Why the Red Hydrogen One phone shows up in movies like F9 and Netflix's Don't Look Up
Despite being a flop when it came out, the $1,300 Red phone with a 3D screen keeps showing up in new films.
Patrick HollandManaging Editor
Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
Patrick's play The Cowboy is included in the Best American Short Plays 2011-12 anthology. He co-wrote and starred in the short film Baden Krunk that won the Best Wisconsin Short Film award at the Milwaukee Short Film Festival.
It's used by Leo and J-Law and sold as the Bash phone by the character Sir Peter Isherwell, played masterfully by Mark Rylance, who feels like he just wandered offstage from delivering a keynote in Silicon Valley.
Don't Look Up is the second 2021 film to feature the failed 3D screen phone. The Red phone was used by several characters in Fast and Furious 9 and even mounted on Dominic Toretto's dashboard. But all of these prominent big-screen appearances aren't the result of savvy product placement. The fact is you can't buy the $1,300 Hydrogen One. So what's going on here? On CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast I asked McKay about the phone being in Don't Look Up. Turns out, the film's prop master/SoCal ex-punk rocker, Michael Bates, introduced the phone to McKay.
"I remember asking him early on like, 'Michael, how are we going to have a phone that doesn't just look like your standard phones that are out there?'" said McKay. "And he goes, 'Don't worry. I'll take care of it,' And then he comes back with that phone. He goes, 'This is a whole cellphone that Red cam made. They never released it. Check it out.' And I started playing with it. I was like, 'Why didn't they release this? This is incredible.' But apparently it's technically not consumer-friendly."
Watch this: Red Hydrogen One phone costs more than an iPhone and has a 3D screen
The Red Hydrogen One, despite its mediocre cameras that could film 4V videos (Red's branding for 3D), looked like no other phone at the time. It has scalloped edges modeled after the lens mount lock on some Red cinema cameras. The phone came in two versions: one made of aluminum and the other made of titanium. In terms of durability, it's one of the most solid phones I ever tested. If I dropped it, I'd be less worried about the phone and more about the floor.
In terms of its role in Don't Look Up, I'd say Bates and McKay picked a phone that matches the ridiculousness of their film. Don't Look Up is available to stream on Netflix starting Dec. 24.