Royole has given more details about its flexible tablet-cum-smartphone at CES 2019, the first commercially-available smartphone with a flexible display. Although currently only available outside China as a developer model, that didn't stop us from having a play at the company's booth at the show.
While this isn't going to be the phone that replaces your Samsung Galaxy or Apple iPhone, it's still an impressive proof of concept that shows us what is possible with foldable phones can and will be in the future.
Phone to tablet and back again
For those unsure of what the Royole FlexPai is, it is a device that can go from a 7.8-inch tablet to a phone back to a tablet simply by folding it in half. Everything in your mind suggests that it shouldn't be able to do that, but that's exactly what you can do, and without turning the screen off, or any complicated procedures.
It has to be said, the design itself is fairly clunky measuring 134 x 190.3 x 7.6mm when flat and unfolded. Although the same thickness as the iPhone XS Max unfolded, as soon as you do fold it, it is considerably thicker than you expect because it doesn't fold flat. That leaves you with a large air gap inside that adds bulk. Considerable bulk.
The company's CEO and those showing us the device demoed putting it in their pockets, but you would have to have fairly big pockets. No skinny jeans for you.
The folding capabilities present interesting design side affects though. You don't, for example need a rear and front facing camera. Likewise, the back of the case has to have a flexible element to cope with the bending, a bit like a bendy bus. And because it's not made of glass if you drop it, it won't smash.
The device is fairly heavy, a not-insignificant 320g, which we were surprised by this considering the screen tech is as thin as paper. Put in the hands of a company with much more resources, and cash, we suspect these issues could easily be eradicated. This is a first-generation device after all made by a start up.
More powerful than the Pixel 3 or iPhone XS
When it comes to power and performance, the FlexPai should be a monster. It's one of the first devices to be running the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor announced in December 2018. That should make it faster than the Pixel 3, the iPhone XS, and the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 in terms of processing performance and power.
To recap, that screen is a 7.8-inch flexible 4:3 ratio AMOLED display with a resolution of 1920x1440 and 308ppi and is nice and crisp.
Aside from the Snapdragon 855 processor, it will come with 6GB or 8GB of RAM, 128GB or 256GB of storage, and be expandable via a MicroSD storage slot. It will feature a USB-C connection for charging.
While it doesn't have a front and back camera it still features two cameras (side by side) and they'll be a 16-megapixel telephoto camera and a 20-megapixels wide-angle camera to give users a choice of what to shoot with.
Here's a video of the foldable phone in action:
Early Adopters will have to pay
As you might expect brand new tech made in small numbers doesn't come cheap. The developer version of the device cost from $1,300 in the US and is available from Royole's website. In the UK the 128GB model will cost £1209 and the 256GB model will cost £1349.
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