So far, foldable phones have been the only manifestation we've seen of a device that can turn from a phone into a tablet. Samsung and Huawei have already delivered, even if in a somewhat limited manner, a clear vision of this kind of product with the Galaxy Fold and the Huawei Mate X. But there may be a different way to achieve this kind of hybrid device, and TCL could be one of the first companies to make it happen.
A series of images discovered by CNET's Jessica Dolcourt showcase a new device from the company, who is better known for its Alcatel-branded smartphones, with a display that extends from a phone to a tablet form factor by sliding out from the main body. According to the report, the phone would have been seen at this year's Mobile World Congress, hadn't the event been canceled in light of the Covid-19 outbreak.
When the slide-out display is closed, the phone looks like a regular phone with a mostly edge-to-edge display and a display cutout for the front-facing cameras. The phone can then be extended sideways to reveal an additional portion of that screen that's hidden behind the main display. This extended display is, of course, supported by some sort of material on the back so as to protect it while in use. Additionally, the rear-camera setup is located on the right-most edge of the phone in a vertical arrangement, where the slide-out mechanism is less likely to have an impact on the internal arrangement of the components.
As pointed out by Dolcourt, this design could have some benefits over the foldable approach we've seen so far, like using a single battery unit instead of splitting it between the two halves of the phone. It could also prevent a crease from developing on the display, but it's hard to imagine that the transition from the main display to the extended portion would go unnoticed to users.
With this year's MWC having been canceled, it remains to be seen when and if we'll get to see this device in real life.