While you may have heard of tech company TCL, it might not be for its smartphones. The Chinese tech giant is well known for its aggressively priced TVs, which sell in countries around the world, as well as a selection of soundbars that go with those TVs.
TCL does make smartphones as well, however – in particular, mid-range or affordable models. Depending on where you live, you’ve probably seen one or more on the shelves of phone shops.
Over the course of many years, TCL has released handsets under its own name as well as that of Alcatel and BlackBerry – yes, that BlackBerry, so there’s every chance that you may have already seen, or owned, a TCL phone.
In this guide, we offer an insight into the Chinese tech company and the smartphones it’s brought to market. If you’re interested in other gadgets from the company, TechRadar has produced a guide on whether you should buy a TCL TV.
A brief history of TCL
TCL was founded in 1981, but its smartphone heritage doesn’t stretch back that far. In 2004, the company joined forces with French tech company Alcatel to make smartphones; a year later, TCL bought out Alcatel.
In 2016, TCL acquired the rights to the BlackBerry name, allowing the company to launch phones under the well-known brand name. The company did this for four years, until late-2020. A few months later, a different brand bought the rights to BlackBerry, so any new BlackBerry handsets that have appeared since that time have nothing to do with TCL.
It was only in 2019 that TCL started using its own name on smartphones, with the TCL 10 series.
What phones does TCL make?
The main range of TCL phones, which seems to be the one that’s updated most, is the numbered line: TCL 10, TCL 20, and so on. These phones come in a few versions, such as the TCL 10 Pro or 10 5G, and are often roughly mid-range in price.
We generally don't see these phone series come yearly in new generational updates though, unlike mobiles from other big brands.
Occasionally, the company puts out Alcatel phones, which are budget devices with low-end specs. The phones feature number indicators, with higher numbers being higher-end, and the year in the name, so you can see how new they are.
TCL phone availability information
Typically, TCL phones haven’t followed a clear release pattern, although we have often seen new models shown off at tech shows such as IFA in August and CES in January.
The company sells most of its phones in the US, and some models in Australia and the UK.
Other tech TCL sells
Alongside smartphones, and apart from TVs and soundbars, TCL also sells a few tablets. The TCL 10 Tab Max and Alcatel Joy Tab, for example, are low-end Android tablets to rival the Amazon Fire Tab line. The brand also makes kid-oriented slates, and has confirmed that it has a color ereader in the works.
The company’s range of products also includes headphones, with wireless, true wireless and wired units available for a fairly affordable price.
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Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.
He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. He also currently works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.