CL,TCL, the Chinese brand that often plays second (or seventh) fiddle to bigger electronics companies like Samsung, LG, Xiaomi, and OnePlus, has decided that 2020 is the year for its mobile coming-out party.
It is announcing three new phones under its own brand name: the TCL 10 Pro, TCL 10L, and TCL 10 5G.
It’s a big moment for the company, but it’s also potentially a big moment for Android. TCL’s entry represents a big brand aiming to bring much higher-quality phones into the sub-$500 category. TCL is also once again teasing a folding phone, though it’s still very much in the prototype phase.
If you’ve heard of TCL, it’s probably because you’re familiar with its Roku-powered 4K TVs, which are among our favorite on the market today because they’re good quality for an inexpensive price. But TCL has been a white label for other phones you may have heard of: cheap Alcatel phones sold by various carriers, BlackBerry Android phones, and even the tiny little Palm phone.
TCL will keep making all of that stuff along with TVs, routers, GPS-enabled pet trackers, tablets, and virtually every other category of gadget you can think of (outside of laptops). But in introducing its own branded phones and promising to sell them globally — including in the US — it’s signaling a desire to be taken as seriously as those other big companies.
Unfortunately, these phone announcements aren’t quite finished yet. The company tells me that it will provide more details at Mobile World Congress next month. We were able to glean some spec details in our time with the phones, but the company is staying tight-lipped about many specifics. The 10 Pro, in particular, will have a screen that the company claims will live up to its televisions, thanks to a custom hardware controller.
For now, what we know is that the 10 Pro is its “flagship” high-end phone, the 10L is a low-end device, and the 10 5G could be one of the first 5G phones to cost less than $500.
We can start with the folding phone prototype, though, just to get it out of the way. It is very much not ready to be a consumer product yet. The hinge is creaky, the software is unfinished, and there are bugs aplenty.
But the potential is there. TCL insists that its greatest strength is its screen technology.
The flexible OLED screen on this device is made by the company itself. There’s no screen on the outside, which is an interesting choice, but the whole thing folds completely flat. TCL appears to be taking the same strategy Motorola has with its updated Razr; the screen forms a teardrop shape into gaps inside the hinge when it closes. More