TCL Phone Home!

HiddenWires' US correspondent, Michael Heiss, looks at TCL's launch of new smartphones and their flexible displays.

Image caption: While still a concept, when TCL releases the their “3-in-1” production model later this year it will set a new benchmark for display technology. Source: TCL

Remember the words you hated to hear when walking into class and the first words from the teacher or professor were “POP QUIZ!”. Without bringing back any bad memories, let’s start with one here. If I say, “TCL…what is the first thing that comes to mind?”.

Depending on where you live or what you do, the answer may vary. Here in the US the response would almost always be “Smart TVs”. In other parts of the globe the answer might also be “home appliances”. If you are working for a consumer electronics brand the answer might even be, “They are the OEM/ODM that builds some of our products or supplies component parts.” However, for most of you I’ll bet that the one thing that might not have come to mind would be “mobile phones”.

When I received the invite to a press briefing that took place on Wednesday and the email header showed “Display Greatness”, that immediately brought the Smart TV category to mind. However, if I was still back in a classroom, I would have gotten an “F” on the pop quiz. The event was the announcement of three new TCL smartphones. OK, maybe I would have gotten a “D”, as phones do have a display, correct?

For those unfamiliar with the brand in that market space, TCL has manufactured mobile phones for over 20 years, and since 2019 they have sold phones under its own brand in 49 counties across the globe. Indeed, I’ve been using their current TCL 10Pro for a year and it is very competitive in its price band with more well-known phones.

Expanding their latest series of mobile handsets, TCL unveiled three new products with previews of some exciting things to come.

The new TCL 20 Pro 5G packs both the latest high speed connectivity with a top performing 4K camera in a value-priced model. Source: TCL

Given the “Display Greatness” theme, all three phones feature TCL’s NXTVISION image technology for sharper images and elevated levels of eye protection to reduce eye strain and blue light. All three of the new phones have 6.67” displays with 1080x2400 resolution, with the top-end TCP 20 Pro 5G using an AMOLED display. All will also ship with Android 11 and an upgrade to Android 12 is planned with the commitment to two years of security patches. The TCL 20 Pro 5G will also have two major OS updates, the 20L and 20L+ will receive one major OS update.

Critical to HiddenWires readers for their business use, or for clients with strong Android-based Android enterprise ecosystems, all three new models are verified by Google as “Android Enterprise Recommended” devices.

At the entry level price range, the new TCL 20L and TCL 20L+ both will catch your eye, literally, with TUV Rheinland-certified Circular Polarisation Display technology. This is something many of us have been looking for since the dawn of smartphones. This delivers the ability to view the screen outdoors in direct sunlight with your sunglasses on and still see the display perfectly with natural colours. Both also have 5,000 mAh battery capacity and use the Snapdragon 662 chipset.

The case on the new TCL 20L+ has a back panel with over a million prismatic crystal pits for a dazzling light reflective surface. Source: TCL

The TCL 20L, listing at £199.99 / €229, has a four-camera rear array, led by a 48MP main camera. The front camera is 16MP and onboard memory is 128GB with a micro SD card available to up the game to 1TB.

For €40 more, at €269, the TCL 20L+ has twice the onboard memory at 256GB and ups the rear camera to 64MP. There is also a Backlit Selfie cam and Super Night Mode. For streaming driven parties, or phone conferences when others have to listen in, up to four separate Bluetooth devices may be connected at the same time.

As the name implies, the TCL 20 Pro 5G has the latest cell phone technology for the fastest speeds a carrier can deliver. Camera and video features provide top-end performance at a value price of £499 / €549. The 48MP rear camera is a Sony IMX sensor with Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS). Along with the 32MP front camera, the Backlight Selfie capability is also there.

Particularly for those who want to record and video for demonstration on large screens, the Pro 5G records at up to 4K/30fps. The chipset is a Snapdragon 750G 5G, and there is 256GB of ROM memory, expandable to 1TB with a micro SD card, and 6GB of RAM.

TCL’s new 20L and 20L+ models have Circular Polarisation Displays that let you see crisp, full colour images even when wearing sunglass. Source: TCL

The phones that were shown at the TCL virtual event which many will find the most interesting are the ones you still can’t purchase yet. Remembering that TCL is a true vertical manufacturer, they make their own displays for both TVs and phones at their CSOT sister company. For large screen TVs this is the origin of TCL’s first-in-class microLED technology, but they have also been hard at work on the next dimension of video screens: bendable, foldable and rollable.

When combined with their innovative Dragon Hinge design, this gives the user more than the “folds together like a book” phones already on the market. While there was a demo of a prototype that will not be the final launch product, there was the promise that a model with this technology will be here later this year. How about this all available from a single device: 6.87” phone, an 8.85” “phablet” and a 10” tablet. All three of these in one device! This is something that I’m waiting to see, as it could be a multifunction productivity tool on the job and a great way to watch content and communicate with in off hours.

I started this article with a quiz, and that is also how we’ll end. The question is: “We don’t sell phones, why should our company care about all of this?”. Indeed, a good question. The answer is multifold.

First, particularly with the “bend/fold/roll” technology, this is a look into not only small devices, but the greater universe of what is fast approaching for display technology. Second, particularly in a market segment that is often intensely brand-driven it is always a good idea to have a few options to suggest when you are asked to make a communications device recommendation. TCL claims to be the second largest TV brand in the world, which not only gives them credibility for all types of products, your awareness of TCL shows clients that you are up on your game.

As handheld devices become a more central part of the home system every day, being able to recommend top quality products for more budget-sensitive users is more critical today than ever. Keep an eye out on TCL for TVs and phones. If you haven’t become familiar with them yet, you should. The phones are now available un the UK, Italy and Portugal and will roll out to more select regions around the world in the coming weeks.

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