CNET: Foldable phones are coming, even if they’ve hit a bit of a roadblock

TCL, best known for big-screen televisions, wants to use foldables and 5G to make a bigger mark in smartphones.

A year ago, foldable phones captured the imagination of gadget enthusiasts and did something handsets hadn’t done in a while — elicit genuine excitement.

By Roger Cheng

But in a year beset by a global pandemic and now focused on protests seeking an end to police brutality and racial injustice, that sort of whiz-bang product — which so far sells for more than $1,000 — doesn’t seem appropriate. 

Stefan Streit, general manager of global marketing for TCL’s phone business, said in an interview last month that he believes foldable phones could see more momentum in two years, especially once you see greater variety of products. The company has teased a number of prototypes, from trifold displays to a phone with a rollable display that extends out, but hasn’t released a product yet. 

Streit also said he’s shooting to launch a 5G phones for less than $500. The phone goes on sale in Europe for 399 euros this month, and arrives in the US with an unnamed carrier in the second half, with the potential to  hit the $399 mark. 

That price would make the TCL 10 5G phone one of the most affordable ways to get into the world of 5G, the next-generation of wireless technology that’s supposed to dramatically change our lives with super-fast network speed and responsiveness. The early days of 5G saw spotty coverage and expensive devices, but devices like the 10 5G and the Samsung Galaxy A51, which has 5G and will retail for less than $500, underscore the notion that this technology is accessible to more people. 

For TCL, which is better known for making affordable but feature-packed televisions, trends like 5G and that other flashy mobile trend, foldable phones, represent an opportunity to make a better name for itself in the smartphone world. The Chinese company has long operated different brands, including Alcatel, BlackBerry and Palm, but it’s ready to tout a broader family of products under one name, a la Samsung or LG, but with more of a mass-market bent. 

“It’s part of TCL’s philosophy,” Streit said. “We’re looking at how we can bring this technology into something more affordable.” More


Roger Cheng headshot

Roger Cheng