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TCL’s foldable concepts are unlike anything we’ve seen before

They can fold, flip, and roll!

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Are you a believer in the future of foldable smartphones, but not quite convinced about what’s currently available in the market today? 

TCL, a brand best known for making high-end televisions for less, is looking to leverage its display expertise with 3 new experiments that not only hope to pave the way to a future that’s dominated by foldable, bendable, and rollable displays but also to create technology that’s not just novel, but also practical.

Pocketbook

We first saw TCL’s “pocketbook concept” (nicknames all my own) late last year but got our hands on a fully working model this January at CES 2020 in Las Vegas. 

A cross between the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Microsoft’s upcoming Surface Pro Duo – this concept device borrows the same horizontal fold idea, albeit wider on both sides. 

Its shape is reminiscent of a book, some have also compared it to a wallet or passport. 

When opened up, the two folded screens turn into a 7.2-inch tablet with a 2K AMOLED display, but its nothing more than that, at least in its current state. You can’t fold it in such a way that would transform it into a smartphone. 

There is no secondary display on the outside. Instead all you’ll find is a row of cameras and this lovely textured glass finish that makes it look like a multi-faceted precious gem.

This concept devices uses TCL’s new Butterfly Hinge that allows the the device to be folded shut without a visible gap in between.

Tri-fold

TCL’s tri-fold concept was born out of the desire for foldable displays to be used for even bigger screen experiences. So instead of just one fold, it folds into 3, transforming from a smartphone about the the size of a Nokia Communicator to that of a 10-inch tablet. 

It’s the first foldable concept we’ve seen with two separate hinges. One folds inward, the other outward. One side uses TCL’s Butterfly Hinge, the other an older hinge design TCL first showed off a full year ago called the Dragon Hinge – which forms an accordion like tear drop shape when folded shut. 

While it become one hefty smartphone when folded and doesn’t stay put as firmly as a regular tablet when unfolded, the idea of being able to fit a 10-inch tablet in your pocket is pretty amazing. 

TCL’s General Manage of Global Marketing Stefan Streit says, “the idea is to go in a direction where people won’t have to bring multiple devices.”     

Rollable display

Of all the design experiments, for me personally, the TCL’s rollable display is most exciting.  And that’s possibly because I’m still waiting for that smartphone that folds into a tube of lipstick like Samsung teased 7years ago.

Unlike the other two devices, or any other device that’s leveraged bendable display technology up to this point this TCL concept does neither has a hinge, nor does it fold. 

Instead, internal motors allow the display on what looks like a regular smartphone to expand to become a 7.8-inch tablet. Imagine physically stretching the phone apart to make it bigger and then squeezing it back together to shrink it. 

Instead of a hinge mechanism these motors furl and unfurl the rollable display, tucking part of the display away and out of sight when not needed. 

At our briefing we were only showed a mock up that you have to manually stretch yourself – but we were showed video of an actual working prototype that does this automatically with the push of a button.

Pricing and availability

TCL stresses none of these concepts are ready for primetime, and are instead investments in finding the best, most practical use cases of this technology. Streit calls it “a long term play” in TCL’s new smartphone business, which marks the launch of its new flagship lineup in the US this week. 

If and when TCL launches its own foldable or rollable smartphone – we’re told to expect it to be priced competitively, matching TCL’s philosophy of offering great displays at more affordable accessible prices.

 


 

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Xiaomi’s foldable phone spotted in the wild

Is this a prototype?

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Everyone’s getting into foldable smartphones these days. After Samsung’s semi-successful foray into the market, other smartphones are rushing to compete with the South Korean giant. One of the earliest experimenters with the form factor, Xiaomi is apparently making strides in the foldable market. In China, Xiaomi’s foldable phone was spotted out in the wild.

In a now-deleted Weibo post (saved by GSMArena), the leaked phone is a whopper of a device. It’s obviously that Xiaomi’s foldable phone since it runs MIUI 12. It looks a lot larger than Samsung’s Galaxy Z lineup. However, it’s large enough to wield in a subway, as the photo portrays.

Whatever this is, it doesn’t look like it’s doing well. The device has a sizable crease running along its midsection. Back in the Galaxy Fold’s early days, Samsung had the same problem before fixing it in later iterations. Since the technology already exists, it’s likely that the spotted Xiaomi device is an early version of whatever the company is actually working on.

Xiaomi has teased an upcoming foldable phone in the past. However, the company has not outed a consumer-friendly foldable phone outside of prototypes. The last time we heard about a potential Xiaomi foldable phone was an old patent revealed last year.

SEE ALSO: Xiaomi patents an upcoming foldable phone

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Samsung will remove the free charger from more phones

Confirmed in an official Q&A

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The cat’s out of the bag. After months of persistent rumors, Samsung has finally ended its free charging adapters and wired earphones starting with the Galaxy S21 series. The controversial decision mimics Apple’s identical ones last October. One question remains, though: Will Samsung remove the free charger in other smartphones? Apparently, yes.

In an official Q&A with Samsung’s officials, the company explained why it chose to remove the free charger from the flagship series. As expected, Samsung is taking the same stance as Apple; that is, everyone already has a bunch of extra chargers lying around anyway. Further, the removal will help in Samsung’s sustainability goals for the future.

However, in explaining their stance, Samsung has revealed its plans for the future. “To support our Galaxy community in this journey, we are transitioning to removal of the charger plug and earphones in our latest line of Galaxy smartphones,” Patrick Chomet, executive vice president of product and innovation, explains.

Besides the Galaxy S21 series, Samsung is likely phasing out the free chargers in future models, too. Thankfully, if you haven’t acclimated to the charger-less future yet, the company is not changing last year’s smartphone packaging; not yet at least, according to online store pages.

If Samsung is truly removing its chargers for future models, we’ll know soon enough. Unlike Apple, who releases smartphones more sporadically, Samsung launches numerous models throughout the year. After starting the year off with a charger-less bang, 2021 is going to be an exciting roller coaster for flagship users.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy S21 Series Hands-on

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Trump administration blacklists Xiaomi, 10 other Chinese companies

Xiaomi headed the Huawei way?

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The US has added Xiaomi and 10 other Chinese companies to a blacklist amid national security concerns. The current blacklist is only focused on companies that have military ties and strategic importance in China.

The Defense Department released names of additional “Communist Chinese military companies” operating directly or indirectly in the United States.

Although adding Xiaomi to the list is surprising, the company has largely remained apolitical and focuses on making affordable smartphones. Considered to be China’s answer to Apple, Xiaomi plays a crucial role in progressing China’s telecommunication industry. It surpassed Apple in global smartphone sales in the third quarter, according to IDC.

Xiaomi is China’s second-largest smartphone maker and dominates multiple developing markets like India. Xiaomi’s stock plunged more than 10 percent following the announcement, although it’s considered to be a knee-jerk reaction at the moment.

The ban means that Xiaomi risks getting delisted from global benchmarks like MSCI and American stock exchanges. Just last week, China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom were removed from MSCI indexes. This largely affects their ability to raise capital from the open market in the future due to global compliance complications.

In response, a Xiaomi spokesperson told GadgetMatch, “The Company has been in compliance with the law and operating in compliance with the relevant laws and regulations of jurisdictions where it conducts its businesses. The Company reiterates that it provides products and services for civilian and commercial use. The Company confirms that it is not owned, controlled, or affiliated with the Chinese military, and is not a “Communist Chinese Military Company” defined under the NDAA. The Company will take an appropriate course of actions to protect the interests of the Company and its shareholders.”

Other companies banned

Apart from Xiami, the additional companies blacklisted include Advanced Micro-Fabrication Equipment, Luokong Technology Corporation, Beijing Zhongguancun Development Investment Center, GOWIN Semiconductor, Grand China Air Company, Global Tone Communication Technology, China National Aviation Holding, and Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC).

Furthermore, the ban is a stepping stone for US authorities to curb Chinese companies’ growth in the international market. The US took a similar step with Huawei and gradually pushed it out of every possible industry. Today, Huawei can’t use Google Mobile Services, cannot ship phones to the US, and has lost significant ground in supplying 5G equipment to telcos worldwide.

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