TCL launches £399 5G smartphone

TCL has announced the launch of the TCL 10 Series, which will also include a 5G-capable device priced at £399.

Although the company is yet to announce what markets this 5G device will be available in, such launches are a critical component of the 5G machine. Some might turn their noses up at a device which does not break the bank account thanks to overpriced features and a desirable logo, but low-end smartphones are incredibly important to democratise connectivity and take 5G into the mainstream markets.

“As one of the world’s leading consumer electronics brands, expanding the TCL brand into the mobile space ensures that we are one of the only global manufacturers that offers a fully integrated ecosystem of smart products in virtually every aspect of your life,” said Kevin Wang, CEO of TCL.

“This makes it possible for us to provide our customers with a wide range of products capable of working seamlessly together and do so more affordably than everyone else.”

At £399, the 5G device certainly undercuts what is available currently on the market.

Manufacturer Device Price
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra £1199
Huawei Mate 20 X £999
OPPO Reno 5G £969
OnePlus 7 Pro 5G £649

There are of course other devices available, and TCL will be chasing after a different type of customers than many of the more well-known brands, but this is an important moment for the development and normalisation of 5G. With a £399 device on the market, 5G connectivity is no-longer a product for the rich.

It might sound too good to be true, but you have to of course bear in mind that the specs will be a downgrade for those who are used to be best and nothing else, but this is not necessarily a bad thing.

The 5G era will not be driven by premium devices alone. For the majority of individuals, these are aspirational products, something worth saving for, but there will have to be devices to fill the meantime space.

Today, 5G is only for the wealthy. Tariffs perhaps need to come down in price, but devices certainly do. Brands like TCL will play a very important part in the future of connectivity.

Specification Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra TCL 10 5G
Dimensions 166.9 x 76 x 8.8 mm 163.7 x 76.6 x 9 mm
Display size 6.9 inches, 114.0 cm2 (89.9% screen-to-body ratio) 6.53 inches, 104.7 cm2 (83.5% screen-to-body ratio)
Chipset Qualcomm SM8250 Snapdragon 865 (7 nm+) Qualcomm SDM765 Snapdragon 765G (7 nm)
Max. internal memory 512GB 16GB RAM 128GB 6GB RAM
Selfie camera 40 MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide), 0.7µm, PDAF 16 MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide), 1/3.1″, 1.0μm
Battery Non-removable Li-Po 5000 mAh battery Non-removable Li-Po 4500 mAh battery

5G threatens to crack mass market with affordable devices

As it stands, 5G is not a democratised technology, but that could change as a swarm of affordable devices promising to hit the market in 2020.

This week sees tens of thousands of shade-dwellers hit the Nevada desert for the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), and in-between the quirky, faddy and ridiculous product promotions, there might be a few announcements worth keeping an eye on.

Starting with the distractions on show, CES 2020 certainly delivers.

Ivanka Trump will be on the keynote stage, diluted the male-dominance of the conference agenda, but perhaps ignoring the better-equipped, albeit less-celebrity attraction, women of Silicon Valley. Bathroom specialist Kohler is showcasing an Alexa-enabled showerhead with embedded speaker and microphone. PantryOn wants to automate your shopping-list. Tombot has a robotic Labrador puppy for those who want a companion without the messiness of real-life. And Manta5’s Hydrofoil e-bike allows users to glide on water for a mere £5,800.

While all these products are quirky, and likely to be forgotten within weeks as there is no basis in reality, there are still some interesting announcements which could have a much more material impact on the connectivity landscape.

TCL Communications has not been hitting the headlines over the last couple of months, but it has stormed to the front-page with the announcement of an affordable 5G device. As it stands, 5G is not an inclusive technology. Devices have been designed for the wealthy as few would dream of paying the obnoxiously high prices which have been attached to the devices.

The TCL 10-Series features three devices, including the companies first attempt at incorporating 5G connectivity. The TCL 10 5G will make use of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 7-Series 5G SoC, as well as feature all the add-ons which have become commonplace on a smartphone. Most importantly, this device will launch in North America in Q2 2020 for less than $500.

“Our TCL-branded smartphones and mobile devices will be an important focal point for the larger TCL ecosystem moving forward, and with these powerful and accessible devices coming this year, we feel TCL is well-prepared to compete in any market around the world,” said Kevin Wang, CEO of TCL Industrial Holdings.

The price is the most important aspect of this announcement. This is one of the first affordable devices to hit the market. There will be more over the next few months, most device launches are reserved for Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, which will be critical. 5G will only succeed if there are compatible devices in every tier of the smartphone market.

Qualcomm has been making a lot of noise over the last few months, especially when it comes to 5G chips which have been designed for the mid-tier smartphone market. The Snapdragon 765 might not have the power of other designs, but it has 5G compatibility embedded and is affordable for mid-tier ranges.

Staying on the topic of chipsets for mid-tier devices, MediaTek has also announced the launch of Dimensity 800 Series 5G chipset. This has been billed as a rival to the Qualcomm products, targeting mid-tier and mass market devices, while also supporting carrier aggregation and dynamic spectrum sharing. MediaTek has said these chips will be available by the end of H1 2020.

“Now that networks are deployed and gradually rolled out, affordable smartphones is the single most important piece of the puzzle that is still missing,” said Dario Talmesio, 5G Practice Leader at analyst firm Ovum. “Pricing are going down really quickly, the challenge will be to have affordable 5G phones with acceptable specs, and there’s work to be done for that yet.”

Over the course of the next 12 months, Ovum estimates 5G subscriptions to exceed 63.4 million worldwide, rising to 250 million by 2021-end and 687 million by 2022-end. Ovum data takes into account all SIMs connected to the network, irrelevant as to what the device might be, with the team also forecasting 4G connections to continue to rise through to 2022-end, before the decline starts to set in.

TCL Communications might have stolen the headlines here, but it would be perfectly reasonable to expect numerous announcements around the $500 price-mark prior to and during MWC in February.

Another interesting product launch took place over at Lenovo.

This might not be the most affordable of laptops, but Lenovo is claiming the Yoga 5G is the first of its kind to have embedded 5G connectivity. If you happen to be one of those individuals who likes spending $1,499 on a laptop and who also happens to live in one of the few areas where 5G coverage is a reality, this might be the product for you.

Although this is an interesting development, perhaps the team is jumping the gun. 5G is one of the simplest ways to attract buzz to a product, though as 4G-enabled laptops would not be considered the norm nowadays, perhaps a step is being skipped. That is not necessarily a bad move forward, though it does make the price-to-entry considerably higher.

CES is not the traditional launching ground for devices, but the TCL news is very encouraging for the accelerated adoption of 5G adoption. Top-end devices might be what everyone wants, but the question is what the market can afford.