at least have a timeline: the phone is supposed to enter mass production and then ship sometime this summer.

Jim Jannard, RED’s CEO and founder, gave the update yesterday afternoon in a post on the company’s forums, where he also announced a few new specs for the pricey “holographic-display” smartphone and gave some additional launch details.

RED has apparently managed to get mobile carriers on board for the phone’s launch — a sadly difficult and meaningful feat for a first-time phone company — though Jannard wouldn’t provide specifics on which carriers. His forum post is filled with seemingly hyperbolic phrases, and when it comes to carriers, that isn’t any different. He says carrier support for the Hydrogen One is “unprecedented” and “as good as it gets.” That would appear to imply all of the major US carriers, but it sounds like it could still be months before we find out.

Jannard also says that RED will release preordered phones before carriers phones, since they’ll be unlocked and won’t have to go through carrier approval processes. That sounds like it will still be this summer, but like most of the information here, it’s a little unclear. Jannard says RED will probably start previewing the phone sometime in April — which means that, yes, people who preordered this phone for $1,195 (or more) still don’t know much about it.

There have been a few basic details about the phone around since last July, and Jannard has now revealed a few more: it’ll run a Snapdragon 835 processor (Jannard writes that it’s an “835x,” which doesn’t currently exist, so it’s unclear if that’s a typo or some upcoming variant), have a dual SIM slot, and include a 4,500mAh battery, which is relatively huge. (The Note 8, for comparison, has a 3,300mAh battery.) The downside to this phone being released a full year after it was announced is that, while the 835 is a top-of-the-line chip, it’ll be succeeded by the Snapdragon 845 by the time the Hydrogen One actually makes it to market. That’s not necessarily a huge deal, but for a phone this expensive, it’s not great, either.

RED had already announced that the Hydrogen One will have a 5.7-inch, 2560 x 1440 display, USB-C and microSD card support, a headphone jack, and dual front and rear cameras. The phone’s highlight is supposed to be its cameras and screen. The screen is supposed to display “holographic 4-view content,” which are basically 3D images that change with your perspective. The phone’s cameras are supposed to be able to record video in 2D, traditional 3D, or RED’s new “4V” format, which will presumably only work on this phone to start.

Almost no one has actually seen this phone’s screen in action yet, so — like most of the details about the Hydrogen One — there’s a lot of missing information about what we’re going to get when this thing actually ships.

Jannard also teased a pair of the modular accessories that can be added to the Hydrogen One, including a battery pack and a “cinema grade camera module.” The camera module will be capable of recording RAW video in RED’s R3D format, Jannard says, but it will only support recording 2D footage. Jannard says additional modules for improved 3D and 4V filming are planned as well. RED is also working on a “Hydrogen Network” that will collect 4V video from “major studios and other content providers.”

If all of these claims weren’t coming from an established and well-respected company, they would come across as entirely too far-fetched to take seriously. And even from RED, it’s still hard to imagine this all coming together as beautifully and smoothly as Jannard would have us imagine. Whatever ends up coming out, it’s going to be niche and unusual and likely something to marvel at — but it’s still far from clear that it’ll end up being as revolutionary as RED’s cinema cameras.