TCL puts a hold on Project Chicago, its Samsung Flip alternative

While Samsung leads the charge in the foldable space, TCL is making strides to offer affordable alternatives for consumers. It made the business decision to hold off on a 2021 release for several reasons, but its prototype looks compelling.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

TCL launched its own-branded smartphones in early 2020 with the TCL 10 series, and this year we spent time with its TCL 20 series products, including the fantastic TCL 20 Pro 5G high-end model that is still only priced at $530. TCL offers compelling smartphones in the affordable range and wants to do the same with its foldables, but decided that will not be happening in 2021.

We have seen TCL teasing various foldable and rollable prototypes while it planned to release its first foldable in 2021. CNET had the chance to try out the Project Chicago foldable and has all the details of what we almost saw in 2021. As you can see, it looks to offer a similar experience to the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 that turns out to be the most fun I have had with a phone in a long time.

Image: TCL

See also: TCL 20 Pro 5G review: Stunning design, lovely display, capable quad-camera system.

With the new public details on TCL's Project Chicago and the time I've spent with the Z Flip 3, I'm even more disappointed to hear the news that TCL is putting a hold on its foldable release. Stefan Streit, CMO of TCL Communication, provided the following statement:

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.

Despite the indefinite hold, I'm thrilled to see how far TCL has come with its first foldable and am excited about the future. Regular readers know I'm all in on foldable phones as productivity tools, and it's great to see we will have affordable competitors challenging Samsung and others in the future.

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