Meet Chicago – TCL’s clamshell phone that could have been a mid-range hit


Could you imagine what the music world would be if Chicago had never got together to produce a ton of hits? Well, sadly you kinda do thanks to TCL canning its plans to produce its clamshell folding smartphone known only as its code name – ‘Chicago’. What could have been a true, affordable competitor to Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 3 that is currently mopping up the sales is not coming to market, ever.

Despite the canceled plans to launch the ‘Chicago’ folding phone, TCL actually sent out a few review units to selected outlets, including a certain Mr. Fisher AKA Mr. Mobile who promptly explained in his YouTube video the why’s and hows of TCL’s decision to halt plans to launch the phone.

Before you start digging for an actual review, it should be noted that the units sent out were decidedly pre-production with unfinished software, camera apps, and glitches such as being unable to charge wirelessly at the prescribed output. But what can we take away from the now-canceled Chicago other than the fact that its larger, vertical strip of a secondary display looks far more useful than the one on the Galaxy Z Flip 3?

Well, TCL is adamant that it is committed to the foldable segment, and that it’s a case of when and not if it launches a folding smartphone. The reason for the cancelation is a combination of the current chip shortage, the ongoing global effect of the pandemic, and possibly also to do with the Galaxy Z Flip 3 which is the gold standard.

“Although the foldable market is growing each year, it is still a premium product category. In combination with recent component shortages, the COVID-19 pandemic and rising costs in foldable production, TCL has made the difficult decision to suspend the launch of its first commercially available foldable smartphone until the company can produce and bring it to market at a price point that’s accessible to as many consumers as possible,” said Stefan Streit, chief marketing officer for TCL”

The Chicago sported the following specifications:

TCL Chicago
Software Android 11 with TCL UI
Display Cover – 1.1-inch AMOLED
Interior – 6.67-inch AMOLED, FHD+ Resolution (1080 x 2400)
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
Memory 6GB
Storage 128GB
Rear cameras 48MP Sony IMX582, f/1.79 aperture, OIS
16MP ultra-wide, f/2.4 aperture, 1/3-inch sensor
Selfie camera 44MP, f/2.4 aperture, 1/2.65-inch sensor
Battery 3,545mAh w/ Quick Charge 3.0, 10W wireless
Connectivity 5G (Sub-6), Wi-Fi 5 (upgradable to 6), Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, USB 3.1 (Type-C)
Dimensions Unfolded – 165 x 78.1 x 7.35mm
Folded – 86.5 x 78.1 x 17.9mm
Weight 205g

As you can see, the Chicago was entirely mid-range in nature which could have meant being a couple of hundred dollars cheaper than Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 3 and also, more importantly, brought the foldable smartphone into the reach of the average American. The cynics will wonder if this is yet another instance of TCL showing off concepts that it has no intention of putting into production to generate hype and interest in tech outlets, much as it does during trade shows such as MWC.

He’s been an Android fan ever since owning an HTC Hero, with the Dell Streak being his first phablet. He currently carries a OnePlus Nord 2 5G in his pockets, a Galaxy Tab S6 in his backpack, and thinks nothing of lugging a 17-inch laptop around the world. When not immersed in the world of Android and gadgets, he’s an avid sports fan, and like all South Africans, he loves a good Braai (BBQ).

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