Red Founder Blames Manufacturer for Phone Troubles While Teasing Its Next Device

Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

Built from a Kevlar and heavy-duty aluminum frame, equipped with a “holographic” screen, and featuring a price tag of $1,300, the Red Hydrogen One was supposed to be unlike any phone ever made. And in some ways it was, but it was also a massive flop, a flop that Red founder Jim Jannard now blames primarily on the phone’s Chinese manufacturer.

In a recent post on H4VUser.net—Red’s official forum for the Hydrogen One—Jannard outlined some of the things the went wrong with the company’s first go at making a phone, most notably its components and technical specs. Unlike the company’s cinema digital cameras which are built at Red factories in California, Red’s manufacturing process weren’t properly equipped to build a phone, so the Hydrogen One was built overseas by an unnamed Chinese ODM (original design manufacturer).

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Unfortunately, it seems despite being given designs from Red and having support from Foxconn to assemble the phone (known for assembling iPhones and other high-end handsets), Red’s ODM “which was responsible for the mechanical packaging of our design including new technologies along with all software integration with the Qualcomm processor, has significantly under-performed.”

Jannard then added that getting its ODM to address existing issues with Hydrogen One has been “impossible,” and that because the ODM wasn’t able to “competently complete” the camera module that was originally promised as an accessory to the Hydrogen One, Red decided to modify its production plans and bring the program back in house. What a mess.

However, it seems there is some good news out of all this, as Jannard also explained that Red has since created a new image sensor and camera module called the Red Komodo that will be compatible with both the original Hydrogen One and the upcoming Hydrogen Two.

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Jannard was quick to point out that the Komodo is not designed to replace Red’s existing cinema digital cameras like the Red Dragon-X, but that the Komodo will be a complimentary device that can capture “cinema grade images at the highest level at lower pricing.”

For the handful of people who actually purchased a Hydrogen One, Jannard said that to help combat customer frustration “every Hydrogen One owner will get significant preferential treatment for the Hydrogen Two and/or new Cinema Camera model, both in delivery allocations and pricing.” While that sounds nice, it doesn’t necessarily address other shortcomings of the Hydrogen One like a processor that was outdated even at release and a holographic screen that didn’t really live up to the hype.

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Still, as Red and Jannard found out the hard way, making phones ain’t easy. And while many may simply write off the Hydrogen One as an ambitious but ultimately flawed device, it did offer a phone design that remains wildly different from anything Samsung, Apple, Google, or any other big phone makers are doing. Hopefully for Red, its second attempt at making a phone—and not the third—is the charm.

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About the author

Sam Rutherford

Senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.