RED’s first phone will also be its last

RED’s ambitious Hydrogen phone project is ending after the release of just a single device, the Hydrogen One, according to an announcement from Jim Jannard. The company’s founder says that he is “shutting down the HYDROGEN project” as he retires due to “a few health issues.”

The $1,295 RED Hydrogen One was the first smartphone from the high-end camera company; first announced in 2017, it promised bold new technologies like a “holographic display,” a top-notch camera system, and modular attachments to expand the phone over time. After a series of delays, the phone was eventually released to a lackluster reception in October 2018.

The promised modules never materialized, and in March, Jannard announced “big changes” for the Hydrogen program. Instead of attachments for the Hydrogen One, the company instead would be working on a new “pro camera version” of the Hydrogen One smartphone with a camera designed by the RED team (instead of the off-the-shelf components found in the original model.) RED also recently cut the price of the Hydrogen One in half, down to $645, in what now looks like a fire sale ahead of the cancellation of the program.

Jannard would go on to blame the Hydrogen One’s unnamed Chinese ODM for having “significantly under-performed” on the original phone in July, teasing a new Hydrogen Two model designed “virtually from scratch” with a new manufacturing partner. But based on today’s announcement, whatever Hydrogen One successor the company had in the works won’t be making it to market, at least not as part of the Hydrogen brand.

The Hydrogen Two seems to be dead

Customers who have bought into the Hydrogen One won’t be left entirely in the lurch — Jannard’s post promises that “Hydrogen One will continue to be supported in the future.” Jannard also teased RED’s next camera, the Komodo 6K, which he says is about to be launched and will work with the Hydrogen One in some fashion. But it’s a disappointing ending for anyone hoping that RED would be able to leverage some of the failures of the original model into a more refined product later on.

Jannard has been the face of RED and its high-end cameras since he founded the company back in 1999. According to Jannard, RED Digital Cinema will live on under the leadership of Jarred Land (RED’s current president), Tommy Rios (RED’s executive vice president) and Jamin Jannard (RED’s president of marketing and creative).