TCL plans to launch a €700 folding smartphone, but only if we really want it

When we talk about TCL, we think directly about it TVs that work with Roku, which CNET reviewers rated among the best values ​​money can buy in recent years. The company said it could adopt this price-performance approach foldable smartphones.

TCL already has a phone division three yearsits first smartphone was presented at CES 2020. According to the company, it is a A $750 foldable smartphone (about 700 euros) and would be the cheapest folding phone on the market.

The reason they don’t is apparently because the company isn’t sure enough people will buy it.

“Does it make commercial sense to push now [un
appareil pliable] ? Probably not for us yet.”
he said Stefan StreitGeneral Manager of Global Marketing for TCL, during an interview.
“Of course, if the market starts to move, yes, we will, because we can. »

This is not just a theory. TCL was about to launch its first foldable device (codenamed The Chicago Project) in late 2021. Despite having a model with nearly complete prototypes (Streit continues to use one as a personal phone), TCL shelved the model, saying it couldn’t quite beat the price tag. $700 is below margin. This limit would be closer to the price of its traditional smartphones Less than or equal to $300and more attractive compared to other more expensive foldable phones.

TCL’s look at foldables gives a little more insight into how this nascent (but theoretically popular) part of the industry is changing. Foldable devices were all the rage when they were first announced a few years ago. But after people finally got a chance to buy them, they stayed on store shelves.

the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 €1109 it is currently the most cost-effective folding device in most markets. Number of foldable devices shipped It has doubled in 2022but still only represents 16 million of the 1.24 billion phones shipped last year. TCL’s more value-oriented approach to technology has worked for TVs, so a cheaper folding device could theoretically boost adoption as well.

People are not enthusiastic

It’s only been four years since Samsung introduced its first foldable smartphone in 2019, and people still see them as expensive niche devices rather than alternatives to phones in their pockets.

It’s a foldable smartphone market “grows but doesn’t explode”, as Streit says. According to the regional director of IDC Nabila Popalit must further increase to half to reach 24 million units were sold in 2023, which is a better forecast for this sector than last year. But even his most distant predictions, ie 45 million units were delivered in 2026Not enough to saturate the market for TCL to launch in foldables.

TCL expects foldable phones to take off 50 million units are sold per year before deciding to start.

There’s another reason why TCL doesn’t think consumers will flock to foldable products this year: Inflation has driven up commodity prices. High-end smartphone sales haven’t been affected much by the economic turmoil of the past few years, but that’s largely because the wealthiest have weathered the financial storm and continued to buy flagships.Apple and Samsung 1000 euros and more. Sales of mid-range smartphones, which range between 400 and 600 euros, are where TCL sells its high-end phones.

This range is important for TCL, which is still a young brand in the phone market and introduced its first devices three years ago at CES 2020. average priceasserting TCL’s identity as an affordable, high-value company to convince people to move away from more expensive smartphones from well-known brands like Samsung.

“We don’t have the brand power to get people to pay $1,000 for a product.”” said Streit.

Carriers want 5G, not foldables

Consumers aren’t the only ones who need to get excited about foldable smartphones before TCL launches. Since carriers control a large portion of the US smartphone market, TCL will have to wait until the company is ready to support a foldable smartphone, as they are currently only asking for. 5G smartphones.

“They say TCL, help us continue to improve 5G – that’s more important to us right now, that’s where we focus on getting ROI”” said Streit.

Accordingly, TCL has focused on more affordable 5G smartphones, including the cheapest models that can connect to next-generation networks. Operators have invested heavily in themselves over the past few years 5G networks, is expanding its reach and reach as it races to support more of the US population with faster speeds and higher bandwidth. According to Streit, European operators are also focusing on 5G.

Foldable devices are not just not yet a priority for operators. TCL could release a foldable device, but it doesn’t make financial sense to do so before carriers are enthusiastic enough to support it.

If the operator comes and says:
“Hey TCL, I want you to make a foldable device with these features for this price, and I promise I’ll buy you so much more., yes, we probably will »” said Streit. “Now they don’t have to. »

If not a foldable smartphone, what’s next?

As expected by TCL good time continues to experiment with different screens to launch the foldable device.

At CES 2023, the company announced its product flexible display technology, can be used for foldable laptops like the Asus Zenbook Fold. Like a miniaturized foldable smartphone, a foldable laptop is a a large screen with a crease in the middle. Users can tilt half the screen to type on the lower half of the numeric keypad while looking at the upper half, or tilt more creatively to maximize screen real estate.

TCL is also considering whether to produce a display smartphone using it NXTPAPERits touchscreen technology is used for sensation in some of its tablets touch no more and one better blue light filtering Compared to LCD or OLED screens. The company is investigating whether consumers want smartphones to have this display technology, which makes it easier to read text on the screen for long periods of time. If so, it can start a special version The future smartphone with NXTPAPER screen.

TCL may yet come up with a completely different smartphone-sized foldable display, like the concept devices shown before MWC 2022, one that folds fully like a 2-in-1 laptop and the other that folds and rolls. But while the company comes up with crazy ideas and collects consumer feedback, it continues to work on more practical models for the mass market. The key is to have a device ready to handle the wave of demand when it comes.

“If the market moves, we definitely want to be there and have something.”” said Streit.
“We just don’t have the strength to build the market ourselves. » article adapted from CNET France

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