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TCL backs out of 2021 foldable release, displays cost-conscious ‘Chicago’ design

Samsung’s latest foldable devices prove that the technology is ready for mainstream users, but Samsung is the only major player at the moment. TCL has for long been teasing foldable devices, and while it is not coming to the market, the company showcased its ‘Chicago’ design, this concept would have been the most affordable foldable device ever.

“Chicago” is the codename for TCL’s first foldable phone, which, unfortunately, has been postponed indefinitely.

At the very least, it will not go on sale this year as TCL had previously promised. The device would have shipped with the Snapdragon 765 SoC in a foldable form factor nearly identical to Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip Series.

Early units of the device were shipped to some journalists, including MrMobile, CNET, and others, they were essentially sent working prototypes of the hardware. First impressions were not as glowing as the Galaxy Z Flip 3, but for the price point, it appears as a bang for the buck kind of device.

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The main differences between the Flip and “Chicago” appear to be the lack of 5G support, a slightly modified outer display, and a hinge design that fully closed the device instead of leaving a gap as Samsung’s does.

TCL’s design also would have foregone water resistance.

In a statement, to ZDNet, TCL elaborated more on why it decided to pull the plug on this device.

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“As one of the world’s largest display and smartphone manufacturers, TCL has spent decades developing products that deliver high-end technologies at affordable price points. In recent years, TCL has invested billions of dollars into the research and development of new and upcoming display technologies, including flexible displays and foldable smartphones.

Although the foldable market is growing each year, it is still a premium product category. In combination with recent component shortages, the COVID-19 pandemic, and rising costs in foldable production, TCL has made the difficult decision to suspend the launch of its first commercially available foldable smartphone until the company can produce and bring it to market at a price point that’s accessible to as many consumers as possible.

TCL remains committed to investing in flexible display technologies and is closely monitoring the market to determine the best time to launch a foldable smartphone. In the meantime, we continue to focus on our “5G for All” initiative introduced at Mobile World Congress 2021, in which we work with carriers around the world to deliver 5G solutions to all consumers across a variety of price points and product categories.”

TCL did not directly confirm the price of “Chicago”, but an article mentioned that the device may have retailed around the ballpark figure of $800(58,820 INR). If it was true, this would have undercut Samsung by nearly $200 and made the device and cheapest foldable device on the market. However, TCL’s logic was that if customers are willing to spend $800 on a phone, they are willing to spend $1000 on one that is better, which the Galaxy Flip3 most certainly is.

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Sumedh Joshi
Sumedh Joshi
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