TCL's crazy foldable and rollable phone concept appears in video

TCL showcased a new type of foldable device concept, which also has a rollable part of the display. At a technology congress in China called DTC 2021, the company presented its crazy new concept. Twitter user Fold Universe captured a fully functional TCL device showcasing the new technology on video.

By the looks of it, the device is probably a pretty early prototype of the ambitious TCL phone. The software doesn't look to be the best in terms of its optimization to this new form factor. The device itself also looks to be not very polished. But in the end, what matters is that it works. The screen unfolds, and then its left part extends by rolling out. This allows it to become a full-fledged tablet.

This concept excludes the need for an outer display, as the screen is outward folding, leaving a 6.87-inch standard-looking smartphone form factor on the outer side. If you open the device, a foldable screen appears. This screen measures 8.55-inch. From then, you can opt to further extend the screen by rolling out its left side. By doing so, the screen’s size increases to 10-inch. This means that with this concept you get a 3-in-1 device: a smartphone, a small tablet, and a normal 10-inch tablet.

While this TCL concept seems to present you with the best of both worlds, the pocketable foldable form factor and the impressive rollable technology that extends the screen, this technology contains many moving parts, which might make it very fragile.

It is unclear as to what the specs of the TCL display are. To our eyes it looks to be an OLED panel. According to Device Specifications, the company is working on an 8-inch foldable device with a resolution of 5,120 x 1,440 and a peak brightness of 1,000 nits. The screen’s refresh rates are reported to range from 48Hz to 240Hz. If these specs turn out to be true, Samsung might have some competition on its hands from TCL. The TCL concept could have similar specs when the screen is unfolded but not unrolled.

Still, while this TCL concept is very cool, it looks to be far from production. This concept was first presented by the company earlier this year as the Fold’n Roll screen. Of course, all of this doesn’t mean TCL will release such a device anytime soon, if ever. The company tried to release its first foldable device earlier this year which was supposed to rock a Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 clam-shell form factor. In the end, TCL decided it wasn't ready to release the phone, as it wanted it to be much more affordable than rivals, but due to production costs, TCL was unable to achieve its goal.

Our take

We love seeing bold new concepts and combining different technologies into something that's never been done before. Still, the question about how convenient this screen would be in real life makes us doubt the concept has a production future.

A 3-in-1 device is the stuff of dreams, but at the same time, most people want a device that will be reliable and unproblematic. Currently, foldable phones have become somewhat more reliable than before, but they are still far away from being as robust as regular smartphones. Adding another cutting-edge technology, like a rollable screen, could potentially make the device very easy to break, or simply not ready for market.

One needs to also consider the cost of such a cutting-edge device. When foldable phones first came out, they were priced at $2,000 and more. While the cost of such phones has seen a decrease, they are still pretty expensive, and many people feel the price isn’t justified, as these devices are still easy to break. Their tear and wear levels are also much higher than the ones of non-folding smartphones.

Imagine the cost of a device rocking a screen that is both foldable and rollable. We can speculate that such a device will cost at least $3,000, and that’s a lot of money to invest in a new and unproven form factor.
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