TCL said the concept (below) is 9mm thick and would use "internal motors to extend the 6.75-inch screen to a 7.8-inch display size with the press of a button". TCL also said its rolling nature would mean it would have have a crease when extended, unlike foldable phones.

Image: TCL

If you thought that was crazy, the tri-folding tablet concept (top of page and below) is off the chart, with a Z-shaped zig-zag device that TCL claims it has a working prototype of, saying: "This working prototype uses both of the company’s hinge technologies - DragonHinge and ButterflyHinge - to fold a 10-inch tablet into a 6.65-inch device with 20.8:9 aspect ratio and 3K display resolution."

Both devices appear to be rendered running TCL’s existing Android skin, though pricing and availability are unknown. 

“With these latest concept devices, TCL has clearly shown that there is still plenty of room for new ideas when it comes to flexible and foldable display technologies, and it’s critical for us to think outside the box and lead with innovation,” said Shane Lee, General Manager, Global Product Center at TCL Communication.

“These new form factors leverage display and hinge technologies that already exist entirely within our fully integrated TCL ecosystem, allowing us to reimagine the future of mobile device development with an aggressive research and development program.”

Image: TCL

While TCL makes its own phones and sells them in some regions, this announcement appears to be TCL putting its technology smarts in the shop window for other manufacturers. The company produced the few handsets in the short-lived BlackBerry revival and also makes phones under the licensed Alcatel brand.

But it also makes its own TCL-branded phones like the TCL 10 range, packing respectable specs in neat designs, all cheaper than some of the competition. 

While these designs will make headlines and look futuristic, the industry is barely ready for folding phones and new form factors. At the moment, screens are too fragile and prices are too high for them to represent a sensible purchase for the average consumer. But at least companies like TCL are trying to move the needle. Whether TCL will put these into production is another matter. 

Related stories for further reading