AT&T, Warner Bros. and the maker of the RED camera, a favorite of filmmakers from David Fincher to Peter Jackson, are teaming up for the rollout of a super-high end mobile phone called the Hydrogen One.
In a recent press preview event in New York, they unveiled the device, which will launch Friday in AT&T and Verizon stores. The stakeholders see the Hydrogen One as a creative leap beyond the best phones Apple and Samsung have on the market. It will be priced accordingly, at $1,295. From its early days in the market, the Hydrogen One will also represent a synergistic opportunity for WarnerMedia and AT&T, one of the first since the companies’ $81 billion merger closed in June.
The phone’s holographic “4 View” screen is billed as the first of its kind, delivering 3D experiences without glasses and 360-degree sound with or without headphones. With a rugged aluminum body with Kevlar panels and battery life said to be superior to that of the latest iPhone, the RED Hydrogen One is the vision of Jim Jannard. The inventor and entrepreneur founded eyewear giant Oakley and then went on to create RED mainly because, as he explained to the crowd in New York, he wanted better gear.
Reflecting for about 20 minutes about his entrepreneurial life, Jannard said he is out to advance the experience of streaming and selfies while also elevating the capabilities of a mobile device. He admitted that entering the mature handset marketplace is not a high-percentage move. “What we’ve done is pretty nuts,” he said. “If it fails, at least I will end up with the cell phone I wanted.”
Movies available at launch will include Warner Bros. titles Ready Player One and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Films from the studio will comprise more than half of the selections at launch, with plans to have half of the projected 110 film titles once the service is up and running.
At a storefront in NoHo, a couple dozen journalists joined executives from the companies for a blue-sky round of demos and remarks about how and why the device came to be.
The phone “exudes our leadership in entertainment,” said Kevin Petersen, SVP of wireless product marketing for AT&T. “When we were approached … we were immediately drawn to the world’s first holographic media machine. We saw this as the perfect opportunity to give our customers the ability to create and engage with content that was important to them.”
Jessica Schell, EVP of home entertainment for Warner Bros., called the phone “a game-changer, delivering a whole new category of entertainment.”
Expanding on his critique of the phone landscape, Jannard said, “This isn’t what Steve Jobs envisioned 10 years ago. He loved to make big surprises. We don’t have them anymore. We have what I think is close to a sea of sameness – pick an operating system, pick a color.”