Mobile Technology

The Royole FlexPai is the first phone we've seen with a truly foldable screen

The Royole FlexPai folds out to be a tablet, and folds over to be a phone
The Royole FlexPai folds out to be a tablet, and folds over to be a phone
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The Royole FlexPai folds out to be a tablet, and folds over to be a phone
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The Royole FlexPai folds out to be a tablet, and folds over to be a phone
The Royole FlexPai runs some decent specs under the hood
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The Royole FlexPai runs some decent specs under the hood
When folded, there's a third screen on the edge of the Royole FlexPai
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When folded, there's a third screen on the edge of the Royole FlexPai
In total, the Royole FlexPai foldable screen is 7.8 inches corner to corner
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In total, the Royole FlexPai foldable screen is 7.8 inches corner to corner
With prices starting at US$1,318, the Royole FlexPai is very much for early adopters
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With prices starting at US$1,318, the Royole FlexPai is very much for early adopters
The Royole FlexPai is likely to be followed by foldable phones from the likes of Samsung, LG, and Huawei
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The Royole FlexPai is likely to be followed by foldable phones from the likes of Samsung, LG, and Huawei

Foldable phones are coming, there's no doubt about that. Samsung, LG, and Huawei are among those who've set out their intentions to launch bendable handsets within the next year, but they've all apparently been beaten to the line by the Royole FlexPai.

Whereas last year's ZTE Axon M stuck two displays together with a hinge, the FlexPai screen really does fold over – it's a tablet one moment and a phone the next. The Chinese manufacturer behind the device says it can be folded open and shut more than 200,000 times before breaking.

When folded, you actually get three screens on the FlexPai: one on the front, one on the back, and one down the side of the device (across the fold) to show notifications, messages and more.

So how has this little-known firm beaten the big names to market? Based on demo videos, this looks very much like a prototype device, and not something Samsung or LG would officially push out into the world. Indeed the FlexPai is being sold as a "Developer Model" for now, indicating it's not yet fit for the public at large.

Royole is also charging a hefty sum for the technology – prices start at US$1,318 for the cheapest model – and delivery isn't scheduled until "late December." This is very much for early adopters only.

When folded, there's a third screen on the edge of the Royole FlexPai
When folded, there's a third screen on the edge of the Royole FlexPai

Nevertheless, it gives us a glimpse of what's coming down the line in 2019. The FlexPai features a 7.8-inch, 1,920 x 1,440 resolution OLED screen (308 pixels-per-inch) when fully opened out, 6GB or 8 GB of RAM, and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8150 processor (likely to appear in next year's Android flagships as the Snapdragon 855). It comes with 128 GB, 256 GB, or 512 GB of internal storage, and has dual 20 MP + 16 MP rear cameras.

The on-board software is Royole's own Water OS, which is based on Android 9 Pie, so plenty of apps should be available. How they'll react to the foldable screen isn't clear, but presumably there'll be a switch like there is for landscape to portrait modes.

"Say goodbye to rigid surfaces," explains the device's sales blurb. "FlexPai will completely change your perception of a traditional mobile phone and the need to own multiple mobile devices."

It's worth emphasizing that this is more of a prototype than a finished product, though it is an interesting early look at how smartphones might evolve over the coming years. Look out for some of the big Android manufacturers to follow Royole's lead in 2019, though again the technology is likely to be a little rough around the edges, and expensive.

Product page: Royole

10 comments
paul314
So it's supposed to be shipping in one to two months, but no one outside the company has seen or touched one?
Mr T
Even if it does happen, it will probably come loaded with spyware and malware, like many Chinese phones...
Babaghan
You'd need to have your head examined if you input any banking information, passwords, login credentials, or personal information of any kind into this device. ET phone home.
rude.dawg
Does this mean that the Chinese can eventually wrap LCD screens around their tanks, ships and aircraft to show images of the landscape/seascape on the other side and make their tanks,ships and aircraft "melt" into the background?
VincentWolf
We can make a foldable screen phone/tablet but can't make a decent slide-out physical keyboard for a phone. Ridiculous.
Kaido Tiigisoon
Modern smartphone owes part of it's success to Corning Gorilla Glass. This makes the phone's screen almost unscratchable. All imaginable bendable screens must be covered with some polymer. Polymers are very scratchable. So, in buying this one you'll obtain a device that will look pretty "weared" after some not very long time.
highlandboy
Plenty of comments on Chinese security - but little on how useful the device would be. Credit where credits due, the Chinese have achieved a displayable prototype. Early phablets were scorned - yet top of the range phones have bigger screens and many want one. Samsung brought out curved edge screens, many wanted one. It’s unlikely this will be any different.
myale
So if the cameras are in the rear - these would inside the fold - so you need to open it out. The front camera if there is one could be on the larger outer edge - which looks to fold to the back, so again have to fold out or remember to trun around for those selfie moments. The specs do not seem to have taken advantage of the potential to have two backs to pack gear into - unless they have kept them very slim - but you need some depth to the device to manage the bend. Too little information to actually decide if this is a great idea or not
Mzungu_Mkubwa
I'm struggling to see how this is useful in any practical way in real-life use. Flat, its a big screen... great! Folded (especially folded screen-out as shown) its half the usable screen space (you can only look at one side at a time.) Folded it can be used as a phone? So someone's going to have that fat brick held against their head? The "outside" screen (the side away from the head) will show fancy patterns to the world while you chat w/ your buddies? WTF? I'm really struggling to see the "killer app" for this tech. (Altho I will admit that it would make a great lil' digital battleship game when partly folded, tent-style, between the opponents. ☺...but isn't that what networked games on separate devices are for?)
DaveWesely
They folded this the wrong way. The screen should be on the inside where it is protected from scratches and butt dialing. Plus you don't need a touch screen next to your face while talking on the phone.