Foldable phones are one of two hot topics at this year's MWC, and the mobile industry in general in 2019. We've already seen Samsung launch the Galaxy Fold with a screen that folds in on itself, and Huawei with a screen that folds outwards. Now, TCL has unveiled some concepts that paint a very diverse future for foldable phones.
Unlike the current smartphone generation, foldable phones don't have an established standard of exactly how they should look and operate. Instead, it's an empty drawing board from which manufacturers can create foldable devices of different styles, to serve different purposes. TCL believes that foldable phones in the future can be very different to the phones we're seeing today.
The first of its concepts is a similar design to the Galaxy Fold, with an LED on the outside and a large tablet-like display on the inside. The device folds in on itself and looks portable. The company also showed off a software keyboard that splits in two and is located in the bottom left and right corners of the device. This would make it easier to type on than a software keyboard that is spread across the entire screen.
While that concept is standard-fare, the company's other concepts are anything but. There's a foldable phone designed like a watch, which would snap straight onto your wrist. There's also a small clamshell device which almost folds perfectly in half but leaves a small LED display at the bottom for things like notifications. Think of it as an Always-on-display, but in the future and on a foldable phone.
All of these concepts are made possible with the company's new Dragon Hinge system. Much like the concept of a foldable phone, companies are taking very different approaches to the solution of how to support the flexible OLED.
My favorite of the concepts is the watch-like strap (sadly we can't show you it). I can imagine strapping that to your wrist and unfurling it when you need to make a call. Unfurled, it's a tall screen, but would be perfect for phone calls or browsing social media feeds. The camera on the back would make this the all-in-one device that you can always carry with you.
When will TCL launch a foldable phone? The company says it will launch its first foldable device in 2020, but what device it is is unclear. It's also not known if it'll launch under the company's Alcatel, BlackBerry or Palms brands, or whether it'll be an entirely new device. Whatever it is, we can't wait to see the future of foldable phones as TCL sees it.
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