TCL’s new folding and flexing screens look to expand the ‘foldable’ market

Kareem Anderson

Perhaps, having a relatively small stake in the smartphone game has allowed Chinese OEM TCL to be a bit more free in their conceptualization of how the mobile phone will evolve. While much of the smartphone talk has revolved around “foldables,” and many are staking their fortunes on bendable screens such as Samsung, or swivel hinges like Microsoft’s upcoming Neo and Duo devices, TCL is offering something different.

Earlier today, an embargo seemingly lifted that allowed many publications to flood the internet with images and videos of hands-on with the OEM’s new pull-out and rollable screen phone concepts. Our particular source on the matter comes from TechRadar which was given a hands-on demo of two new types of TCL branded foldable/flexible smartphone concepts.

Starting with the 6.75-inch offering, users will have to make do with a phone that is only (9mm) thick when folded and can be pulled/flexed like plastic wrap to reveal a more tableted 7.8-inch form factor.

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Unlike current foldable phones, there are no hinges with this first TCL design, instead, the screen appears to be using miniaturized gears and motors to achieve the ‘pull’ effect. TCL claims it’s working on several refinement designs of the same form factor that could also include a future release version that makes use of triggers such as gestures or buttons to unfurl the screen.

In addition to working around creases in the screen like more conventional foldable devices, TCL also wants to pack a 5,000mAh battery somewhere in the device as well as four rear-facing cameras similar to Samsung’s Galaxy S20 hardware offerings.

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If the pull out screen and its miniaturized motor design prove a bit too complicated to mass produce, TCL is also prepping an additional foldable offering that utilizes not one, but two hinges that fold in opposite directions to reveal a three-paneled screen roughly 10-inches in length. When folded, the three screens will sit atop one another like a stack of pancakes resembling a 6.65-inch smartphone that houses a 3K resolution screen with a 20.8:9 aspect ratio.

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Obviously, TCL plans to sacrifice thinness for the utmost flexible mobile screen experience yet in a smartphone, but the device looks to be a relatively acceptable pocketing experience, especially when compared to some of the bricks people carried in 2007 and 2008. Aside from running Android 9 on the trifold device, there weren’t many other specs discussed regarding this particular reference design.

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Other things omitted from TCL’s reveal today were expected shipping dates, prices, or regional availability. Instead, TechRadar was given a blanket statement that involved “in the next couple of years – you’ll probably see something like this from us. It’s going to be a few years before [these designs are] anywhere near mainstream. [We’re] still in the early days of all this.”