TCL will bring four under-$200 phones to the US this year, two of which will have 5G. Revealed as part of the Chinese company’s Mobile World Congress announcements Sunday in Barcelona, the four devices are part of the TCL 40 Series of phones.
The highest-end will be the TCL 40 X 5G, which is priced at $199 and set for release this June. The phone includes a triple rear camera system anchored by a 50-megapixel main camera, an 8-megapixel front-facing camera, a 6.56-inch HD Plus display with a 90Hz refresh rate and a MediaTek Dimensity 700 processor. The TCL 40 X 5G will also include a 5,000-mAh battery, 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM.
TCL is also touting the phone’s 180Hz touch sampling rate, which is a figure normally used to describe how responsive the phone would be for gaming or any other activity involving quick response. For instance, the Samsung Galaxy S23 has a 240Hz touch sampling rate when in gaming mode, and the RedMagic 7 gaming phone has 720Hz.
The step-down model from the X is the TCL 40 XE 5G, priced at $169 and also set for a June release. It shares many of the same specs as the X, but will have a 13-megapixel main rear camera. The screen, processor, battery and storage options will otherwise be the same.
Costing $20 less than the XE, the $149 TCL 40 XL does not support 5G but has a larger 6.75-inch screen. The phone will also have a 50-megapixel main rear camera, an 8-megapixel front facing camera, a MediaTek G37 processor, 128GB of storage, 4GB of RAM and a 5,000-mAh battery. The TCL 40 XL will be released in May.
The 40 X, XE and XL are all exclusive to the US, and will be released in partnership with a US carrier that will be announced at a later date. For the prepaid market, a $119 TCL 406 phone will launch this year with a 6.6-inch HD Plus display and dual speakers.
It’s notable that TCL is squarely targeting the under-$200 phone market with the 40 Series, with TCL Chief Marketing Officer Stefan Streit noting that keeping the phones partnered up with carriers is an important part of its strategy right now.
“We just started with TCL as a mobile brand three years ago, the brand is still very young,” Streit said, noting that from the company’s perspective the midpriced ($300 to $600) phone market is currently under pressure from inflation. While TCL has teased its ability to create a, Streit said the company plans to focus on the entry-level market for now before choosing to step back up. TCL has a longer history in TVs and makes some of CNET’s favorites, including the 6-Series, which we think is the right now.
TCL also confirmed during a press briefing that the phones are all being sold exclusively in carrier partnerships. This means that while they have cheaper prices or even be offered for free by the carriers, it’s quite possible that they will be loaded up with carrier bloatware, as I found with last year’s.
While we look forward to testing these phones when they arrive later this year, it’s definitely a bonus to see 5G connectivity beginning to trickle down to even cheaper devices. After years of 5G being more of a “nice to have,” these TCL phones may begin the trend of the networks being in use across all devices.
TCL also rolled out a line of affordable tablets at MWC, including the TCL NxtPaper 11 and the TCL Tab 11. Both tablets offer an 11-inch screen with 2K resolution, with the NxtPaper tablet touting stylus support with a display coating designed to feel like paper when writing or drawing. The NxtPaper 11 launches in Europe this May at $249, while the Tab 11 launches the same month with a $179 starting price.