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TCL's foldable phone is nowhere to be found, but hey, here's a pair of glasses instead

The Chinese company also unveiled a new kids smartwatch, 5G routers and an upcoming software update.

TCL/Screenshot by CNET's Sareena Dayaram

The TCL Nxtwear G wearable display lets you watch videos and play games from a phone or laptop via that USB-C cable.

TCL

TCL took to the virtual Mobile World Congress stage on Thursday to show off an ever-growing product lineup that stretches far beyond the TVs it's best known for. The Chinese company's new products ran the gamut: Apart from announcing an imminent mobile software update, TCL unveiled a kids smartwatch, outdoor and indoor routers, and a pair of smart sunglasses that lets you watch videos privately via the display "lens." But a foldable phone was still a no-show.

TCL has been teasing its Project Archery headset for a few years and in 2021 it finally released it, calling it Nxtwear G. The accessory looks like a pair of sports sunglasses, except with a cable hanging from one side, which TCL says can be connected to over 100 devices, including laptops, tablets or smartphones "from all major manufacturers." Once the USB-C cable is connected, the headset uses two custom full HD OLED displays for the "lens" to provide a personal cinema-like experience, or simply so that wearers can watch video or play games more privately. It looks like the kind of thing that could improve a long plane ride.

The headset, which also folds like sunglasses, comes equipped with speakers, but TCL recommends using earbuds or headphones in louder environments (again, planes) or simply for the sake of privacy. Keep in mind, there is an undetachable wire hanging from one side of the frames, without which the headset will not function. No word on a US release yet, but the Nxtwear G is slated for an international rollout, first in July in Australia for AU$899, before hitting countries in Europe, where it's expected to sell for 599 euros (about $715 or £515).

What about TCL's foldable phone?

For a couple of years now, TCL has been showing off sketches and prototypes of foldable phones (one of them can both fold and roll and another has a triple-folding screen) but none of the prototypes have hit the market so far, despite the release of next-gen foldables from rivals Samsung and Huawei. 

That could finally change this year, says Stefan Streit, TCL's general manager of global marketing. The company is "testing" a prototype, and Streit reiterated plans to launch a foldable phone before the end of the year. 

Foldable phones aside, TCL has been steadily rolling out a crop of affordable 5G phones under its "5G for all" vision after debuting its eponymous mobile lineup last year. The company's inaugural TCL-branded phone was the TCL 10 series that started at $400. That was followed up with the TCL 20 series, which started at $300. Now TCL is gearing up to launch a next-gen 5G phone for possibly as low as $200, based on the $100 increment from previous years. 

TCL is among the top players in televisions, but has a considerably lower profile when it comes to smartphones. But the fact is the company has a long history of designing, manufacturing and marketing phones under brands that are not its own: TCL has produced handsets carrying the Alcatel name, the once-popular BlackBerry brand and even the tiny Palm handset. In recent years, TCL has pivoted to focus on building its own brand with the hope that its popularity in TVs translates to smaller devices.  

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TCL launched a kid-friendly smartwatch at Mobile World Congress 2021.

TCL

A new kids smartwatch

Parents who want to keep track of their little one's whereabouts, but aren't quite ready to hand over a full-fledged phone, might be interested in TCL's new kid-friendly smartwatch. Called Movetime Family Watch 2, the wearable comes with real-time location tracking that it logs to make a location history. Safe-zone geofencing means that if the wearer strays outside a parent-designated area, an alert is sent to the parents' phones.

Beyond this, the wearable has a nano-SIM to allow for 4G voice and video calls thanks to a built-in camera. Plus, there's also a way for parents to control exactly what content their child is consuming. TCL has no plans to launch this in the US, but by the end of August shoppers in parts of Europe will be able to get their hands on this product for 149 euros (about $180, £130 or AU$235).

Multiscreen collaboration 

In a similar vein to Microsoft and Samsung, TCL is reworking its software for a post-pandemic world with what it calls multiscreen collaboration. TCL wants to make it easier for you to switch from one device or display to another. In a press release, TCL gave the example of letting a phone stay in your bag while your laptop has easy access to your files and photos, Android apps, a shared clipboard and a host of other features. Multiscreen collaboration will be supported across a range of product lines, rolling out initially to TCL 20 Pro 5G smartphones.