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Royole FlexPai hands-on: the world’s first foldable smartphone

At the CES in Las Vegas, we had the first chance to take a close look at the world’s first foldable smartphone, the FlexPai. The new smartphone comes from the Chinese manufacturer Royole, which even beat Samsung in the race for the first foldable smartphone. We could try it out at CES and show you our first impressions. So, revolution or gadget?

Royole beats Samsung

Samsung has been discussing Samsung’s future foldable smartphone for months or years. However, it was the young (and relatively unknown) Chinese manufacturer Royole who came around the corner with a surprise, introducing the world’s first working foldable smartphone.

Finally, at CES in Las Vegas, the manufacturer announced availability and prices in China. The FlexPai will, therefore, be at 8999 yuan for the model with 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of internal memory and 12999 yuan for the version with 8 GB of RAM and 512 GB of memory. So it’s very expensive, to be honest actually too expensive.

The FlexPai is a truly unique smartphone.
The FlexPai is a truly unique smartphone.

A 7.8-inch smartphone tablet

It is sometimes said that the world of technology, and in particular the world of smartphones, is no longer truly innovative. However, this smartphone proves the opposite, and at first glance, the FlexPai really makes a difference. This smartphone can actually be folded!

Once unfolded – thanks to its 180-degree hinge – the device is the only one on the market that can offer an AMOLED screen with a diagonal of 7.8 inches and a resolution of 1920 x 1440 pixels. It should also be noted that the screen is not quite flat.

When folding the device, the FlexPai offers two screens, one in 16: 9 format and one in 18: 9 format. It is also possible to disable one of them if you want to save battery power. The FlexPai even has an automatic function for it.

When folded, the smartphone stays pretty thick.

As surprising as it may seem, this smartphone-tablet is still quite handy. The resistance should not disappoint, according to the manufacturer. Royole assures that the smartphone can be folded more than 200,000 times before it gets damaged. As you can imagine, I could not put this statement to the test. The model, which I was allowed to try at the fair, showed a good finish for a pre-production model. Only in the joint were sometimes small bubbles.

Despite its weight of 320 grams, the FlexPai is also quite “easy” to use. When folding, it takes some courage, and you have to get used to the rubberized hinge. Of course, the smartphone is quite thick when folded and requires the use of two hands, but for the first try, the whole thing works quite well. There is also a fingerprint sensor and a dual SIM slot, but no jack.

The AMOLED display is generally satisfactory, but seems a bit too warm.

Technically well equipped, but support questionable

On paper, Royole’s smartphone does not disappoint. Under the hood are the Snapdragon 855 processor, 6 or 8 GB of RAM, 128 or 256 GB ROM, a 3800 mAh battery, a 16-megapixel wide-angle camera, and a 20-megapixel telephoto lens.

Whether such a smartphone from such a small manufacturer, however, can be rudimentary, is questionable. Royole relies on Android 9 Pie but had to make major changes in the system. Royole calls the surface Water OS. In itself, it does not make a bad impression, even though during my short test phase at least one crash was heard, which has caused a reboot. However, bigger problems are the apps, because practically none is designed for such a format. Also, I noticed that the display has warmed a bit too much, but that could have done to serial production.

Royole FlexPai: Specifications

DIMENSIONS: 134 x 190.3 x 7.6 mm
MASS: 320 g
DISPLAY SIZE: 7.8 inches
SCREEN: 1920x1440px (308ppi)
CAMERA FRONT: 16 megapixels
REAR CAMERA: 20 megapixels
ANDROID: 9 – Pie
R.A.M: 6 GB
8 GB
256 GB

Preliminary verdict

The idea of a foldable smartphone is not new, the benefits are obvious. Royole does not present a bad first foldable smartphone here. Nevertheless, it is questionable how the smartphone will arrive. The handling is not always easy and the price of at least 1200 euros acts for a smartphone from a still unknown company like Royole somewhat high. As with any major innovation like this one, we’ll probably have to wait until the second or even third generation until a really great smartphone comes out of it. As exciting as the concept may be, FlexPai is currently not the right smartphone for most users.