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TCL's rollable concept phone is magical

TCL's new concept phones show us a world beyond foldables.

Published onMarch 5, 2020

TCL rollable concept phone open in hand

As foldable phones slowly become more commonplace, we’re starting to see new concept devices aiming to solve problems still unsolved by non-foldable rectangles. The Galaxy Fold gets bigger. The Galaxy Z Flip gets smaller. And TCL, well, TCL has lots of ideas.

We’ve already seen a variety of weird foldable concepts from TCL, like the bifold, DragonHinge, and others. But we just got a sneak peek of a new concept that really has our attention.

TCL Rollable Concept Gif

TCL’s new rollable concept phone starts off looking like a pretty average smartphone with a 6.75-inch display. Use the right gesture, however, and it expands to a 7.8-inch tablet.

Unlike most foldables, which open or close like a book or clamshell, the new rollable concept hides the flexible OLED display inside the phone and uses a motor to expand the chassis and roll out the display. In use, the process is pretty magical and gives the impression that the phone is expanding out of nothing. It’s pretty cool.

Unfortunately, we were only able to play with a dummy unit that had no working motor, nor even a working display. This means we had to physically pull the display open by hand, as shown in our gif above. TCL does have a working prototype of this device, but the unit got stuck in Wuhan, China, and couldn’t be shipped to the US for display.

Best foldable phones at MWC 2019

TCL says that while the concept device won’t be commercially available any time soon, it’s been working on perfecting the rolling mechanism.

While the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip has done well to show consumers how foldable devices can be commercially viable, TCL doesn’t want to have another Galaxy Fold situation. That means TCL’s rollable display will remain under development at least until next year.

TCL Tri Fold Gif

TCL also showed us its Tri-Fold foldable concept device, which it’s been working on for a while now. This concept is unique and targets an entirely different user group. It starts as a mostly normal-looking phone, though it’s about as thick as three phones piled on top of each other. Pull it apart like an accordion, and you’ll find you’re holding a massive 10-inch tablet.

Because this phone relies on two hinges, you’re able to use it in a variety of form factors. It can be a phone, a laptop, or a tablet. While TCL has no plans of releasing this concept as an actual product, it shows us what new form factors are made possible with flexible displays.

As the technology matures, we’re sure to see more foldable devices announced over the next few months. The Galaxy Fold 2 is rumored to use an ultra-thin glass display and include an S Pen stylus, which seems like the productivity dream.

Check out the gifs above, and let us know what you think about these concepts in the comments below!