Despite the rather buggy and non-rugged durability of the first practical commercial folding-screen smartphones introduced by various manufacturers to the world mobile market, their advent has been construed as the beginning of an era for mobile R&D in the development of foldable touchscreens. The next element of progression in this field would be to improve on anything from folding-screen materials, to better design of the hinged shells of the phone-tablet, and more. Chinese electronics firm TCL however, is already looking beyond a phone screen that folds; they are working on a device prototype with a screen and a shell frame that can functionally “roll up.”
That is what The Verge found out from TCL which has begun showcasing two devices that they are working on releasing in the future, one probably sooner than the other. The first is their take on the folding touchscreen smartphone-tablet, where their spin on the concept is to give the devices three folds. The second is the aforementioned rolling-screen phone, a non-electronic mockup of which was actually leaked last month. The trifold phone-tablet also entered the public perception as a non-functioning dummy at the last Consumer Electronics Show (CES) back in January of this year.
On its folded-up smartphone mode, TCL’s trifold device comes across as an average-dimension but extra-thick smartphone. When unfolded however, its tablet form actually matches the size of most regular tablet computers, unlike earlier working folding-phones like Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, which comes across more as an extra-wide mobile. The three-fold mechanical system, which can lie flat compared to the rather bulging position of the Galaxy Fold, is made possible by TCL’s secret “DragonHinge” mechanism, which is said to involved small gears. Whether the result actually is far more durable than those folding touchscreen phone-tablet hybrids that came before remains to be seen.
At least that device actually has a prototype. The rollup phone that TCL has been fiddling with, the one whose non-working dummy model (with color-printed paper screen), actually has not reached the same level of advancement as the unnamed trifold. While starting out as, again, a smartphone, when a button on the mockup is pressed, the sides move apart and the flexible display “unspools” from the back of the device, until maximum extension (tablet form) is reached. Apparently a real working prototype of this exotic smartphone is being developed back in TCL’s Japan laboratory.
Of course, in order to take advantage of these leaps in display hardware, a comparable software development must happen. And so far none of the Android MOS developers have gotten around to making versions compatible with the mechanics of a screen with three folds, or one that unrolls. It is probably a good thing that TCL has no price quote or estimated release date for either of these prototypes yet.
Image from Digital Trends