TCL unveiled a slew of low-cost smartphones today. It also revealed yet another wacky prototype product that we’ll almost certainly never see in the real world. It’s called the Fold n’ Roll, and the name pretty much sums it up.
Since the early days of iOS and Android, the last year or so has been one of the most exciting times for smartphone design.
Following the bezel wars of a few years ago, businesses are now experimenting with wackier form factors that deviate from the standard. We’ve seen foldable phones and rollable phones, so it was only a matter of time before someone combined the two.
TCL has done just that with its revolutionary “Fold ‘n Roll” model.
TCL’s impressive Fold ‘n Roll blends the best of folding phones like the Huawei Mate X2 with the rollable phone model popularized by the ill-fated LG Rollable. The TCL Fold ‘n Roll will not only fold out from a 6.87-inch phone to an 8.85-inch phablet, but it can also roll out to become a 10-inch tablet.
The Fold n’ Roll starts out as a standard-looking smartphone with a 6.87-inch display, but it unfolds Mate X-style into a slim, squarish tablet with an 8.85-inch diagonal screen. The panel can then be rolled out even further from its housing when the situation requires it, taking its final size to a full ten inches. To cut a long story short, this thing is insane.
TCL hasn’t settled on the technical specifications for the Fold ‘n Roll, but it will have hinges and mechanisms that haven’t been used in folding phones before. The company did not show off a working prototype, only renders.
The smartphone has a hinge that allows the flexible screen tucked within the body of the device to fold and unfurl, transforming it from a 6.87-inch phone to a 10-inch tablet. It also appears to have a stylus on the bottom of the unit, making it appealing for on-the-go scribbling.
The device also has an ‘outer’ screen, which means that a pliable display like this is more likely to be damaged. Instead of folding inward like the Galaxy Z Fold 2‘s main panel, it has a flexible monitor that curves around the outside of the device’s frame.
Huawei was the only notable company to use the outie design before the Mate X2, but even they had moved away from it by the time the Mate X2 was launched. Of course, a system with several screen expansion mechanisms would be expensive to manufacture, so it would have to be expensive to sell.
However, TCL has steered clear of marketing high-priced smartphones and tablets. It’s possible that some of the company’s more ambitious devices would suffer from the same fate.
Regardless, we’re all anticipating the arrival of rollable phones in our homes this year. We all know the LG Rollable isn’t going to happen, but there are a few other candidates, including TCL, who might be able to pull it off.
The Fold n’ Roll may be an apt representation of what mobile hardware would look like in the future.