TCL's prototype phone folds open to become a 10-inch tablet

TCL's prototype phone folds open to become a 10-inch tablet
We've seen the Samsung Galaxy Fold, already released, with its inward folding screen that opens up to produce a 7.3-inch display. Expected to be released later this month is the Huawei Mate X with its outward folding back and front displays that open up to form an 8-inch screen. And while we've seen Xiaomi's prototype that featured a phone with a double-folding screen, today CNET reports that TCL has been demonstrating a non-working prototype of a tri-fold smartphone.

The company, which produces BlackBerry phones like the Key2 and Palm's small phone under license, has been trying to promote the TCL brand for products besides television sets outside of China. Right now, the screen on the prototype does not work. But there are rough specs that include a screen that measures approximately 10-inches when fully opened, a quad-camera setup, a front-facing camera, and a USB-C port. The phone, if it goes into production, will carry an Iridescent finish and it will not-repeat not-have an earphone jack onboard.

Which form factor will be favored by consumers?

It is interesting to see all these different foldable form factors. Since the Mate X will not be available in the states, the next foldable device that everyone in the U.S. is anxiously awaiting is the Motorola RAZR (2019), still expected to come to market late this year. In fact, Motorola has already sent out invitations telling us that we are going to flip over the product it plans to introduce on November 13th (note to Motorola: well-played guys, well played). The RAZR, though, has a much different objective than the Galaxy Fold, the Mate X and TCL's unnamed tri-fold device. Instead of opening along the vertical axis to transform from a phone into a tablet, the RAZR will flip open along the horizontal axis to become an Android-powered smartphone with a 6.2-inch or 6.5-inch tall and thin display; the aspect ratio of the screen is said to be 22:9. When closed, the device fits easily into a pocket keeping with the legacy of the original RAZR that sold over 130 million units from 2004-2008.

While Microsoft's dual-screened Surface Duo does fold up, it uses two individual displays with a very interesting hinge. The position of the hinge will help the Android-powered communication device know which mode the Duo is in and adjust the UI accordingly. For example, in Laptop mode the device is opened in landscape orientation with the screen on the bottom showing a virtual QWERTY keyboard and the one on the top acting as the display. In Tent mode, the device is opened like an upside-down "V" with an alarm clock on one side. This would be the way a user would set up the Duo on a bedside table before going to sleep for the night. The Duo will surface in time for the 2020 holiday shopping season. Microsoft isn't trying to hide the fact that the Duo uses a pair of screens since there is a rather visible strip that separates them. Still, the user can treat them as one large screen or two individual displays for multitasking.

If it enters mass production, TCL's tri-fold device will be equipped with what it calls the "Dragonhinge;" two of them adorn its foldable prototype. When it is folded up, the device is actually pretty thick as you might well imagine. The screens form the letters "Z," or "S" and when closed up, the display on top acts an external screen. The hinges fold inward like the Galaxy Fold, and the main question is whether anyone is going to want-or even need-a 10-inch display folded into a thick wad of screens. And could this device be pocketable? Right now, the Surface Duo and the Motorola RAZR would seem the most likely to fit into a pants pocket.

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