Royole beats Samsung to the punch with its own foldable smartphone

But does the $1300 device promise more than it delivers?

After all the hype surrounding Samsung’s foldable smartphone, it seems like a relatively unknown Chinese brand may have beat them to market. Called the Royole FlexPai, this 2-in-1 smartphone/tablet was first launched late last year in Beijing. Now, the company is showcasing the device at CES 2019.

Featuring a Snapdragon 855, 6GB of RAM, and up to 256GB of storage, the FlexPai is the culmination of five years worth of research and development from Royole – a company founded for the sole purpose of developing foldable phone technology.

Due to the company’s ambition to become the first to market a commercially viable foldable phone, those who’ve had hands-on experience with the device point to many shortcomings that Royole’s marketing fails to mention.

For example, when unfolded in tablet mode, the FlexPai boasts a 7.8-inch screen with 1920 x 1440 resolution, however, it shrinks to a pixel density of just 308ppi when folded. What’s more, there are numerous reports of color banding and hyper-saturation, two issues that famously plagued Samsung during its initial AMOLED rollout.

Unfortunately, the software doesn’t seem to live up either. According to those who’ve physically reviewed the device, the phone’s Android-based ‘Water OS’ is notoriously glitchy – especially when switching from phone to tablet mode. Many report that the software becomes chaotic as icons randomly jump around and stack while the device tries to gather its new orientation.

In other words, Water OS isn’t the most user-friendly nor predictable mobile operating system around.

Not to harp on just the negatives, there are also many positive functions and features that are noteworthy. One theme we’ve noticed continuously pops up is its steady build. By nature, many of us just assume that foldable phones will be more prone to destruction. Nevertheless, sources have commented on Royole’s outstanding engineering when it comes to the phone’s folding mechanism.

The Verge reports that “it just snaps cleanly into a stiff, closed form… [and] requires a fair amount of force from the user to open and close it, which gives [them] a reassuring sense that it can withstand rough handling.”

Another potentially worthwhile feature is the dual-SIM holder, which allows the FlexPai to operate as two wholly independent phones.

While the phone is currently available to Chinese buyers (9000 yuan / $1320), there’s no word on a potential American release.

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