We’ve been promised a foldable phone for years, and Samsung is finally promising one in the not-too-distant future. However, a company you’ve probably never heard of has beaten Samsung to the punch. Royole just announced a FlexPai, a 7.8-inch foldable tablet-phone hybrid. The company has shown off working units, but the FlexPai doesn’t seem to work particularly well.
Every trade show for the past decade has featured at least one flexible OLED demo. Unlike LCDs, you can manufacture OLED panels on plastic substrates that bend and even fold. That’s how Samsung has managed to make all those curved OLED panels over the past few years. However, creating a display that can fold repeatedly and still work is another matter entirely.
Royole says its phone can fold more than 200,000 times without damage. When fully flattened out, the FlexPai has a 7.8-inch 1920×1440 display. You can fold it in half to get a smaller phone-like device that looks like a billfold. That gives you three screen areas: the front, back, and edge. Naturally, there are zero apps that understand how to make use of such a configuration.
The FlexPai allegedly runs on the still-unannounced Snapdragon 8150 SoC (a successor to the 845), 8GB of RAM, and 128 or 256GB of storage. It has Android 9 Pie with a full re-skinned UI called Water OS. It doesn’t appear to have Google services installed, either.
This is the “world’s first foldable screen phone” released by Rouyu Technology, which will use the Snapdragon 8150 processor, but its design is very rough, just to seize the “first”, this is a futures product. pic.twitter.com/M0v9o2z0Bw
— Ice universe (@UniverseIce) October 31, 2018
In the video, you can see the interface repeatedly glitching as the device is folded and unfolded. The touch response is so bad it looks like the digitizer may be deteriorating with each fold. And then there’s the screen texture, which looks like lumpy mashed potatoes. Meanwhile, Royole’s renders of the phone make it look sleek and perfectly flat. There’s a lot of work to do before Royole could ever sell the FlexPai to consumers, and I doubt that will happen.
Calling this the first foldable phone is still rather debatable. There is video evidence that the FlexPai is a real thing — I’m not disputing that. However, it doesn’t look like something people will want to use, and it’s only available as a “developer model” right now. If you’re not selling it as a finished product, should it really count as the first? The screens might fail after a month, and Royole could just shrug and remind us it’s developer hardware.
Royole is taking pre-orders for the developer model now starting at $1,318 for the 128GB version. The 256GB is $1,469. The FlexPai will allegedly ship in December, but anyone who orders should not expect a good product.
Now read: Huawei Looks to Beat Samsung to Market With a Foldable Phone, New iPhones May Use LG’s OLED Displays Instead of Samsung, and Google Pixel 3 XL OLED Scores Record High Marks in DisplayMate Testing