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TCL puts foldable phone plans on hold. Here's the phone that might have been.
- TCL has confirmed it will not be launching a foldable smartphone in the near future.
- The company says that it will not launch that kind of phone until the price point is “accessible to as many consumers as possible.”
- TCL was working on a smartphone, under the code name “Project Chicago,” when the decision was made to put it on hold.
There won’t be a TCL foldable phone coming to consumers anytime soon. The company has issued a statement confirming that it has decided to suspend the development of its first such device indefinitely.
In a statement from Stefan Streit, CMO of TCL Communication, the company said it had invested “billions of dollars” in researching new display technology. That included working on foldable phones and flexible displays. Indeed, the company has been showing off prototypes of such devices to the press for over two years. It demoed foldable phones with its DragonHinge technology in 2019, and it showed off a cool-looking rollable display phone in 2020. Finally, it showed one that combined foldable and rollable tech in April 2021.
However, Streit has now said the combination of the high cost of such display technologies, plus the current issues of component shortages and the COVID-19 pandemic, has made TCL take a step back from its plans. He stated:
TCL has made the difficult decision to suspend the launch of its first commercially available foldable smartphone until the company can produce and bring it to market at a price point that’s accessible to as many consumers as possible.
Streit said it is now concentrating on its “5G for All” initiative, which it says will offer 5G smartphones over a number of different devices and price points.
The canceled TCL foldable phone
However, the company has not given up hope that it will return to developing “Chicago.” The phone was somewhere past the prototype stage when the decision was made to suspend development. In fact, some pre-production versions of Project Chicago were made for reviewers to get some hands-on time with the phone before the cancelation decision was made.
A render of the phone shows that it had a similar design to Samsung’s recently released Galaxy Z Flip 3. When unfolded, it had a 6.67-inch AMOLED display. In its folded mode, users could access a 1.1-inch AMOLED screen, which would have shown info like the day and time, notifications, access to a flashlight, and more.
Inside, the phone would have had the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor, along with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, along with a 3,545 mAh battery. There would have been two rear cameras: a 48MP main sensor and a 16MP ultra-wide camera. There would also have been a 44MP front-facing camera.
In an interview with Cnet, which included actual images of the Chicago prototype, Streit said that the price of the phone would have been about $800. While that’s indeed cheaper than Samsung’s current foldable phones, it apparently wasn’t low enough for TCL to pull the trigger to launch Chicago, which would have happened sometime in the fourth quarter of 2021. Instead, TCL will start again with another phone, which won’t launch for at least 12 to 18 months.
With TCL bowing out of the foldable phone race, at least for now, it looks like Samsung will be dominating this niche market for some time to come.