Hands-On with TCL's Newest Foldable Concept
TCL has put out a few folding-screen concepts in the past year, and now they have a new one to show off at CES. It's a little more polished and functional than previous concepts, but it's also definitely not market-ready. The device resembles a small Android tablet when open, but is smaller than a phone when closed. In an interview with Phone Scoop, TCL spokesperson Jason Gerdon said that TCL currently plans to bring a foldable phone to market in 2020, but isn't trying to "rush it"; the company won't hesitate to delay their first foldable if the software and/or market isn't ready. We had some time with the concept model. Read on for our impressions and thoughts.
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Everyone is trying something different in the "foldable" category right now, and TCL is no exception. The company's new 2020 concept is something like a cross between Samsung's Galaxy Fold and Motorola's new razr. It's a little chunky when folded, but will still fit well in most pockets. Unfolded, it's a nice little tablet.
The engineering is extremely similar to the Motorola razr. It folds completely flat with no gap visible from the outside. To accomplish this, the flexible screen bends into two empty spaces next to the hinge, just like the razr. Also like the razr, the screen "floats" on the underlying surface and slides a little as you close the phone. But whereas only the bottom half slides on the razr, both sides of the screen float and slide on TCL's concept unit. It's not clear if the screen is firmly attached to any part of the frame.
The phone has a satisfying snap when you close it, and it stays closed easily. It feels like magnets are used for this. But it doesn't have the same effect when it's fully open. A phone like this needs to snap into the fully-open position and want to stay there. TCL hasn't figured that part out yet. Every part of opening and closing the razr feels more refined and satisfying. TCL has work to do. But that's why they call it a concept phone and not a finished product, right? I can tell you that TCL has made dramatic progress from the hinge prototypes I handled at MWC last February.
TCL also has work to do on the supporting mechanism that backs the screen when open. Swiping your finger across the screen (across the hinge, that is), it feels anything but smooth. There are a multiple gaps and uneven parts. Swiping across the screen is quite a common gesture, of course.
Other aspects of the phone felt well-made. But the folding part is hard, and TCL has work to do there.
Feb 24, 2019
TCL Communication — the company behind Alcatel and BlackBerry phones — is planning to launch one or more foldable phones with a flexible display in 2020, and showed off several of its current concepts at the MWC trade show this week. The company has been actively working on the project for a couple of years already, the result of which is a proprietary, patented hinge design that the company calls DragonHinge.
Mar 5, 2020
TCL has a new batch of concept phones to show off in 2020 that use flexible-display technology in interesting ways. Two are foldables, including a unique "tri-fold" design with two different hinges allowing it to reach full tablet size when open.
Jan 7, 2020
Kyocera is at CES this year showing off mock-ups of 5G devices under development, including their next rugged smartphone for the US, which will have 5G. Kyocera's Product Planning Manager Curtis Wick confirmed to Phone Scoop that the company is still actively developing rugged smartphones for the US market, similar to the DuraForce Pro 2 that is currently offered by AT&T and Verizon.
Samsung's second foldable phone takes a different approach: instead of folding larger, it folds smaller, much like Motorola's new razr foldable. It's cheap for a foldable, but still quite pricey.
After "soft-launching" with the Plex phone last year, TCL is now previewing its first widely-available lineup of own-brand phones: the 10 series, all of which offer premium features for under $500. TCL officially announced very few details of the three phones, but shared more with Phone Scoop in a hands-on session.