FlexPai Foldable Phone Hands-on: Exciting Meets Awkward

LAS VEGAS - There were very few gadgets at CES 2019 that excited me. And this is one of them. But it also feels unfinished.

The FlexPai from Royole is the world’s first smartphone with a flexible display. The AMOLED screen unfolds to a massive 7.8 inches, which means you can use it as a phone or tablet.

I had a few minutes to play with this handset, which is available for sale as a developer edition model for a cool $1,318, and I came away impressed with the versatility of the design. But I also get the feeling that this device was rushed to market to beat the likes of the rumored Galaxy F.

I've also added some additional impressions after a second encounter with the device.

I did find it easy to change from phone to tablet mode and back again. In fact, it was fun just to see this thing transform over and over. Royale says the phone is rated for more than 200,000 bends, so it should be able to stand up to daily use.

MORE: Royole FlexPai Foldable Phone FAQ: What You Need to Know

Interestingly, when you fold the device, the right side shows all of your apps and the back side shows the camera app, which is where you can use the camera when folded. Unfortunately, my head looked stretched out when the camera fired on. The edge of the device when folded becomes an area for showing notifications.

Despite having such a large display, the phone didn’t feel heavy. It weighs 11.2 ounces, which is considerably more than the 7.1-ounce Galaxy Note 9. But you’re also getting a lot more real estate.

However, the design could be more refined. In tablet mode the FlexPai didn’t seem to lay perfectly flat; there was a slight curve in the middle. In addition, the hinge in the center of the phone looks a bit rubbery and cheap for such a premium device. And even when fully closed, there’s a noticeable gap between both sides of the unit.

The specs are definitely premium, though, as the FlexPai packs a Snapdragon 855 processor (according to the company), 6 or 8GB of RAM and your choice of 128GB or 256GB of storage.

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I did not have a chance to take any test photos, but the dual cameras include 16-MP and 20-MP shooters with an f/1.8 aperture.

In terms of software, the FlexPai will ship with Android 9 Pie, and the company is adding some flourishes on top. For example, you should be able to see your incoming notifications on the bended edge of the display when the screen is closed.

One thing that worries me is battery life. At 3,800 mAh, the FlexPai’s capacity is less than several Android flagships, many of which hit 4,000 mAh or higher. But this hybrid does support fast charging.

Overall, the FlexPai is less gimmicky that I thought it would be. But it also feels like more like a prototype than a finished product right now. I'd have to really live with this convertible for a while before I could render a final verdict.

Photos: Tom's Guide

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.