Samsung may be a few days away from taking the wrap of its own foldable smartphone hybrid, but Royole consumer electronics company stole some of its thunder with its own flexible display device. Called FlexPai, the 7.8-inch hybrid device can double 180 degrees and turn from a tablet into a phone, albeit bulky.
At an event in San Francisco tonight, Royole brought in a functional version of FlexPai that we actually managed to handle, and the folding feature works as advertised. Granted, it seems to be a far cry from a modern and sophisticated flagship, but it's still the first foldable device I've seen in person, not just in a concept video or prototype stage.
The FlexPai will be available as a consumer device in China with a base model price of 8,999 yuan, or about $ 1,300. You can also pay this amount of money in dollars to a developer version if you live in North America. This gives you 128 GB of storage but you can double for another $ 150 and add another 2 GB of RAM to a total of 8 GB.
As for the other specs, the device will come with a 2.8 Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and eight cores, the screen resolution is 1920 x 1440 when fully expanded and comes with a 3,800 mAh battery. Both the consumer model and the developer version are currently available on Royole's website. Royole says the Chinese consumer model and the developer version are slated to ship in December.
It should be said that this device is much more a first generation product. The software seemed extremely slow, the applications continually opened accidentally, and the guidance continued to shift randomly when one of Royole's representatives demonstrated the folding process. This, to me, indicates that the company's custom Water OS (an Android 9.0 fork, says Royole) is probably not yet the most robust operating system.
Still, this is much more about hardware innovation than making an AMOLED screen virtually unbreakable, with a reasonably enough battery that can sustain the folding process. Royole says the screen can resist being folded 200,000 times. (What happens after that is not immediately clear.) We do not know how this compares to the version of Samsung or competing screen manufacturers like LG. But it certainly bodes well for the imminent trend of flexible / collapsible display that we are already seeing work devices like this coming to market.