Watch a demo of Royole’s new folding phone, on sale today for roughly $1,500

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The world’s first commercially available folding-screen phone wasn’t made by Samsung, Huawei or Motorola — it was the Royole Flexpai, a device that we called “charmingly awful.” But in March, Royole promised to refine the idea with the new FlexPai 2, and the company is formally launching that phone in China today starting at 9,988 yuan, or roughly US $1,471.

And while the company is mostly only sharing renders instead of photos today, you can see a demo of the phone at roughly 38 minutes into the company’s presentation:

It looks fairly sleek? At 6.3mm thick when flat (12.8mm folded), it’s not nearly as thin as the dual-screen Microsoft Surface Duo, but it sounds thinner than Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 2’s 6.9mm frame (including the camera) and bulging 16.8mm folded hinge. Royole claims its new specially designed hinge has “no gap,” which apparently is PR-speak for a very small gap of 1mm or so.

This might be a picture of the actual phone, from the demo. All other pictures appear to be renders.
Image: Royole

That 7.8-inch screen might be a weak spot, though: Royale says nothing about glass, so it’s presumably plastic — and at a somewhat lower 1920 x 1440 resolution than its Samsung and dual-screened Microsoft rivals. These days, that’s a pretty big screen for that few pixels. And of course, we’re talking about a single, fully-exposed screen that you’ll be folding in half, with nothing to speak of on the other side of the phone.

The rest of the specs seem fairly competitive: a flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor; 8GB or 12GB of RAM; 256GB or 512GB of storage, a 4450mAh battery, and 5G support, with an array of four cameras (64MP wide, 16MP ultrawide, 8MP with 3x optical zoom, and a 32MP “portrait” camera for selfies, though all four cameras are facing you anyhow). There’s also a pair of stereo speakers, two SIM card slots, Wi-Fi 6 and USB-C fast charging.

Aside from hinge and screen durability — the company’s rating it at 1.8 million bends, but bend tests are never the whole story — the biggest question is probably the software, which has been the Achilles’ heel of more than one folding phone before.

There, Royole’s promising its “waterOS 2.0” will intelligently split the screen across multiple apps, let you drag and drop between them, and use the folded screen let you and your photography subject line up the perfect portrait. waterOS 2.0 is based on Android 10, the company says.

We’ll have more thoughts when we can take an actual phone for a spin; in the meanwhile, here’s the company’s product page. The 12GB / 512GB model will cost 11,588 yuan, or roughly $1,707.

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