TCL — best known for its well-received and wallet-friendly TVs — announced at CES earlier this year that it would be entering the mobile phone business. And now, we’ve finally got the full details on its first three phones — the TCL 10 Pro, 10L, and 10 5G — which will all cost under $500 when they’re released in Q2 this year.
The most interesting of the three is the TCL 10 5G, which looks to fill an interesting niche as one of the first midrange 5G smartphones. It’s powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765G processor, which is the chipmaker’s first chipset that features an integrated 5G modem. (The flagship Snapdragon 865 still requires a separate modem chip.) Given that the vast majority of 5G phones so far have been pricey, $1,000-plus flagships, it’s a much cheaper entry to 5G than most of what we’ve seen on the market so far.
Rounding out the specs are a 6.53-inch LCD display, four rear cameras (at 64 megapixels, 8 megapixels, 5 megapixels, and 2 megapixels), a 4,500mAh battery, 6GB RAM, 128GB of internal storage, a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Unfortunately, it’s also the phone with the least amount of availability information, with TCL only promising it’ll be here “later this year” for €399 / £399. While the company does plan to release the 10 5G in the US with an unnamed carrier partnership, there’s no word yet as to when that will be, how much it’ll cost, or even which carrier’s 5G network it’ll run on.
Next is the $449 TCL 10 Pro, which is technically the primary flagship of the lineup. It’s got a slightly worse processor than the 10 5G, with a Snapdragon 675, but slightly better specs, with features like a 6.47-inch curved OLED display (at 2340 x 1080 pixels) instead of an LCD panel, and an in-display fingerprint sensor. The camera setup is slightly different, with a 64-megapixel pain camera, a dedicated low-light video camera, a macro lens, and an ultrawide lens.
Otherwise, the 10 Pro largely resembles its cheaper 5G counterpart, with a 4,500mAh battery, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and a headphone jack.
Lastly, there’s the $249 10L, the entry-level option, which is effectively a budget version of the 10 Pro. The 6.53-inch display is LCD, instead of OLED (although the 2340 x 1080 resolution is the same). The Snapdragon 665 processor is slightly weaker, the 4,000mAh battery is slightly smaller, and the fingerprint sensor is on the back instead of integrated into the display. There’s still 6GB of RAM, although there’s both a base 64GB storage model as well as a 128GB SKU available.
There’s also still a quadruple rear camera system, but the specs are worse almost across the board: a 48-megapixel main camera, an 8-megapixel “superwide,” a 2-megapixel macro, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. And like TCL’s other phones, there’s still a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The new 10-Series phones aren’t the flashy foldable concepts that TCL has been fond of showing off. But the new 10-Series lineup is an important first step for the company to start establishing itself as a player in the midrange phone landscape that’s dominated by brands like Motorola and HMD’s Nokia. To be clear, TCL will certainly have an uphill battle ahead of it, considering the experience and legacy that those two brands have in the mobile space.
The bigger issue is that while TCL — at least on paper — has made a series of competent phones here, there’s also not much that immediately causes them to stand out among the rest of the lineup of midrange phones available today. And that’s something TCL is going to have to contend with as it gets closer to releasing its 10-Series devices.