2019 was undoubtedly the year of foldable smartphones with a bunch of renowned players coming out with their arsenal of devices. Not to be left behind, TCL also unveiled its lineup of foldable concept smartphones this year, which may or may not make it to production anytime soon. First showcased at Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2020, this is a major breakthrough for TCL’s phone and display division, which has successfully adapted the vertical-integration strategy conceptualized by Samsung earlier. The company also has its portfolio of standard smartphones that it plans to unveil soon.
First, in line, TCL unveiled a 6.65-inch trifold device that unfolds into a 10-inch tablet. The second device sports a rolling display and is in the early stages of development. While the trifold prototype showcased at CES was not a functional device, TCL finally managed to get a working prototype out for beta testing. The second smartphone with the rolling display is a dummy unit with a paper screen.
Fully unfolded, the trifold smartphone flaunts a 10-inch tablet display instead of just a wider screen found on conventional folding smartphones currently in the market. Users can utilise the additional real estate without carrying a second device. The smartphone works even on two folds, while the third fold is used as a stand.
The prototype makes the most of TLC’s DragonHinge technology combined with a standard butterfly hinge to achieve two seamless folds. One of the downsides to such a large device is its weight. The trifold smartphone sports two metal hinges adding to its bulk and increasing thickness. From the front, the device has the same dimensions as a conventional smartphone, but from the sides, the device is as wide as three smartphones.
While adaptive hardware is being developed, there is a dearth of software that supports this transition between a smartphone and a tablet. Until there are applications that can switch between three different screen sizes, the entire potential of trifold devices cannot be utilized. Although Google is rumoured to be working on apps specifically designed for foldable smartphones, it still has a long way to go.
Smartphone makers are yet to overcome some of the primary gripes associated with durability and pricing. Adding a secondary hinge only aggravates the situation. TCL’s second device might solve this problem to a certain degree. Using a flexible display, the designers are able to get rid of clunky hinges and other movable parts. However, both prototypes are currently in the concept stages and are miles away from production.