Royole FlexPai: the world's first flexible smartphone is here

The Royole FlexPai flexible, foldable smartphone has been officially launched at CES 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

It's the world's first foldable smartphone / tablet, and we already knew what it looked like and some of its features after the handset was soft launched towards the end of 2018 when it was made available to developers.

While it may be the first, we expect some stiff competition to arrive in the following months, with the hotly rumored Samsung Galaxy X likely to lead the charge, while LG, Huawei and Xiaomi are also all tipped to launch foldable phones in 2019.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? The world's first foldable smartphone
  • When is it out? Available to developers now
  • What does it cost? The developer version starts at $1,318 (around £1,035, AU$1,850) for the 128GB model

Royole FlexPai

Royole FlexPai release date

The Royole FlexPai is already available as a 'developer version' from the firm's website. Royole is yet to announce the FlexPai release date for the final model.

The handset has been available to buy as a developers version since November 2019 though, with Royole shipping handsets from December 2018.

Royole FlexPai price

We're yet to get a final Royole FlexPai price, but we already know that it's going to be an expensive piece of kit – no surprise considering the cutting edge, foldable technology that it's packing.

The developer version of the handset starts at $1,318 (around £1,035, AU$1,850) for the 128GB version, while the 256GB developer FlexPai costs $1,469 (around £1,150, AU$2,060).

Royole FlexPai

Royole FlexPai display

Unsurprisingly, the main attraction on the Royole FlexPai is its large, flexible AMOLED display which can be folded in half.

When folded out in tablet mode, it measures 7.8 inches, has a 4:3 aspect ratio and boasts a QHD resolution of 1920 x 1440 which equates to a pixel density of 308ppi. 

It means its display isn't as sharp as a tradition smartphone QHD display, as the pixels are stretched over a larger canvas. 

In comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 has a pixel density of 516ppi on its 6.4-inch display, while the Huawei Mate 20 Pro comes in at 538ppi on its 6.39-inch screen.

When folded in half you get around two displays around 4 inches (with 16:9 and 18:9 aspect ratios) in size, with one side turning off to save power. However you do get a sliver of additional screen on the hinge of the fold, providing shortcuts to apps such as the camera.

You can fire up the 18:9 'second' screen and use it as a second device, utilizing the dual-SIM functionality built into the FlexPai. It means you can have a SIM for each side of the handset.

When folded, the screen doesn't sit completely flat against the other half of the phone, with a wedged fold creating a slightly awkward shape. The screen is held in place by magnets, so it shouldn't try and unfold itself.

Royole says the screen can last for 200,000 folds, which should see out the lifetime of the device.

Royole FlexPai

Royole FlexPai design

The Royole FlexPai has relatively slender bezels around three sides of the screen, but to the left of the display (when held in landscape) you'll notice there's a much thicker fourth bezel.

This is where many of the components will be housed, included the cameras, as while the screen is flexible, most of the other components won't be.

There's a fingerprint scanner and a dual SIM tray next to a USB-C port, but there is no headphone jack on FlexPai. You do get a USB-C to 3.5mm connector in the box although, although with a set of earphones with a USB-C connection on them.

The Royole FlexPai measures 190.3mm x 134 x 7.6mm (when in expanded mode) and weighs 320g, making it considerably heavier than most flagship phones which tip the scales around the 200g mark. 

It's understandable though, as the FlexPai has a bigger screen then those handsets, but it's going to be rather chunky when folded in half. That could make it a difficult device to slide into a pocket or small bag.

Royole FlexPai power and storage

The Royole FlexPai packs in the top-tier Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset, the very latest version of the 800 series.

That chipset is paired with either 6GB or 8GB of RAM, and you also get the choice of 128GB or 256GB of internal storage. If that's not enough space, the FlexPai packs a microSD slot, which supports memory cards up to 256GB in size.

The FlexPai is also upgradable to support 5G when the next generation network becomes available this year.

There's also a 3,800mAh battery packed inside the handset, which feels a little small considering the size of the screen on the FlexPai. Both the Huawei Mate 20 and Samsung Galaxy Note 9 have bigger batteries. The FlexPai does offer fast charging, which will hopefully come in handy if the battery does run low.

Royole FlexPai operating system

The Royole FlexPai operating system is based on Android 9 Pie, which is the latest installment from Google, but it has the firm's own Water OS over the top.

The custom interface is required as Android doesn't currently support folding displays, which means Royole has had to adapt the operating system to work with the FlexPai.

Water OS is able to detect whether you have the FlexPai in tablet or phone mode, and will automatically adapt to suit the mode you're in.

Royole FlexPai

Royole FlexPai cameras

The Royole FlexPai has a dual-camera setup, with a 16MP wide-angle camera alongside a 20MP telephoto snapper housed in the chunky bezel to the left of the screen (when viewed in landscape tablet mode).

There's a flash, and the cameras feature OIS (optical image stabilization) which should hopefully aid their low-light performance.

Due to the folding nature of the FlexPai, there's no separate selfie camera, as the handset can be folded round to make the cameras either front or rear facing.

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