Royole isn’t a well-known brand in the tech industry, especially when it comes to designing and manufacturing smartphones. Although headquartered in Fremont, California, most of the company’s employees are based in China, where it has a factory in Shenzhen. Along with a plethora of electronic gadgets under its belt, the company has also surreptitiously been working on flexible display technology over the past five years. Now, the anonymity of the company is about to change, as it has claimed to have succeeded in creating the world’s first commercial foldable phone.
The foldable phone powered by flexible display technology is named the FlexPai handset, which the company unveiled at an event in Beijing on 31st October, 2018. When opened, the device features a single display and measures around 7.8 inches – considerably bigger than many tablets available in the market. The device can be folded up just like a book, in which case it presents three separate smaller screens – on the front, rear, and the spine of the device. While the display on the spine of the device is meant to show notifications, the one on the front and rear can be used as two independent screens. The resolution of the device is an astounding 1,920-by-1,440. Royole states that FlexPai has been tested to withstand more than 200,000 open-and-shut-movements, ensuring that it stays operational for several years before the action damages the display.
However, the presence of a third display on the spine ensures that the device doesn’t fold completely flat – which could prevent it from fitting in pockets. The device also weighs around 11 Oz, making it 50 % heavier than iPhone XS Max or Galaxy Note 9. Nonetheless, the device is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 series chip that clocks at 2.8GHz. The base model possesses 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, along with a microSD card slot for additional storage. The device has two cameras, one at 20 megapixels and the other at 16 megapixels.
Carolina Milanesi of Creative Strategies Consultancy has divulged her own views on Royole’s groundbreaking release. “Royole gets the bragging rights to being first, and it’s quite astonishing that someone you’ve never heard of is doing this,” she said. When questioned about Royole’s decision to offer a slightly different version of the device to developers across the world, she said, “What’s great is that it’s putting this into the hands of developers, who will be able to start the legwork that will result in apps for flexible devices that will eventually be sold by Samsung and whoever else.” The device, indeed, shows some software incompatibility, especially when it comes to the Android OS. Reports have indicated that the display flicks between different orientations after being switched from one mode to another before settling.
Royole has surpassed the likes of Huawei, LG, and Samsung to be the first company that has brought a foldable phone into the market. Samsung had recently teased the public with the notion that its own foldable smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy X, will be launched at a forthcoming developer conference on November, 2018 in San Francisco. According to VentureBeat, LG has also claimed to unveil a foldable phone of its own at the CES trade show in January, 2019. The launch of Royole’s FlexPai has caught these smartphone makers and many other industry watchers by surprise.
Depending on the memory and storage specifications, the FlexPai is priced between $1,290 and $1,863. The device goes on sale on 1st November to consumers in China, where the company is planning on holding three “flash sales” to offer the device on its first production run.