If you're looking for a signal of how far the dreamy, folding telephone we can actually afford is, look no further than the prototype TCL unveiled today at the Mobile World Congress , With a 7.2-inch flexible screen, it's in the same size range as Samsung's Samsung Galaxy Fold, and like the Fold, the TCL prototype should not be touched or worn by mere mortals. I'm a little surprised the company let me lift the glass panel to take a closer look at the thing. I've never seen this foldable device actually folded or unfolded: The thing shown at MWC can be classified rather as a folded phone prototype.
TCL is a bit of a complex operation The company owns a billboard company that does contract work for all types of consumer goods manufacturers, and a separate consumer arm that sells devices under its own brand and the names Alcatel, BlackBerry and Palm designs and sells. The MWC prototype comes from this latter process: TCL not only displays the flexible OLED display, but also convinces people that its patented DragonHinge design is the future of folding device design.
I was shown the inner metal structure of the DragonHinge frame (no photos allowed), and the hinge itself works with a series of small gears. I assume that most companies will adopt a similar approach to building their pleats, and it's certainly a significant engineering challenge when trying to create something that protects both a fragile display and tactile and immediate enough is for a person to use them everyday] With a non-functional model of the same 7.2-inch notebook-like device, I got a feel for the ergonomics of the proposed folding block. First, yes, there is a big gap on the hinge side of the closed device, because the screen can only be rolled, it can not be fully collapsed (unless you want a crease, a dead screen or, most likely, a dead screen with a fold in it). But TCL's design around this restriction really impressed me. Magnets securely lock the two sides together when you want to close the tray. The outer surface is inspired by the grippy, matte finish of Moleskine notebooks, and the hinge design provides just the right amount of yielding and flexibility to be soothing without being faint. 19659006] http://www.theverge.com/ "style =" object-position: 50% 50% "data-upload-width =" 2040 "src =" https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor /IJE5FrdAR7d5TPUOnAI5Cw0hw7A=/0x0:2040×1360/1200×0/filters:focal(0x0:2040×1360):no_upscale()/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/14402824/vpavic_190223_TCL_DRAGONHINGE_0004.jpg”/>
And yet it was working Prototype at MWC so fragile that even TCL's own employees were warned against a touch. This is a very early stage of development. I can not complain about the display itself, which played a demo loop, but I have not seen it in its full extent: how flat will it be if it offers a normal tablet experience with its 2048 x 1546 resolution? What compromise does a user have to make to have the admittedly charming ability to fold and put the device in their pockets?
In addition to the inward folding device, TCL also brought a selection of other concepts in the MWC, all mechanical models and not being photographed. One is for a super-long-lasting smartphone that breaks down into a bracelet that you can wrap around your wrist. Another has a rigid U-shape like a bangle and is again intended for the wrist. In both cases, TCL claims that the screen is less demanding – because there is a smoother curve and there are no clipping problems to solve – but the battery becomes a daunting challenge.
I liked the phone concept, which looked like a normal smartphone, but could be folded into an almost flat position. Not because it looked practical, but because it made me feel a loss for a smartphone that was torn in half, and then figured out, hey, it's good, that's our foldable future. One useful thing I've learned from my conversation with TCL is that you need a larger hinge radius when you flip the display inward than outward – due to the mentioned crease threat factor. Now the companies that want to enter the folding products industry are weighing up the pros and cons: outward-folding devices are flatter, sleeker and more visually appealing, but a fold-in tray protects the screen much better and ergonomically reminds of using a regular one old paper book.
TCL's timeline to bring either the 7.2-inch prototype or something else out of the company's evolving foldable portfolio focuses on the mid-year 2020. For It's still aggressive to me, considering that Alcatel does not play in the premium market. BlackBerry is too conservative for these types of products and the Palm name. Well, I think you could put the Palm name on a fold surface and enter the Bohn Zone by combining nostalgic charm with a serious craving for the newest and craziest. Nevertheless, TCL's pedigree is a cheaper alternative to the Samsung of the world, and the company does not want to say that it wants to democratize Foldable.
I speak from conversations with TCL executives that their goal is to bring Foldables below the $ 1,000 mark, and probably go beyond that, though they would not commit to saying otherwise than Samsung's impressive pricing of Admit Samsung for $ 1,980 for the Galaxy Fold.
This year's MWC will host much more foldable concepts, prototypes and possibly even retail products. But none of them are on the near or affordable horizon, and TCL's roadmap seems to make the most sense to me. We will talk a lot more about folding units over the next year and a half, but buying one will be another matter.