Moving on from traditional handsets, mainstream tech giants like Microsoft, Samsung and Lenovo are rumored to be working on “foldable smartphones”. But they’re already late to the party, now that the California-based electronics brand, Royole, has unveiled the world’s first foldable smartphone, the FlexPai. The phone was launched on
31 October in Beijing, China, marking the biggest breakthrough moment for smartphone technology since the launch of the iPhone in 2007.

FlexPai is a smartphone with a 7.8-inch display that can be folded like a wallet to half its original size. The flexible AMOLED display is one of its kind and supports a resolution of 1920 x 1440 pixels.

This is being pitched as  a dual-purpose device, which can be used as a tablet in its big-screen version and can be folded and transformed into an easy-to-handle smartphone.

The FlexPai can actually support three screen ratios—4:3, 16:9 and 18:9—depending on how you fold the phone. You can also fold the handset and make use of the split-screen function, allowing you to perform different operations on both screens simultaneously. To spare you the constant interruptions while performing tasks on either the primary or the secondary screen, the phone allows you to manage calls, messages and other notifications through a sidebar.

Despite its high-performance specs, the phone weighs only 320 grams. It runs on Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 series SoC, 2.8 GHz octa-core processor and comes with preinstalled Water OS, which is based on Android 9.0. On the hardware front, it is equipped with 6GB-8GB RAM, and storage space that’s expandable to up to 256GB. It provides users with the battery of 3,800mAh.

Since the phone can be bent in two different folds—at two different angles—its two cameras, 16 and 20MP, can be used in all sorts of inventive ways.

The brand has some prior experience in foldable technology that it has brought to bear on developing the FlexiPai.

According to the official Royole website, “Royole has also developed and mass produced flexible sensor technology that delivers high-precision, linearity, and sensitivity. The company is well known for its ability to provide customers with diverse products and solutions, fast turnaround time, short production cycles, large-volume production capabilities, and low costs. Royole sensors are fully compatible with flexible and traditional applications and deliver a bending radius of just 1-3mm that is operational even after 200,000 bends.”

The FlexPai foldable smartphone, according to Bill Liu, founder and CEO, Royole, “provides mobile phone users with a revolutionary, different experience compared to traditional phones”.

“It perfectly solves the contradiction between the high-definition large-screen experience and portability, which introduces a whole new dimension to the human-machine interface. The phone’s inherent design will forever change the consumer electronics industry, as well as the way people interact with and perceive their world,” Liu said.

Royole is now accepting orders for the FlexPai from around the globe. It’s priced at $1,588 (around Rs 1,06, 350) and above, and will begin shipping by December this year.

Rumour has it that Samsung is about to launch its own foldable smartphone anytime now. More big brands are also planning to follow suit. Does it mean that foldable smartphones are here to stay?

It’s too early to say. However, there are some obvious points to be made against foldable smartphones in general. For starters, this technology is expensive as of now. Most users would prefer spending big on genuine spec upgrades rather than on gimmicky features like foldable screens. Second, the question of durability of such phones is still moot. How fragile are these foldable screens and how delicate the devices? All this will become clearer in due time, once such phones are made available for a hands-on experience.