One of the most promising applications of flexible-screen technology is the ability to combine two form factors in one. Mostly, that has been pitched in a slightly unimaginative ‘tablet to phone’ design, but a new patent from TCL shows that the technology could be used as a smartwatch that unfolds into a fully-featured smartphone.
According to patents spotted by Cnet, TCL – the Chinese company behind the BlackBerry and Palm reboots, as well as Alcatel – is working on no fewer than five flexible screens, which include two tablets, two phones and the aforementioned smartwatch-smartphone hybrid.
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Both the tablet and phone designs have the same variation: one that folds with the display folding inward, and another with it facing outwards when closed.
The plans are preliminary and subject to change at any time, which is hardly surprising – it wouldn’t make much sense to have both an in-folding and out-folding phone on the market at the same time.
It’s also not clear when any device would be available to buy, but it doesn’t look any will be competing with the first flexible handsets due for big unveils at MWC 2019 next week. In a separate interview with Cnet last month, Stefan Streit, TCL’s general manager of global marketing told the site that the first foldable wouldn’t be until 2020.
“We don’t want to be the first in the market,” he said. “We want to make sure there’s a real value proposition behind it.”
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Whether or not the “it” in question will be a smartwatch-smartphone hybrid or something more traditional remains to be seen. And with TCL owning so many brands, it will certainly be interesting to see which one it thinks is best suited to carry such an innovative new design if and when it makes it off the drawing board.
Does a smartwatch that rolls into a smartphone sound brilliant or pointless? Let us know what you think on Twitter: @TrustedReviews.