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TCL shows off flexible displays and “DragonHinge” technology at MWC

Chinese firm shows off foldable devices but they won’t be available until 2020

Not keen to be left out following the recent spate of foldable phone announcements, Alcatel owner TCL Communications has unveiled its own flexible displays and accompanying “DragonHinge” technology at MWC in Barcelona.

However, unlike Samsung and Huawei’s foldable phones, which will be available to buy over the coming months, TCL’s devices are firmly prototypes. Indeed, the firm made it clear that it won’t be releasing a consumer-ready device until some time next year.

TCL did show some specifications alongside the main prototype, however, which was secured behind behind a glass cabinet at the tech show. The most significant of these are that the device has a 7.2in 2K display in its unfolded state and a 90.7% screen-to-body ratio. That’s a similar display size to the Samsung Galaxy Fold, and a little smaller than the Huawei Mate X.

As for the folding mechanism, the DragonHinge offers a 180-degree inward folding movement, meaning the device halves in size when it’s folded. Like Samsung and Huawei’s foldable phones it, too, counts multitasking among the main user benefits.

Why wait?

So why show off prototypes if they’re still a long way from being ready for public consumption? As well as making a statement of intent, the Chinese firm explained that it wants to refine the technology rather than rush it out.

“When we look at the potential of our flexible device portfolio, we’re obviously very excited about what we’ll be bringing to market down the road,” said Peter Lee, General Manager, Global Sales and Marketing at TCL Communication.

“However, we’re not in a race to be the first because we feel it is more responsible to take a patient, thoughtful approach.”

TCL’s Global Product Center General Manager Shane Lee elaborated on this, explaining it’s the software challenges rather than hardware concerns that are holding up the release.

“With the announcement of DragonHinge, we’re able to show the world how we’ll overcome the mechanical housing challenges that must be solved in order to support these new foldable form factors,” he said.

“We now have a hardware solution to build from, freeing us up to tackle the unique software experiences this new technology enables, and how it all ties in to the larger connected ecosystem as we prepare to launch our first foldable device next year.”

The fact that so few people have been able to go hands-on with Samsung and Huawei’s new foldable phones makes me wonder if they, too, still face major obstacles as far as software development is concerned. As with any new product category, it will take a considerable amount of time before third-party developers can optimise their apps for an interesting, but unfamiliar, form factor.

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