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Leaked TCL is an alternative to foldable phones, but still has a tablet-like screen

TCL's phone concept with a slide-out display
Renders of TCL's concept phone (Image credit: CNET)

TCL had a lot to show off at CES 2020 with the likes of 5G and foldable phones under $500, but the company has another design that it was waiting to show off until MWC 2020, and it has a slide-out display, according to sources for CNET.

The images obtained by CNET show the TCL concept phone in a variety of positions and from varying angles. In all, it gives a fairly comprehensive view of the unique design.

It appears the phone has a basic smartphone form factor when it's all closed up, with a cutout at the front for selfie cameras and a vertical array of cameras on the rear. While closed, it would be hard to tell the difference between this and any other premium phone.

But TCL appears to have hidden a lot more screen inside the phone as one edge can slide away to pull out the rest of the display.

Design mysteries

The design is certainly intriguing. It manages to do what the Samsung Galaxy Fold set out to do, but appears to stay smaller in its closed form. It also seems to remain thinner and avoid the need for another display on the back of the device.

But, because we're only seeing renders of the device, it's hard to tell just how TCL is achieving this design and how good the screen will actually look in person. After all, renders of the Galaxy Fold didn't show off the crease that has been present in reality.

TCL's slider phone appears to have one seamless display when in its open position. But, the extended portion of the display has to slip under the rest of the screen somehow. That's the big question here.

If the extra portion of the display curls up underneath, it would require extra space and be subject to some very extreme bends. If it's bent too sharply, it would seem very likely to develop the much maligned crease or even break.

Another possibility (and one we feel may be the most plausible) is that the device simply uses two displays, with one on the top, and another that slides under. Since OLED displays can be incredibly thin, it may be possible for TCL to keep the layers very close, so that when the phone is in the extended position, the height difference of the separate displays is hard to see. 

The only catch is that no matter which way TCL has managed the extra screen section, the very right edge is always present. Whether closed or open, the front-facing cameras are present, and so is the portion of screen around them. If TCL has gone with two screens or a single foldable one that tucks away, the closed position of the phone seems certain to have a small but distinct gap between the left and right sides of the display. 

Unfortunately, because of the MWC's cancellation as a result of the coronavirus, we don't know when we'll have a chance to see TCL's concept in real life and figure out just how this sliding display works.