It’s increasingly official: 2019 is the year of the foldable phone. Samsung kicked off February by announcing its long-awaited Galaxy Fold at Unpacked. Not to be outdone, the Fold was almost immediately followed by a slew of new foldable phones at the 2019 Mobile World Congress, including the Huawei Mate. The devices serve as uniquely designed phone-tablet hybrids, but their price tags — often $2,000 and up — have left open the door for more affordable entrants. That’s where TCL is trying to capitalize.
A Chinese tech company that is best known for its eye-popping TVs and, weirdly, BlackBerry handsets could soon have a new claim to fame: cheap foldable phones. On Monday, TCL announced it was developing foldable phones by unveiling several device concepts at MWC 2019.
All the prototypes on display made use of TCL’s newly developed “DragonHinge” mechanism that enables a display to fold and unfold without snapping. This is akin to the Galaxy Fold’s system of interlocking gears, found inside its hinge, but TCL presented much more experimental concepts.
Instead of going all in on one device, the company cast a wide net of products they could make and told MWC-goers to wait and see. Digital Trends reported that the company implied the DragonHinge could also be used in other devices like TVs or future wearables. The technology is still on the drawing board for now. In fact, TCL even used a drawing board covered in blueprints to decorate its MWC booth.
Consumers will have to wait a bit before this affordable folding phone alternative hits shelves, but there’s still a lot to look forward to.
TCL DragonHinge: Price
The Galaxy Fold and Mate X’s eye-watering price tags might have scared away some smartphone enthusiasts, but TCL has promised to lure them back to foldable phones with better prices. It might release a flexible phone that costs as much as a high-end iPhone.
TCL is aiming to launch a bendable handset that costs 30 percent less than the Galaxy Fold’s $1,980 starting price, reported CNET. That would come out to be $1,386, which is just as much as a mid-range iPhone XS Max.
TCL DragonHinge: Release Date
Don’t expect anything from TCL this year, its slated to ship a foldable phone sometime in 2020. The long wait is likely how it will be able to offer something workable at a lower price, but it could also be a risky move if the foldable phone trend dies down.
TCL DragonHinge: Phone Concepts
TCL presented concepts that are similar to Samsung and Huawei’s announcements, some potentially interesting ideas, and straight up outlandish designs. But since these are all prototypes, TCL didn’t offer any specs to go along with them.
One of the prototypes seems to have stood out: A foldable tablet that opens and closes like a booklet is what caught the eyes of many attendees. There were also phones designed to fold horizontally to snap onto pants or serve as a money clip.
TCL has even floated the idea of a phone-wristband hybrid. The devices would be a long screen that users could wrap around their arm when they’re on the go, and remove when they need a more conventional phone design. It’s a little similar to one of the other big standout concepts at MWC 2019: Nubia’s Alpha, a strange looking hybrid between a smartphone and a smart watch with a screen that wraps around your wrist.
None of these ideas have been put into production, but they offered a glimpse of what the company has been brainstorming.