The world's first foldable phone is charmingly hideous.
The world's first flexible phone is charmingly hideous.
The flexible phone was developed in order to look stylish, has a high screen resolution, can be resized and can be used in a wide range of applications.
The Royole FlexPai is the kind of device that companies rush into when they feel the absolute imperative to to be the first to use a new technology.
I don't blame Royole, a five year old company. founded literally for the purpose of developing and selling flexible displays, because it faced the existential threat of Samsung stepping in and stealing its thunder with a folding device rival .
So Royole hastily put the FlexPai together and let the world gawk in awe at its amazing, foldable wonder.
I took on the FlexPai today and was amused at how dysfunctional most of its software was. But let's talk hardware first.
Measuring 7.8 inches diagonally, this is an Android tablet in its extended mode that becomes two, not just one, Android phones when closed. Yes, Royole is apparently a hyper-ambitious company.
Provides two SIM slots and try provide an automatic detection system that only displays content on the half of the folded screen you are viewing at any given time.
One of the two phones is assigned as the primary, and its contents spill over to the entire tablet when the device is opened.
You get 1920 x 1440 resolution on the full screen, which shrinks to less than half when you're in phone mode, thanks in large part to the huge swath of the disused OLED display that wraps around the large hinge.
Still, a pixel density of 308ppi is enough to make the screen look reasonably sharp. The biggest problem with this is that it's simply poor quality.
In my 40 minutes with the FlexPai, I noticed color banding, odd dark areas right in the center of the screen, and the kind of hyper-saturation that was characteristic of Samsung's first- and second-generation AMOLED displays from many years ago.
Royole has done a good job of making the FlexPai sturdy. I initially feared that I would break it when I got close to the fully folded position, but that's when it simply snaps perfectly into a rigid, closed shape.
It actually requires a considerable amount of force from the user to open and close it, which gives me a reassuring feeling that it can withstand rough handling.
A major cause of my reluctance to be too hyped about foldable products is the preconceived notion that they would be even more fragile than today's smartphones.
But the Royole FlexPai seems to have been designed well enough to dispute that idea.
The biggest flaw of the FlexPai is, as expected, its software and basic operation. Every time you rotate the device or fold / unfold it, you will get deeply confused and go crazy. I saw apps stacked on top of each other and overlapping with widgets as the tablet went into phone mode. I accidentally launched the camera more than once.
There's nothing intuitive about automatically switching between the two phones. Royole's software is called Water OS, and I definitely felt out of my depth. Logic and predictability are important whenever you pick up this device.
Lest you think that the Royole FlexPai is some sort of far-future concept, you should know that it is already on sale in China for 8,999 yuan.
That's equivalent to about $ 1,320 in U.S. currency, and Royole would happily sell you a developer edition for the same price here in the U.S. if you like the kind of clunky, awkward weirdness this folding tablet offers.