CES 2019: Chinese manufacturer Royole beats Samsung in bringing foldable phone to market

CES 2019: Chinese manufacturer Royole beats Samsung in bringing foldable phone to market

Royole FlexPai smartphone
Shenzhen-based manufacturer Royole beats smartphone giant Samsung Electronics to bring a foldable phone to market with the FlexPai device. 

LAS VEGAS: Before Samsung Electronics could bring its foldable smartphone to the market, a Chinese manufacturer has beaten the South Korean tech giant to the punch. 

Shenzhen-based Royole Corporation is showcasing its FlexPai device - a smartphone and tablet hybrid - at the ongoing CES 2019 trade show, which uses the company’s patented flexible display called Cicada Wing to achieve the innovation. 

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It has a 7.8-inch AMOLED flexible screen display that, unlike the current glass variant, is resistant to scratches and breakages, a company representative at its booth said on Tuesday (Jan 8).

The representative, Mr Meng Zhiyun, told Channel NewsAsia that the phone is powered by a customised variant of Google’s Android operating system, which Royole calls Water OS. 

This, Mr Meng added, is to accommodate the different variations in screen layout as well as how notifications are displayed and how apps can be used. For example, he showcased how the device can be folded, allowing the subject to see the picture being taken on one half of the screen as the user takes the photo with the other. 

The FlexPai comes in two variants: 6GB RAM and 128GB storage or 8GB RAM and 256GB, although the actual capacity after formatting will be less, according to the marketing brochure given at the booth. It also has expandable storage of up to 256GB. 

The device comes with a 4,000 mAh battery, comparable with other top-range alternatives in the market currently. 

Mr Meng pointed out the device can be bent from “zero to 180 degrees” and supports more than 200,000 bends. It does not appear to sit flush when folded out into a tablet, when Channel NewsAsia took a first-hand look. 

He said the device has been available for sale from US$1,300 in China since last October, and the developer version of the device is available for pre-orders on the company’s website. Another company representative said the device will be brought to the US later this year but did not state when exactly.

The FlexPai felt like a prototype device on first impressions, with the hardware shining more than the software - as is common for China-made devices. 

Royole might have first-mover advantage at the moment, but smartphone aficionados may want to keep their powder dry and wait for Samsung’s unveil, possibly as soon as February’s Mobile World Congress. 

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The South Korean company had in November last year teased its upcoming foldable smartphone, with one executive showing a prototype with a 7.3-inch screen. However, developers or the media were not given the opportunity to test-run the device. 

The foldable phone had been viewed by market watchers as a means to reinvigorate the company’s mobile business. It had this week surprised the market by estimating a 29 per-cent drop in quarterly profit for its upcoming earnings report.

Source: CNA/kk