Flex Your Phone at CES

Lukas Chang, News Editor

For years, technology enthusiasts have toyed with an idea for a phone that can not only fit in the pockets of your jeans but also expand to almost a tablet size. The candidate at the forefront of the spectacle is the foldable phone—a phone that will expand and then fold in half so you can slip it into your pocket next to your wallet without having to sacrifice the big screen. Though Samsung has promised us a Galaxy Flex, which will be among the first mainstream product to experiment with this new technology, the future has come sooner than one may think at CES 2019, the Consumer Electronics Show. Just this last month, Royole, a China-based technology company, released the Flexpai, a phone that can fold right down the middle of its screen.

The world’s first commercial flex phone goes far beyond consumers’ expectations, featuring a hinge in the middle, and a continuous screen which can fold in a style similar to a wallet. Depending on the configuration, it can light up half the screen, or light up the whole screen for use in tablet mode. The company claims that the screen has amazing durability, having tested flexing the phone over 200,000 times with no damage. It has a lightning fast processor, the Snapdragon 855, and sports many features such as a dual view camera mode. Using this feature, both the photographer and the subject can see what the picture will be like from both sides of the phone, allowing people to take photos that are approved by the subject. Its split screens utilize what is called a “water OS”— the viewable screen flows across the device depending on what orientation the device is in, or whether it is folded or not, allowing for maximum utilization of the screen space.

The phone has a 7.8 inch AMOLED panel, which is faster than an OLED panel but still has all of its benefits. It is made out of a flexible plastic, costs approximately 1,319 USD, and is currently only being sold in China.

Though the concept may seem intriguing, tech experts have many doubts about the device. Linus from LTT pointed out in a video tour of CES that many things can go wrong with the phone: the screen area with the hinge may easily be fatigued, the phone may actually be too fat to fit in your pocket, and the screen may sacrifice quality for its flexibility. In fact, he noticed that at CES, the AMOLED screen suffered from screen burn, a phenomenon where artifacts appear in the screen from overuse.

Despite many of the concerns, the phone appears to have surpassed expectations after its weak performance at CES. Though the screen did have some delay, there was no visible degradation at the hinge area in the middle of the phone, and the water OS seemed to work fairly quickly. Many of the features worked, and overall, the phone was functional in every way Royole claimed it would be.

Maybe even greater a concern emerging about the phone than technological mishaps is how people will view it. Many of us are still comfortable with the devices we have in our pocket, so the foldable phone may appear as nothing more than a 15.8mm thick toy at the moment. Hopefully, this attempt will be the catalyst that will lead us down a new road of phone technology.