Why it matters: Despite generating plenty of hype in the runup to its release, Red’s Hydrogen One smartphone was blasted by critics last year over its numerous poor elements. According to founder Jim Jannard, however, this wasn’t the company’s fault; he places the blame on its unnamed Chinese ODM (original design manufacturer).
Red, best known for its digital cinematography cameras and accessories, promised that its first smartphone would come with a stunning holographic display and the best camera ever seen on a handset. But the $1,295 device was heavily criticized at launch, with reviewers blasting everything from the blurry, bad holographic screen, to the disappointing camera, to the numerous bugs.
In a post on the H4Vuser.net website, Jannard puts forward his reasons why the phone was a flop. He writes that while Red’s expensive cameras are built at its own factories in Orange County, “building a smartphone with challenging and new disruptive technologies at the RED factory just wasn’t possible given the competitive nature of the market.” For this reason, Red chose an ODM in China to prepare the Hydrogen One for manufacture at Foxconn.
But Jennard adds that the ODM "significantly under-performed" and that it was "impossible" to fix the Hydrogen One’s problems.
The company is now working on a successor to the phone – the Hydrogen Two – and will be using a new ODM that is "clearly more capable of building and supporting the product we (and our customers) demand." It’s also developing the long-awaited cinema camera module, called Komodo, which will have capabilities that “vastly exceed” the originally planned model, and it will work on both the Hydrogen One and Two. Jannard added that the previous ODM “was not going to competently complete the module that they committed and guaranteed to do.”
We don’t know when the Hydrogen Two or the camera module will arrive or how much they will cost, though Jannard said Hydrogen One owners would get “significant preferential treatment” for both products, including an unspecified discount. Let’s hope the next handset finds more success than its predecessor - Red’s unlikely to blame another ODM for any failures.