[MWC 2019] First look at TCL's DragonHinge foldable displays

Foldable displays are all the rage these days, with Samsung announcing the Galaxy Fold at Unpacked, and Huawei introducing the Mate X on Sunday. The problem with those devices is that they're incredibly expensive, a natural consequence of being first-generation products with technology that's very new.

So, companies such as TCL, which don't have the same kind of resources as Samsung or Huawei, are sitting out on this generation of foldable smartphones, but that doesn't mean they're not working on them. At MWC 2019, we got to take a look at TCL's prototypes for foldable phones using its proprietary DragonHinge technology.

TCL had a couple of different takes on foldable smartphones to show off, but none of them is guaranteed to become a real product. The intention is to release a foldable smartphone once the technology has been refined and improved enough that it can be brought to a more reasonable price point, and for now what we see is a few form factors that could be enabled by foldable displays.

Some of them will feel really familiar, sporting the vertical fold that opens up into the larger display. One of the models is shown with an outside display similar to the Galaxy Fold's, but another has a slightly different take on the concept. Instead a full display, an array of LEDs will display basic information such as the time in a way that was described to me as similar to the Dot View case HTC used a few years ago. Unfortunately, that prototype wasn't working.

Other concepts deviate a little from the devices we've seen so far, sporting an horizontal fold that makes the device feel like an old-school flip phone. One of the prototypes is shown as having a protruding portion of the display, which could, for instance, be used to quickly check notifications or take quick actions without opening up the phone.

I did ask TCL about the possibility of a crease forming where the display folds, and I was told that there was no visible crease in the display when it's flat. Of course, we couldn't actually get to touch them, so that's unclear.

While there wasn't one to try out, the TCL representative I talked to mentioned a concept of a phone that can fold and be slapped onto your wrist, almost like a smartwatch. This has been previously reported on, and I think it's always good to see different takes on this kind of technology to see what can be done.

There were also a couple of cases that feel more like small purses, which depict what could end up being a carrying case for a foldable phone form factor. It's important to keep in mind that, as we said above, TCL isn't planning to build this into a real product anytime soon, so things will certainly look different from how they do now. This is just a peek into TCL's vision for future smartphones, which should arrive as soon as next year.

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