Hands on: Royole FlexPai review
Hands on: Royole FlexPai review

The Royole FlexPai is the first fully flexible smartphone from the world, and we got to test it in CES 2019.

It has the capability to be an extremely innovative device that may shape the future of smartphones. But, it is also an early version of the exciting tech, so it is rough round the (elastic) edges.

It has definitely given us an intriguing glimpse of how smartphones using bendable screens will operate, and the technology may be as revolutionary as the HTC Vive or the first iPhone.

Royole FlexPai release date and price

The Royole FlexPai is available to purchase in China at this time, and comes in at a fairly hefty $1,300 (roughly £1,000 / AU$1,825).

That's a high asking price, and while there's a developer version of the handset available in the United States and Europe for $1,318 (roughly £1,035, AU$1,850) that includes 128GB storage, and a 256GB model for $1,469 (approximately £1,150, AU$2,060), Royole urges that customers considering the device should continue to the last version of the handset.

Much like Google Glass, this is hardly something that the mainstream is going to purchase. It's going completely be of interest to early adopters or people wealthy enough to say'I had one of the first flexible smartphones'.

When that last version will arrive remains to be seen, but we are hoping it will be sometime this season.

Should you purchase a FlexPai today, you are going to have a small wait, using a 30-60 day delivery interval since the company gets to grip production. Royole started sending devices in December 2018, so they are rolling off the line.

Hands on: Royole FlexPai review

Design and display, screen

Let us get something out of the way today: the Royole FlexPai is just enjoyable because of the tech it comprises inside. As a phone, it is pretty dreadful.

The design is something of a requirement, and because it's got a screen that may bend round a 180 degree hinge, it is impressive this considerably tech was inserted into such a tiny handset.

What you have got is basically two smartphones linked together by a 7.8-inch screen. When holding the Royole FlexPai, you can sense both the handsets as different pieces.

When unfurled to a tablet, it is a small and compact device, using a slightly wider bezel on the left , which features two cameras (more on that in a minute ).

When closed, it is not a fully level device, and also more of a wedge, so it is pretty chunky to grip in the hand, and it does not exactly slide in the pocket of jeans. The screen is held in place by amazingly powerful magnets, so it should not unfold itself.

The screens on either side which may be used as two phones with dual-SIM functionality -- are somewhat hard to use with one hand, as the rubberized hinge in the centre makes it somewhat hard to hold, particularly when attempting to use something such as the camera.

Hands on: Royole FlexPai review

In terms of the 7.8-inch screen, it is nice in terms of sharpness, using a 4:3 screen ratio and a resolution of 1,920 x 1,440. This resolution is not the most obvious, but it does not feel overly low-res either, and using a pixel density of 308ppi it is precisely exactly what you want for the occupation.

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

Regrettably, when the Royole FlexPai is totally available, it is still not fully horizontal - the hinge stops it turned into a totally smooth plane. There's a little hump in the center, which also irks when seeking to use it like a tablet.

Once folded in half you get approximately two displays around 4 inches (using 16:9 and 18:9 aspect ratios) in dimension, using an option from the navigation bar to flip 1 side off to conserve electricity.

But you can get a sliver of further screen on the hinge of the fold, providing shortcuts to apps like the camera. Notifications may also appear with this hinge, in addition to incoming calls.

It is possible to fire up the 18:9'moment' screen and use it as another device, using the dual-SIM functionality built in the FlexPai. This means you are able to have a SIM for every facet of the handset.

Royole claims the screen can continue for 200,000 folds, which ought to see out the duration of the device. That would let you fold it over 100 times, each and every day, for five years.

The Royole FlexPai has comparatively slim bezels around three sides of the screen, but to the left of the display (once held in landscape) you will notice there's a considerably thicker fourth bezel.

That is where a lot of the components are housed, including the double cameras, as while the screen is elastic, the majority of the other components will not be.

There's a fingerprint scanner and a double SIM tray near a USB-C port, however there isn't any headphone jack on FlexPai. You can get a USB-C into 3.5millimeter connector at the box, even though the pair of earphones you get together with the handset possess a USB-C connection.

The Royole FlexPai steps 190.3mm x 134 x 7.6mm (when in enlarged mode) and weighs 320g, which makes it substantially thicker than many flagship phones, which tip the scales round the 200g mark.

Hands on: Royole FlexPai review

Performance and interface

Even though the design of the phone is not brilliant, as it is chunky and difficult to hold, but essential to get that foldable screen, the software on this phone is awful.

Royole has applied its Water OS software on the top of Android 9 Pie, and it has a comprehensive overlay, since the operating system had major work to get it to jump between tablet computer and phone mode.

We had been told that this is closing production software, and it is packaging the brand new, top-tier Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 CPU, together with 6GB of RAM.

Bearing that in mind, it makes no sense that the model we used was only so slow to perform anything. Taking a photo was slow. Turning from tablet to phone has been slow. Opening the settings required a more difficult press and was... yeah, you guessed it. Slow.

It isn't apparent why the Royole FlexPai conducted this manner as it had everything inside to allow it to soar along, but we are imagining Water OS still has quite a ways to go in terms of efficiency.

Sure, it has got to always work out whether it is using a couple of screens, but that does not mean that the camera shutter speed must be so bad.

There are a few wonderful user interface tweaks from the FlexPai however: the apps slipping along portions of the screen or the spine used for quick app links is fairly cool.

For those looking ahead to the coming of 5G at 2019, there's good news since the FlexPai will get support for the next generation network technology by means of a software upgrade -- even though when this upgrade will probably be pushed out is yet to be verified.

There's also a 3,800mAh battery packaged inside the handset, which seems somewhat small considering the magnitude of the screen onto the FlexPai. Both the Huawei Mate 20 and Samsung Galaxy Note 9 have larger batteries. The FlexPai does offer fast charging, which will hopefully be convenient in the event the battery will not run low.

Hands on: Royole FlexPai review


The Royole FlexPai includes a dual-camera set up, using a 16MP wide-angle camera along with a 20MP telephoto snapper housed from the chunky bezel into the left of the screen (when seen in landscape tablet mode).

There's a flash, as well as the cameras feature OIS (optical image stabilization) that should hopefully assist their low performance performance.

Because of the folding nature of the FlexPai, there's no distinct selfie camera, since the handset could be folded to produce the cameras either front or back facing.

The camera quality, that uses a double detector, is not anything to write home about, also recorded video quality was only OK. Again, nothing mind boggling, however, it was nice having the ability to fold the phone and have it stand by itself. That was publication.

Hands on: Royole FlexPai review

General assessment

Look, we understand we are come down fairly hard on the Royole FlexPai, but that's because you should not purchase it in its existing state. The software is simply not up to the task and has to be improved tremendously until you think about buying this incredibly expensive phone.

What it will do is provide a feeling of the long run. It shows us that Royole understands what it is doing in elastic screens, and possibly that is exactly what the FlexPai is: a demo of that.

After using this phone, we are certain that we will be seeing phones that fold to tablets and also more in the future -- and that's wonderful.

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