TCL Communications, the company behind Alcatel’s smartphones and best known for making some of the Industry’s best looking and affordable 4K TVs has stepped out from behind the curtain with its own branded device, the TCL Plex. This is it’s first officially branded smartphone.
TCL announced at IFA 2019 that it’s getting into smartphones unveiling the TCL Plex, a 6.53-inch Android phone that just like the company’s televisions, it’s heavily focused on giving users the best viewing experience possible for a price of $360 (about Ksh.36,000/-). The TCL Plex will be available in either Obsidian Black and Opal White.
Running Android 9 Pie, the TCL Plex will be available in select European markets at the start of Q4’19 and the company has even larger mobile ambitions for 2020 that include foldable phones and 5G.
However, the Plex is TCL’s starting point to make a name for itself in phones beyond the Blackberry and Alcatel brands that it owns the rights to.
The Plex is an almost completely bezel-less screen dubbed the TCL Dotch (this is trademarked btw) display serving up a 90% screen-to-body ratio. The only bit of black border you can see is the small bottom chin and the punch hole camera which brings about “dotch” … notch plus dot equals Dotch. (haha!)
Its display is only Full HD in resolution but can display all your standard dynamic range as high-dynamic-range content in real-time. This is a feature called ‘TCL NXTVISION’ and it doesn’t just switch the display into an overly-saturated vivid mode. Rather, NXTVISION converts your still images into HDR by enhancing their color while honing their edges to produce a picture that appears sharper and higher contrast.
The smartphone can also convert video from SDR to HDR in real-time by increasing contrast, amplifying color, brightening highlights, and darkening shadows. Customers will get quite the value bundle for the money, starting with the large 6.53-inch display at 1080 x 2340 pixel resolution.
TCL isn’t exactly a camera company, but it’s still aiming to be “at par” out of the gate. Plex which is a mid-range device sports a somewhat rare camera setup.
On the back of the phone, the main camera uses a 48MP sensor from Sony for capturing the highest resolution images and 4K video. Alternatively, you can also use this sensor to shoot ultra-slow motion footage at 720p and 960 frames per second.
Next to the main camera is a much lower-resolution 2MP sensor (Yes, 2MP, that was not a mistake!) that’s used entirely for low-light photography, which TCL has labeled ‘Super Night Mode.’
Lastly on the back is a 16MP sensor set behind a 123-degree super wide-angle lens. According to TCL, it captures scenes that are four times larger than the main wide-angle camera can in a single shot.
At the front of the device is a 24MP selfie camera. Interestingly, if you want to capture selfies at night or in dark environments, you can turn the 24MP front camera into an 8MP snapper. The device makes this possible by combining every four tiny pixels into one bigger one that captures more light.
TCL Dotch is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 675 and features 128GB of storage, 6GB RAM, and a 3,820mAh battery which comes with Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 technology. The phone supports microSD storage up to 256GB, and, yes, there’s a headphone jack on it. For that price, you’ll have to live with some other tradeoffs of course, and the most underwhelming spec is the Snapdragon 675 processor powering this thing.
On it is also Bluetooth 5.0, plus TCL says a “Super Bluetooth” option allows for up to four Bluetooth speakers or headphones to connect to the Plex simultaneously.
Not forgetting about the UI, the smartphone comes with a new TCL UI that allows users to further personalize their smartphone through the Smart Panel. Through this, TCL Plex can interact with a Smart TV as well as other smart home devices. The devices can be controlled through the smartphone as well as voice assistant.
The TCL Plex is going to be limited at its launch in four countries in Europe, and Australia. The idea here is for TCL to find its footing with its own brand first, then look into scaling between regions as well as scaling the number of devices. TCL’s aim here is to develop more of a vertically integrated stack for its own-brand smartphone business considering the company is best known for its TVs, it is determined to take the good reputation it earned in the living room and extend that to new categories.