Image: CNET/TCL

It seems like everyone and their cousin is releasing a foldable phone this year, despite us not really having a clue yet whether anyone’s interested in the category and whether bendy devices will sell.

The latest to add its name to the foldy register is Chinese company TCL, best known on these shores for inexpensive smart TVs as well as producing BlackBerry and Alcatel phones. Plans for a range of TCL foldables has leaked, including an all-screen smartwatch similar to Nubia’s bracelet phone.

CNET managed to get hold of patents and renders for two phones, two tablets and the bendy bracelet-phone, although they’re all prototypes at this stage and might yet change or be cancelled.

There’s not a lot more information beyond CNET’s images, but we do know a few tidbits:

One tablet has a display that folds inward, like a clamshell, while the other has a display on the outside, like the Royole Flexpai. The smartphones, meanwhile, also have two variants that fold on the inside and outside, but they bend at the horizontal line, like a traditional flip phone. The last phone appears to be tall and skinny and able to curve into a cuff around a wrist. None share the same design as Samsung’s foldable phone.

While foldable devices haven’t yet broken out of the tech bubble – mainly because only one has actually gone on sale and it’s from a brand not many people have heard of (Royole) – the mobile industry clearly believes they’ll be the next big thing.

With Mobile World Congress kicking off next week, we expect bendy phones to be the talk of the tech press for a good while yet, especially with Samsung putting its considerable weight behind the Galaxy Fold.

We’re also expecting foldables from Vivo, Xiaomi, Oppo, Energizer(!) and possibly LG, although possibly not.

What do you think of the foldy bandwagon — are tech companies backing the wrong horse? Is the folding phone the new curved TV, or is it going to be massive?

[TechRadar]

This post originally appeared on Gizmodo UK, which is gobbling up the news in a different timezone.

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