TCL is working on a new telephone with an extendable display, leaked images published by CNET suggest. Unlike devices that are folded in half, such as the Motorola Razr or Samsung Galaxy Fold, the images show a phone that seems to work like an extendable dining table, with a second screen that slides from under the first. According to CNETSources, TCL was planning to show off the phone at MWC before the stock market was canceled due to the fear of coronavirus.
The images paint an attractive picture of what the device could be, but they raise more questions than they answer. To begin with, when the device is expanded, does the screen seem to extend continuously from one edge to the other, which raises the question of where it goes when the device is not expanded? If it folds behind the first screen, it must bend very sharply to fit into the case of the smartphone. The design also suggests that half the phone remains empty when the device is expanded, as it must fit while the device is in more compact mode
Just because the device would be displayed on MWC does not mean that it will be somewhere near release. TCL has shown its foldable prototype devices at a number of different shows, but it still has to announce a product for the consumer. Last year, TCL had a folding prototype at MWC that was so fragile that even TCL’s own staff were warned not to touch it. Then, earlier this year, at CES, the company was willing to let people fold its prototype, but said it was “slow” when it came to releasing a foldable device.
Regardless of how far away the device is from the release, the images suggest that phone manufacturers are not ready to experiment with new form factors. Whether it is tablet-sized devices that can be folded to become as large as a smartphone, smartphones that can be collapsed to become more compact, or even devices that can be collapsed more than once, there is still no idea too wild to fall off the table.