At a private briefing during MWC (that evidently wasn’t all that private), TCL showed us some concepts of foldable screens and devices it’s been working on. The devices don’t have names, release dates, or even really a considered use case – they’re just explorations of form factor and engineering, not reflections of upcoming product designs. They’re neat to look at, but that’s really all you can say about them at this point. Well, almost.
The one part of them that does have a name is TCL’s “Dragon Hinge,” which uses a complex system of gears to facilitate the folding motion of these concept devices. TCL wasn’t sharing too much about exactly how the Dragon Hinge works – and wouldn’t let us photograph the mechanism – but I came away with the suspicion that it intends to market this innovation to other manufacturers, not just utilize it in its own upcoming products.
TCL is a huge manufacturer of display panels, and it provides those panels to a large number of customers globally. As such, you have to look at TCL’s interest in folding displays not only as that of a smartphone maker, but as a screen vendor. If a demand begins to emerge for folding displays – and especially ones that can be easily scaled to different sizes and form factors – TCL wants to be an option for potential customers. With the brand’s focus on developing cost-effective technology, TCL hopes that it will be able to offer foldable devices in a way that doesn’t come with a $2000 price tag – something everyone probably wants to hear on the heels of Samsung’s Galaxy Fold announcement.
It does sound as though TCL isn’t only interested in being a foldable display supplier, though, and that makes sense. While it’s making no announcements or commitments just yet, the idea of a TCL-branded foldable display smartphone isn’t hard to imagine – and if it can come in at even half the cost of a Galaxy Fold, it’ll look like an absolute bargain. After all, what better way to show would-be clients what you can do than by building your own version of the product?