The World’s First Folding Smartphones


We all remember the flip phone and the folding cell phone that used to open up like a communicator straight out of the Enterprise. It was replaced by simpler flat smartphones around 2007 and we never saw the folding, flip phone again. However, the folding phone could be making a comeback – only this time it’s going to be smart.

One would imagine Apple, Microsoft or Samsung would be the chief protagonists in the manufacturing and marketing of such a smart and bendy smartphone? But you’d be wrong. The world’s first folding smartphone is designed by none other than a Californian start-up business.

Royole, a design and tech company specialise in flexible screens. This new phone, the “FlexPai” certainly does not roll off the tongue very smoothly (a marketing faux pas perhaps?), and was recently unveiled in the Chinese capital Beijing (surely not another marketing oversight?). 

The device is a combination between a smartphone and a tablet (I’m sorry I can’t get used to that word “phablet” just yet). It has already begun shipping since early 2019 and the big screen folds neatly up so that it can fit inside your top pocket. 

Thus, when the folding smartphone is unravelled, it can produced a decent sized tablet screen that you can carry around discreetly as you would your mobile phone. But why the bendy screen? Remember back as far as the 1990s? Mobile phones were affectionately known as “bricks”; oversized, clunky, cumbersome and some had SIM cards the size of a credit card.

The old cell phones were certainly not glamourous. They would not fit in your pocket and anyone who tried would have received a flurry of jokes from friends regarding the bulge as being pleased to see them. 

Portable phones quickly became smaller and in the years leading up to when the smartphone was introduced, they were positively tiny. Many models were flip phones with the lid acting as a numeric keypad. The Blackberry had keys so tiny you needed needle tipped fingers to operate its pad fluently. 

The mobile phones became small enough to resemble a packet of 10 cigarettes, a matchbox or about half the size of a man’s wallet. Then, in 2007, along came the smartphone. Apple’s iPhone was released and its first impression to the watching market was, “Wow, isn’t it big?”

Small was regarded as modern, funky and contemporary, so when the iPhone came out at twice the size of the current batch of mobiles, we were taken aback by its size. But it was big for a very good reason – watching videos and streaming material. 

Read also: Is Facebook planning to Merge 3 Messaging Apps?

Size Matters

As the smartphone was introduced and iPhone sales went through the roof, Samsung released its Galaxy model and the market for smartphones exploded. Technology companies who did not jump ship from the successes of the mobile phone to the smartphone sunk (think Nokia). 

The larger screen size was important. Smartphones suddenly were able to easily link to the internet, where users could watch films, dramas and videos on their smartphones. I would have been unthinkable to watch any streaming video on a screen size of 4” (10 cm).

So screen size was increased and suddenly big was in again. However, the size was never able to become too large as mobile phones had to remain just that – mobile. So, how do you keep portability and increase the size of the screen? 

The FlexPai may have just about found the solution to all this. It runs on the Android operating system and is expected to retail at around $1600 depending on its specifications.

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