Earlier this year TCL revealed some concept designs for a foldable phone, and they were horrible ugly things that made me glad they weren't going to be coming to market. Now, though, the company unveiled the latest version of its foldable design at IFA, and frankly it looks a hell of a lot better than it did before. And not just because this one apparently folds all the way.
I say apparently because I haven't actually seen the thing folding up close. The best we got was an executive showing it off on stage, though at the distance I was at it's not really obvious whether there really is a zero millimetre gap or not. Meanwhile at the TCL booth we were told nobody was actually allowed to touch the phone, so one of the booth reps weren't able to fold it up and let me gawp like an amazed child. But I got to see the phone's design up close, and holy crap it looks a thousand times better than it did before.
That's the back, and just compare that to one of the concepts from MWC that was still on show in Berlin. The one with a gap so large you could use it to hold a couple of pens:
There's a huge difference in terms of design and the overall look of the thing. In fact the new foldable looks like it could be a commercial device, whereas the older concept (with the funny-looking 'Dragon Hinge') is the kind of thing you'd maybe expect to find in an R&D lab. Mainly because most people wouldn't want to be seen dead with it.
So while the company is taking the slow path with foldable phones, rather than rushing to get one to market, it's good to see they're not just sitting around on the tech and doing nothing. Improvements are being made, so hopefully we shouldn't have to wait very long before the device is actually available to the public. In fact one of the reps claimed it would be next year, which is in line with previous leaks, though there's not been an official announcement by TCL. The only question is how much such a phone would cost, and whether anyone is willing to spend that much money.