For many of us, Chinese technology brand TCL is known to us for its good yet lowly-priced televisions, something they are known for around the world, not just in Kenya.
For the Android enthusiast, TCL is the company responsible for the production of smartphones (and even tablets) trading under the Alcatel and BlackBerry brands.
While not widely talked about, that Alcatel branding’s future may not be guaranteed.
The brand name, licensed from then giant French telecommunications equipment firm Alcatel in 2005 before its eventual merger a year later with American telecommunications equipment company Lucent, resulting in Alcatel-Lucent which has since been bought by Nokia, expires in 5 years. A renewal, while possible, may be complicated by everything that has happened in the last 15 years since it came into place – Nokia, which itself licenses its brand name to another company, HMD Global, inherited the licensing agreements for the Alcatel brand with its Alcatel-Lucent acquisition 3 years ago.
Even better, TCL has wider brand recognition in consumer electronics around the world today than it did in the early 2000s when it joined forces with Alcatel to form Alcatel Mobile Phones which it later took inhouse when it bought out its French partner’s stake in the joint venture (if this sounds like a familiar script then it’s because you’ve probably heard it before: Sony-Ericsson).
Closer home, TCL is the company behind the production of several white-label mobile phones that local companies like Safaricom, Telkom Kenya and others go ahead and slap their logos on and distribute and market under different names.
In effect, much as anyone interested in knowing about TCL and making smartphones knows about them, there is still no single TCL-branded smartphone available outside the company’s home, China.
That will change this week as the biggest consumer electronics trade show for the second half of the year, IFA, kicks off in the German capital of Berlin.
According to reports, and corroborating what their representatives intimated to us early in the year when we met them, TCL is set to announce self-branded smartphones meant for the global market.
One of those devices, rumoured to be going by the moniker TCL T1, is said to feature a tri-camera setup on the back with 48, 16 and 2-megapixel shooters to complement the single 24-megapixel camera on the front. That is on the backdrop of a 6.5-inch full HD+ display, 6GB RAM, 128GB onboard storage, a 3,820mAh battery unit with support for 18W fast-charging and Android 9 Pie (with the promise of upgrading to Android 10 later on).
As if that is not enough, IFA 2019 is also said to be the stage that TCL uses to showcase its own advancements in the foldable device arena (thanks to the DragonHinge technology it showcased early in the year) as well as 5G. The former is expected to yield market-ready products in 2020 while for the latter, ready devices (smartphones and non-smartphones) are expected to hit the market over a timeline spanning a few months after the Berlin showcase to late 2020, going by a roadmap leaked last month.