In brief: TCL planned on showing off a prototype smartphone at MWC that extends the main screen using a slide-out display. Unfortunately, MWC 2020 was canceled due to coronavirus fears, but some reportedly leaked photos show what we might be able to expect.

As folding phones gain popularity, TCL is reportedly working on a prototype smartphone that features a slide-out screen, notes CNET. While other manufacturers are concentrating on folding phones, TCL seems to have thought of a novel way of putting a bigger screen in a smaller package without the reliability issues that current folding phones seem to have. The phone maker was planning to show off the phone at the now-canceled Mobile World Congress (MWC).

Based on the photos, the basic concept seems to be a normal-looking phone with the typical slab design current smartphones have. However, there is a slide-out display that the user can pull out to increase the screen size. CNET likened it to pulling back the sides of a dining room table to add another leaf for additional guests.

Unfortunately, the photos don't show how the sliding mechanism is supposed to work. The images make it seem like the display itself is continuous instead of being two distinct screens put together. If that were the case, the extended surface area would have to roll or bend under itself when sliding into the housing.

Several reliability issues have arisen with the current batch of folding phones. The Galaxy Fold initially suffered numerous problems with its screen and hinge. Samsung delayed the launch to fix those issues. There are also questions about the durability of Motorola's RAZR and even Samsung's Z Flip. TCL's sliding display concept could mitigate some of the inherent problems found in folding displays.

TCL isn't a stranger to weird prototype devices. Early last year, the company showed off preliminary renders of five folding smartphone concepts, including one that wraps around the user's wrist. If that wasn't enough, TCL also unveiled an accordion-like concept phone that folds into three parts.

The smartphone market has matured, and many companies are experimenting with ways to make their phones more unique and compelling. A Wall Street Journal report, citing data from Hyla Mobile, reveals the average American user is holding on to their smartphone longer. The current capabilities of smartphones combined with rising prices mean that people are satisfied with the performance of their phones and don't see the need to upgrade. Therefore, smartphone makers will have to try new things to entice customers to buy a new phone.