Crafting a unique identity in the budget smartphone market can be a formidable challenge due to the saturation of competition. However, TCL is aiming to distinguish itself with the newly unveiled 40 Nxtpaper, presenting a distinctive offering.

TCL’s Nxtpaper branding has previously been associated with a selection of tablet devices. Nonetheless, in anticipation of IFA 2023, the company has taken a bold step by introducing its first smartphone featuring this unique screen technology.

As a quick recap, the term “Nxtpaper” in TCL’s lexicon refers to a display that emulates the texture of paper, thanks to its matte finish. This sets it apart from the glossy panels commonly seen in the market. The primary advantage of this screen technology, according to TCL, lies in enhanced outdoor visibility and reduced reflections, both of which are especially advantageous when using the phone under direct sunlight. Furthermore, this screen is purportedly more comfortable for extended usage, offering a paper-like feel and reduced strain on the eyes, particularly during prolonged periods of use. Additionally, the screen is expected to simulate a lifelike paper texture when coupled with a stylus.

Breaking new ground, the TCL Nxtpaper 40 and its 5G-enabled counterpart stand as the pioneering smartphones to incorporate this innovative display technology. Significantly, TCL has chosen not to introduce this feature in high-end models, but rather as a means to differentiate its budget-friendly offerings in a market predominantly ruled by giants like Samsung and Xiaomi.

Leading the pack in terms of price is the TCL 40 Nxtpaper 5G, set to debut in several European markets in October with a price tag of £219.99. This device boasts 5G capability, a 6.6-inch HD+ display with a refresh rate of 90Hz, 256GB of storage, and 6GB of RAM. Notably, the RAM can be expanded to 12GB through software updates. The phone also features a primary camera with a 50MP resolution, accompanied by a 2MP macro lens. Complementing this is compatibility with TCL’s T-Pen stylus, promising a seamless experience on the paper-like display. On the other hand, the TCL 40 Nxtpaper, starting at a more affordable £179.99, foregoes 5G support but compensates with additional RAM, a sharper FHD+ display, and 33W fast charging.

Yet, the standout feature of these phones transcends mere specifications. The distinctive Nxtpaper display positions them uniquely within the realm of affordable smartphones. Although personal experience with either model is lacking at this point, previous interactions with Nxtpaper devices have left a positive impression. TCL has emphasized the “industry-leading eye comfort” provided by the Nxtpaper displays. A built-in sensor adjusts the display’s color temperature and brightness in response to the user’s surroundings. Another noteworthy attribute is the monochrome mode, tailored for an experience reminiscent of reading on an e-reader like a Kindle, significantly enhancing reading comfort.

While the incorporation of this technology into devices priced below £250 is commendable, its true potential could be realized if it ever finds its way into high-end, powerful smartphones. Envision a future iPhone or even an iPad Mini employing this screen technology—an ideal platform for note-taking and immersive reading experiences. Additionally, the application of Nxtpaper to Samsung’s S Pen-equipped devices presents an exciting avenue for enhanced user experiences.

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