TCL continues to push into the smartphone market with new 5G, rollable phones

TCL has built a solid reputation for offering consumers budget-friendly televisions that provide good quality for the money – TCL’s smart TVs are frequently mentioned on tech publications’ best budget TV lists. Can the Chinese firm’s strong brand association with TV buyers extend to the smartphone marketplace? TCL launched its own brand of smartphones just last year, but at the recent CES the manufacturer unveiled the TCL 20 5G, the TCL 20 SE, and a unique rollable phone concept that may reach the market later this year (plans have yet to be finalized).

Prior to introducing its own TCL-branded phones, TCL was known for offering devices under license through the Alcatel brand. TCL isn’t looking to substitute its own brand for the Alcatel name, however, as it leveraged CES 2021 to also announce three more budget-minded phones from Alcatel.

That being said, TCL’s smartphone strategy does appear to be borrowing a page out of the Samsung playbook, as noted by Gizmodo. Just as Samsung benefits from numerous relationships in the tech industry with manufacturers of processors, memory, displays, and storage, TCL’s experience in TV manufacturing may give it an advantage as it looks to source parts for phones at cheaper cost. Those savings can then be passed on to consumers.

Not surprisingly given the relative nascency of their mobile products, penetration of TCL phones among TCL’s TV customers is currently quite low. According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, 40% of TCL smart TV owners own an iPhone and 28% own one of Samsung’s phones, whereas Alcatel and TCL phones are held by only 2% and 1% of TCL smart TV owners, respectively.

“It’s still early days for TCL in the US smartphone marketplace. With the right marketing and promotional support from major carriers, TCL has a great opportunity to incrementally raise its market share,” said Harry Wang, Senior Vice President at Interpret. “TCL might also benefit from a smart branding campaign to raise the brand’s profile overall and upgrade US consumer perception of the brand as a leader in technology innovation, in addition to being one offering quality products at competitive prices.”