Samsung's building one. Huawei swears it is, too. And LG could reportedly have one at the CES trade show in January. But all these companies looking to make a foldable phone look like they've been beating to the punch by a Chinese company.
But don't expect something that looks very polished.
Royole, also known as Rouyu Technology in some reports, specializes and flexible displays and sensors, and at an event in Beijing, it took the wraps off a foldable smartphone. Dubbed the FlexPai, the handset features a 7.8-inch AMOLED screen with 1920 x 1440 resolution that folds inward, giving you active displays on either side.
According to specs posted on Royole's website, the FlexPai measures 7.5 x 5.3 x 0.3 inches and weighs in at a beefy 11.3 ounces. The device has two cameras — a 16-megapixel lens and a 20-MP shooter — and it will come with 8GB of memory and 256GB of storage.
Royole is coy on what processor will power the FlexPai, listing only a Qualcomm "next-gen Snapdragon 8 series" system on chip. Twitter-based phone leaker Ice Universe says that will be the Snapdragon 8150, the rumored successor to the Snapdragon 845. Qualcomm hasn't even announced that next-generation chip yet, so it may be some time before the FlexPai even hits the market.
Still, the BBC reports that Royole will offer the FlexPai via flash sales in China starting tomorrow (Nov. 1). Prices range from the Chinese yuan equivalent of $1,290 to $1,863, depending on the configuration of the phone.
Ice Universe's tweet about the FlexPai includes a video demo of the foldable phone... and it's not terribly impressive.
The phone doesn't fold in two very easily, and — in this demo, at least — the screen seems somewhat unresponsive. More to the point, when folded up, the phone still looks very bulky, with a thick bulge where the panel bends. If the dream of a foldable phone is to have a big-screen device that can fold into something compact enough to slip into your pocket, this isn't it.
Being first is certainly noteworthy, but it will be more significant to come out with a foldable phone that actually excites people about the product. We'll could see if other phone makers have something more impressive in the works as soon as next week, when Samsung holds its developer conference and could show off the long-rumored Galaxy X folding phone.