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TCL almost launched an affordable flip phone with foldable display

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TCL revealed that the company is putting its foldable smartphone plan on hold and the company won't release one this year.
TCL almost launched an affordable flip phone with foldable display
TCL's "Project Chicago" prototype

TCL foldable smartphones on hold

Originally, the company planned to launch an affordable foldable smartphone alternative to the Galaxy Z Flip3 5G. However, they came to the conclusion that it is still a premium product. TCL also said that the recent component shortages, COVID-19 pandemic, and rising costs in foldable production affected its decision as well.

Stefan Streit, CMO of TCL Communication, said in a statement:

As one of the world's largest display and smartphone manufacturers, TCL has spent decades developing products that deliver high-end technologies at affordable price points. In recent years, TCL has invested billions of dollars into the research and development of new and upcoming display technologies, including flexible displays and foldable smartphones. 

Although the foldable market is growing each year, it is still a premium product category. In combination with recent component shortages, the COVID-19 pandemic and rising costs in foldable production, 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. 

TCL remains committed to investing in flexible display technologies and is closely monitoring the market to determine the best time to launch a foldable smartphone. In the meantime, we continue to focus on our "5G for All" initiative introduced at Mobile World Congress 2021, in which we work with carriers around the world to deliver 5G solutions to all consumers across a variety of price points and product categories.

So, TCL decided to cancel the introduction of its first foldable because of "commercial" factors—weakness of its brand, expensive components because of the pandemic, and lack of carrier support, Streit said. 

The device that they initially planned to launch this year is "Chicago" and they even have a prototype of it ready.
Side-by-side with the Z Flip3 5G
Side-by-side with the Z Flip3 5G

Similar to the Galaxy Z Fold3 5G, the TCL codename "Chicago" handset has a clamshell with a similar-looking hinge. It also has a small secondary display when folded for displaying time, notifications, and more. But, it is found on the vertically-aligned camera hump.

If you are curious, the device comes with mid-range specs. It uses a 6.67-inch AMOLED DOTCH display with 1080p resolution at 395 ppi with 700 nits peak brightness, 1.1-inch secondary AMOLED display, 7nm SD765G SoC, 6GB RAM, 128GB storage, and 3,545mAh battery, up to 18W Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 via USB-C, 10W wireless charging.

For cameras, it goes with a 48MP Sony IMX582 sensor with OIS and 16MP ultra-wide camera. For selfies, it uses a 44MP selfie camera with 4K at 60fps capabilities.

When unfolded the device measures 164.8 x 78.1 x 7.35 mm. When folded, it is 86.5 x 78.1 x 17.9 mm. The device weighs 204.5 grams.

In the meantime, TCL notes that it will focus on its "5G for All" initiative introduced at the Mobile World Congress 2021 where they work with carriers globally to deliver 5G solutions to all consumers across a variety of price points and product categories.

Currently, only Motorola and Samsung have clamshell-like foldable flip phones in the market.

Sources: CNET 1, 2
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