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TCL’s recent patent filing shows off two familiar foldable phones

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The Flextab may release in late 2020

TCL’s foldable phones appear in a series of recently published patents, which were first picked up by Mobile Kopen (via LetsGoDigital). These patents contain renders that outline, in pretty thorough detail, TCL’s take on a Galaxy Fold-esque device as well as a clamshell design that mimics a flip phone, with a large, seamless display once it’s opened up.

This isn’t the first time that TCL’s foldable phones have made a blip on our radar. As you can see in the video above, we got as close as TCL would allow to some working prototypes of its 7.2-inch device at MWC 2019. These renders seem to match up with what was on display, down to the vertical camera module that features three camera lenses.

Image: Mobiel Kopen

The company made a big deal of its DragonHinge at its prototype showing, comprised of gears and built to flex the screen in a tactile, reassuring manner. Vlad Savov, formerly of The Verge, had a chance to try it out behind closed doors, and he was impressed by it.

The hinge creates a noticeable gap between the two sides of the folded display, and the patent filing makes it tough to see if TCL has made progress in slimming that down to something more pocket-friendly, like the Galaxy Fold. But having a gap might be a shortcut for getting a device like this to store shelves without similar snags.

Image: Mobiel Kopen

TCL’s clamshell foldable phone makes an appearance in our first-look at its upcoming devices but in a non-working condition. One of the patents appears to show more angles to this phone, including what it will look like when it’s opened. And it looks a lot like a regular smartphone.

Photo by Evan Blass

There aren’t many other details in either patent, but leaker Evan Blass posted an image that appears to detail TCL’s product road map. In it, the company’s big foldable phone is given a name — Flextab — which might be coming out in late 2020.

TCL told us that it’s aiming to release a more affordable foldable phone, unlike the nearly $2,000 price tag that Samsung will charge in September when its Galaxy Fold relaunches. It’s sitting at €1,299, which converts to about $1,441. That’s cheaper, sure, but perhaps it’s not cheap enough to convince people to opt for TCL, which is a trusted name in TVs, not phones. There’s still no word on when the clamshell model might release.