TCL Project Chicago: The Foldable Phone That Wasn’t Meant To Be


TCL has been making waves in the budget and mid-range markets over the course of the past two years thanks to successful releases of the TCL 10 series last year and TCL 20 series this year. But TCL has much bigger plans other than just duking it out with OnePlus and Motorola at the low-end of the smartphone market. The company showed off its wearable display in the TCL NXTWEAR G back at CES 2021 and has also given us a glimpse at flexible displays that could arrive sometime in the future.

One category where TCL is anxious to get into is the foldable smartphone market. Until now, we’ve really only seen viable options arrive from Motorola, Xiaomi, and of course, Samsung. But instead of going for the “foldable tablet” approach, TCL was working on a device aimed to compete with the Galaxy Z Flip and Motorola RAZR.

That brings us to a device known as ‘Project Chicago’. This is a folding flip phone, just like the RAZR and Z Flip 3, but unlike Samsung’s approach, TCL was looking to bring a great foldable device to the mid-range market. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing circumstances such as the global chip shortage and a rise in the cost for production, the project had to be “suspended.” TCL cancelled its first foldable smartphone even though it was close to being released.

TCL Project Chicago Specs and Design

Before diving into the “why”, let’s take a look at what the TCL ‘Project Chicago’ planned to bring to the market.

  • Main Display: 6.67-inch AMOLED DOTCH
    • Resolution: 2400 x 1080
  • Front Display: 1.1-inch AMOLED
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 128GB
  • Front Camera: 44MP
  • Rear Cameras: 48MP Sony IMX582 (main) / 16MP (ultrawide)
  • Battery: 3,545mAh w/ 18W Quick Charge 3.0 and 10W wireless charging
  • Extra features: Side-mounted fingerprint scanner, Selfie Gesture Control, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC

As for the design, the TCL Chicago brought with it what you would expect from a clamshell design. This includes a side-mounted fingerprint scanner placed below the volume rocker on the right side. We also would have had a hinge system similar to Samsung’s offering, as it would allow you to essentially place the hinge at any angle to prop it up.

On the back of the phone is a unique 1.1-inch AMOLED display that is different from what we’ve seen from Samsung or Motorola due to its vertical orientation. This cutout not only houses the display but also is home to the dual-camera system and LED flash. As for what the display is capable of, TCL states it would have provided quick and easy access to different tools, allowing you to quickly change the sound profile, along with accessing various widgets and viewing notifications.

Looking at the specs, there’s nothing really here that “stands out”, and now that the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is here, it’s clear that TCL would have been out-classed at every turn. But honestly, that would have been okay, depending on what TCL’s flip phone would have been priced at.

The Future of a TCL Foldable

In a statement provided by TCL, the company offers the following insight:

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.

While it’s likely that Samsung is already working on the Z Flip 4, and Xiaomi is expected to join the competition sometime in the near future, another competitor would have been a nice touch. But for TCL to get this far in the process only to have to “indefinitely postpone” Project Chicago, it just goes to show that the foldable market is a tough one to enter.

We’re hoping that TCL is able to boot and rally and come back in the future with a new foldable phone that can wow us, just like its mid-range slab phones have done. And while we weren’t able to get our hands on the TCL Chicago, Mr. Mobile was able to and provided us with a better look at what the device would have offered:


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