The end of TCL’s April TCL 20 announcement event had a special surprise for viewers…and the phones industry as a whole, really: the company revealed the TCL Fold N’ Roll, the first device that is both a foldable and a rollable.
The Fold n’ Roll is more than just a concept combining the phones industry’s top buzzwords of 2020 and 2021 – it could be a harbinger of a new era in phones, when flexible display handsets become readily available (and cheap) enough to hit the mainstream in the next two years.
That’s according to two TCL executives, who sat down with TechRadar to chat about what the normalization of these devices means to consumers.
While other phonemakers have been first to market with pricey foldable phones, the executives suggested that TCL’s mobile product strategy – releasing mid-range and budget-priced devices – is being applied to foldable production.
“We don’t feel pressured to come out very early with something like this,” Stefan Streit, TCL General Manager of Global Marketing, told TechRadar. “Our job is to bring this into a mass market.”
It’s been no secret that TCL is looking into lower-tier foldables after the company revealed a cheaper clamshell foldable-looking concept device at CES 2020, but then again, it’s given peeks at a lot of display types that will probably never reach the market.
TCL was unclear how serious it was about developing cheaper flexible display devices… until now.
Selling affordable flexible display devices, starting with a foldable device that TCL confirmed to CNET will be coming in 2021, has implications for the phones market as a whole. If TCL thinks they can make more affordable folding, rolling, and other kinds of flex-display phones, other companies will, too. And all that R&D will result in wild, new form factors.
“To generalize, you will see a much bigger variety in a couple years of different product form factors – and it’ll be very fun for you guys where you can talk about different use cases and such,” Streit said. “We’re probably just beginning to understand what is possible and we’re trying to explore this. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
There’s no way to tell if the Fold N’ Roll is one of the few TCL concepts that will reach the market as a cheap flexible display device. But it’s proof that TCL is continuing to tinker with different display ideas and, given what we’ve heard, the company is bringing some to market just as flexible display phones get big – starting, in 2021, with a foldable device.
Phase one: foldable in 2021, rollable in 2022
While the TCL Rollable was first teased at CES 2021 and first reports indicated it would launch later this year, the company had carefully stated that a flexible display device would come in 2021 – and it looks like they were referring to a foldable. More