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TCL details 10 Series releases, plans to launch $400 5G phone in US

TCL's new self-branded phones are coming.

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- 04:43
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TCL's 10 Pro will be the company's first 10 Series phone to hit shelves. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Chinese giant TCL, best known for its excellent TVs, is rebranding its mobile line under its own name after years of using brands like Alcatel, BlackBerry and Palm to market its phones. The first group of mobile products, what it calls the 10 Series, will start hitting Australia, Europe, the UK and North America in the coming weeks. 

First detailed earlier this year at CES, the 10 Series comprises three phones: the budget 10L, the premium 10 Pro and a 5G variant aptly named the 10 5G. 

With the phones, TCL is taking an approach it has used to grow its popular TV brand, offering sharp displays that can add HDR to all content while pricing the devices lower than its rivals. Like its TVs, the phones don't go overboard on specs or have radical designs like its concept triple-folding tablet or rollable phone

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The four rear cameras on the 10 Pro. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The 10 Pro, which will retail for $449 (£399, approximately AU$800), features a 6.47-inch curved AMOLED display with a fingerprint sensor underneath. It runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 processor with 6GB and 128GB of storage, expandable via microSD card. 

The phone has four rear cameras: a 64-megapixel main shooter with a 16-megapixel camera, a 5-megapixel macro for close-ups and a 2-megapixel for improved low-light photos. There's also a 24-megapixel front sensor found in a teardrop notch at the top of the screen. 

Also present are a 3.5mm headphone jack, 4,500-mAh battery and Android 10 software. TCL promises we'll get an upgrade to Android 11 in the future. 

The 10L is the budget phone of the three. Priced at $249 (£199, approximately AU$500) it switches from AMOLED to a 6.53-inch full HD display with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 processor with 6GB RAM and either 64GB or 128GB of storage, also expandable via microSD. A fingerprint sensor is around the back underneath four rear cameras: A 48-megapixel main, 8-megapixel superwide, 2-megapixel macro and 2-megapixel depth sensor.

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TCL's 10L is the company's budget phone. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

A 16-megapixel front camera can be found in a hole-punch on the phone's upper left corner. Like the Pro, the 10L also has a 3.5mm headphone jack. 

The 10L runs Android 10, but TCL has not detailed on if it will be upgraded to Android 11. Neither devices have IP-rated water resistance or wireless charging. 

Both phones will be available this quarter, though TCL hasn't revealed when exactly they'll go on sale. Stefan Streit, TCL's general manager of global marketing, told CNET in March that the 10 Pro will be available in mid-April while the 10L will arrive in May. 

Going for 5G at an affordable price

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TCL's 10 5G cost $400 and come to the US in the fall. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Potentially the most interesting of the new TCL phones is the 10 5G. Whereas most 5G phones currently run near $1,000, TCL is pricing the 10 5G at a much more affordable $399 (£399, approximately AU$800).

The phone falls somewhere between the 10 Pro and 10L. It has a 6.53-inch full HD LCD display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage (expandable to another 1TB through microSD), 4,500-mAh battery and can wirelessly charge other devices.

On the camera front, it has a 64-megapixel main camera, an 8-megapixel 118-degree ultrawide-angle sensor, a 5-megapixel macro lens, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. A 16-megapixel front camera can be found in a cutout in the upper left corner. 

Like the 10L there is a fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone as well as 3.5mm headphone jack.  

As with the budget 10L the 5G phone will ship with Android 10, but there is no promise of an upgrade to Android 11 as there is with the 10 Pro. 

Streit says it will arrive in Europe in June but in the US on an unnamed "major carrier" likely at the end of the third quarter, though he would not disclose which carrier the company is partnering with. 

"This brings 5G into a completely different level," says Streit, adding that by pricing at this level "it will help the carriers start moving more users towards 5G." 

It's no accident that the 10 5G offers a combination of the 10L and Pro's hardware. "We didn't want to put 5G on the Pro because the objective was to bring 5G, as much as possible, into an affordable, accessible segment," he says. "What carriers need is more affordable devices." 

The priciness of early 5G devices is something the carriers are aware of open about. Verizon's Ronan Dunne, head of the company's consumer group, told CNET in January that it plans to launch a 5G phone priced under $600 in the second half of the year as it grows its portfolio of 5G devices.