A triple folding phone

When we last saw TCL’s prototype for a crazy triple folding phone last October, it was in the preliminary stages. The concept was there, with the “DragonHinge” allowing it to bend in multiple directions, but a working screen was not. This week, however, we had a chance to get our hands on the wacky phone-tablet hybrid, and while it is still very much a prototype, the company is making some progress and now has a functioning device. 

When fully opened you have a 10-inch tablet with a large plastic display. You can also fold it so that only two screens are open, with the unused portion either tucked away or used to prop up the rest of the device. 

Now playing: Playing with TCL’s triple-screen foldable 3:58

You also can take it down to just one screen in a more traditional phone-like device. It’s divided into three segments, each containing a 6.65-inch display and its own battery. As you can imagine, when you fold all three layers down, it’s incredibly thick. Unsurprisingly, it feels as if you had three phones stacked on top of each other.

Running Android, the device adjusted to each screen opening and closing, but a lag was noticeable when switching modes, although that’s to be expected of a concept device like this. It’s clearly not yet ready to compete with the Samsung Galaxy Fold or Huawei Mate XS. 

35-tcl-tri-fold-prototype
When fully folded, the prototype is incredibly thick. Sarah Tew/CNET

Stefan Streit, TCL’s general manager of global marketing, said in an interview that the still-unnamed device is one of three dozen prototypes that TCL is experimenting with as the company looks to enter the global phone market with its own brand. TCL is best known in the US for its excellent TVs.

Other concepts include a clamshell device that the company demoed at CES in January and a new slideable with a rollable AMOLED display that uses a motor to extend its 6.75-inch screen to one that is 7.8 inches. Streit says the company has been working with Google to optimize Android for its many foldables.

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