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Stefan Streit at IFA for TCL

TCL steps into global smartphone market with €329 phone

Image credit: E&T Magazine

During a press conference at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin, TCL unveiled its first smartphone – a budget-friendly device with a focus on excellent display – with plans for 5G and foldable phones already well in motion.

The Huizhou-based electronics company is best known for affordable yet high-performance televisions, headphones, and home appliances. While it has also produced phones under the TCL brand for its native Chinese market, as well as phones under the BlackBerry brand, this marks its first serious step into the global smartphone market.

“Bringing TCL Mobile into the market, we don’t just want to do simply another smartphone,” said Stefan Streit, global marketing manager for TCL. “We carefully looked at the market trends and we looked at them for the long term […] this is just the first of hopefully many to come.”

He said that trends that they had decided to focus on included more video being streamed on phones, more video and photos being captured on phones, and more interconnectedness with IoT devices.

TCL hopes to bring much of its display expertise to the Plex, with a 6.53” display with 6-axis colour enhancement, automatic colour and brightness adjustment, and a dedicated display engine for real-time optimisation (reportedly achieving a Delta-E colour accuracy rating of below 1, meaning that it is virtually impossible to distinguish between the screen and the ‘real world’ with the human eye).

The Plex features a triple camera system. It contains a ‘super AI’ 48MP Sony camera, a 2MP ‘super low-light’ sensor, and a 123° super-wide angle 16MP camera. According to a spokesman, the low-light camera stands out from competitors in maintaining exceptional quality when capturing videos as well as photographs (‘Super Night Mode’. The camera is also capable of capturing slow motion at up to 960fps in HD, and all video will automatically be taken in HDR: “People watch a lot of videos on phones and this will make it a better experience”.

The front-facing camera (24MP) is hidden behind a small round hole at the top left of the screen (similar to Samsung’s ‘hole-punch’ camera cut-out) which TCL has dubbed the ‘Dotch’.

The phone is also intended for connectivity to other TCL devices, including home appliances. It can connect with up to four Bluetooth speakers or headphones, and ‘seamlessly’ connects to TCL smart televisions with the same user experience across all TCL devices and a smart TV assistant app.

The Plex will be available in October, and comes in two colourways with a holographic finish: ‘obsidian black’ and ‘opal white’

It is a midrange product, likely to be intended as competition with budget-friendly ‘mini’ versions of flagship phones, such as the Pixel 3A and iPhone XR, as well as Huawei’s Honor brand. Streit commented: “We do this in true TCL style; this phone is feature-packed and has lots of benefits, and it will be €329.”

In what could be interpreted as a jibe at Samsung – which was forced to delay the launch of its flexible Galaxy Fold phone after reviewers reported that the display broke after just days of use – Streit said that it was important for TCL to take as much time as was necessary to perfect its devices before bringing them to market, while demonstrating a flexible TCL smartphone with a ‘butterfly hinge’ as he spoke.

He also demonstrated a pair of sporty-looking smart glasses which could be paired with a phone to watch video with a more immersive and “cinematic” experience, while the wearer can still see their surroundings through the coloured, transparent glass.

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