TCL might not be the first company you think of in the smartphone world, but its first entries into the affordable smartphone market showed plenty of promise. For over a year, the company has also demonstrated intriguing foldable phone concepts. But now TCL says it’s putting those plans on hold.
TCL’s previous demonstrations were wilding fold and roll or tri-fold concepts. But more recently, behind the scenes, the company was working on Project Chicago, a Galaxy Z Flip-like device (pictured in renders above). We understand that TCL was far along in the project, and while the phone wasn’t finalized, it created samples to send out for hands-on reporting.
But TCL’s main focus is in the affordable smartphone market, not the flagship territory. And even without an ongoing chip shortage amid a global pandemic, foldable phones are hard to create. Even harder to make affordable. Samsung is arguably ahead of the rest of the competition and only recently managed to bring its Galaxy Z Flip down to “just” $1,000. That’s flagship pricing.
In a statement sent to us, TCL’s CMO of TCL Communication, Stefan Streit, explained the situation and confirmed the news to pause foldable work:
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.
While it wasn’t finalized, what we have seen of Project Foldable suggests a fairly comparable phone to the Galaxy Z flip. We don’t have word on the processor but plans called for a 48-megapixel rear camera with OIS, up to 6 GBs of RAM, 128 GBs of storage, wireless charging, and other premium features.
TCL isn’t stepping away from foldable phones forever. Instead, the company will wait until it’s possible to make a foldable phone at a more affordable price range, then pick up where it left off. How long that will be isn’t clear yet. But probably not anytime soon.