The Foldable Royale FlexPai Review

So this is it, the Royale FlexPai portable device. Some of you wanted this. Now you’ve got it. This is the very first announced and distributed foldable phone. They call it a phone. To me, it’s a foldable tablet, because this is the thing that you do. And just as you’re about to close it, and it feels like it’s about to snap broken, it snaps into place. In the case of this device, actually, the funny thing is, it turns into 2 phones.

So when it’s like this, in tablet mode, is when you can actually use the full 7.8 inches of the display. It’s a four by three aspect ratio.308 pixels per inch.1920 x 1440 resolution. You got speakers up at the top. Power button.Volume button surrounding a fingerprint sensor.

foldable phone
Royale FlexPai portable device

And then basically nothing. USB-C charging port, no headphone jack. And these are the rubber bits which create the hinge. But, actually, I am a little bit surprised by the reliability of this hinge.

Every time I’m trying to close it, it feels like it’s just about to break when I get to this point. And then just as I’m like, “Yeah, the screen is going to break,” it snaps into place, and its quite firm. Now, it does leave you with one of those like, Microsoft Surface Book-like gaps back here. It survives people being quite rough with it in their usage, and it does turn into a tablet. Now, is it a good tablet? Is it a usable tablet? No. Is it a good phone, is it a usable phone? No. But, Royale is a company that was literally founded for the sake of making flexible displays.

quite firm

The founders of the company, they’re Stanford graduates, they founded it in 2013, and they came up with a not .1 millimeter thick flexible display film. Out here in the CES 2019 booth, they have it on handbags, on hats, on t-shirts. So, its cool, as far as technology goes. But in terms of implementation, in terms of the way that it’s being done, this thing is so far from finished. The camera is terrible.

The interface is terrible. When I’m trying to just pivot from portrait orientation into the landscape, sometimes it works, most of the time it doesn’t. When I’m trying to switch it into phone mode, just the way that you naturally handle it, your fingers are all over the screen, so you’re triggering things you don’t want to be triggering. At the moment I’m looking at it, and its upside down. I don’t know why its upside down.

I’m usually good with technology. I feel like my grandfather. But even the display technology itself, I’m looking at it, and it’s not particularly great. It has a lot of vibrancy to the colors, as OLED usually does. But it has all the hallmarks of really, really early AMOLED displays. Like I’m talking S-AMOLED first and second generation AMOLED displays. That means there’s banding in white sections, the lighting seems to be inconsistent, and I’m seeing like this dark patches in the middle of the display. It’s not right.

Again, making the display flexible is no mean feat. In terms of engineering, that’s an achievement. But I just feel like this thing needs plenty more time, and plenty more work before it becomes a real retail product, which is funny because Royale is actually selling it in China. They’re selling it for 8,999 Yuan, which translates to something like $1,320.And you can actually buy a developer edition for $1,320 now in the United States.

I do need to give them praise for build quality, which even though it’s quite chunky, is really quite good. If you’re the kind of person who likes a little bit of chaos in their life, a little bit of unpredictability, and you’re just tired of the same old technology doing the same old things that you actually want them to do, this is the phone for you.

And, I mean, I don’t always call them phones, I call them foldable tablets because its a tablet that folds. And survives drops, apparently.

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