Royole was technically the first company to reveal a folding phone with a flexible AMOLED screen, and now it’s helping anyone build their own with a DIY kit that comes with almost all the parts you need.
Although Royole did revel in being the first company to release a consumer-ready folding screen phone — months before Samsung teased the original Galaxy Fold — being first doesn’t necessarily mean your product is the best, especially when it comes to bleeding edge technology. On the contrary, the Royole FlexPai was described by our own Sam Rutherford as a “piece of junk” and his sentiments were shared by other reviewers who had the unfortunate opportunity to actually use the device.
The FlexPai was seemingly rushed out the door as quickly as possible to beat other companies to market, and as a result the folding phone suffered from a slew of issues, such as bulges and creases on the screen, a hinge mechanism that felt like it didn’t actually want to bend, buggy software, and a general lack of build quality that made its $US1,320 ($1,796) price tag seem ludicrous.
Building a mobile device with a folding screen is no easy task, and there was a lot to complain about with even the first-generation Samsung Galaxy Fold. If the idea of building your own sounds intimidating, that’s understandable, but it’s doubtful you’ll do worse than Royole did.
The company did announce its FlexPai 2 foldable smartphone last year, but more interesting is Royole’s more recent announcement: a $US959 ($1,305) RoKit Flexible Electronics Development Kit. Shipping in an anti-static aluminium alloy briefcase that ensures you’ll miss your flight should you try to bring it onto a plane as a carry-on, the RoKit includes Royole’s third-generation Cicada Wing flexible display module, a matching flexible sensor module turning the display into a touchscreen, a system development mainboard running Android 10, an HDMI adaptor board, and nearly everything else you’d need to get the development kit up and running in about five steps, Royole claims.
You’ll need to source your own 5V power supply (the easy part) and design and create some kind of enclosure for all of the electronics (the really hard part) if you don’t want your DIY bendable phone to look like a Frankenstein’s monster of a mobile device.
For the most part, however, the kit was released to encourage others to “design and build new use-case scenarios and applications with flexible hardware” — specifically, Royole’s flexible screen hardware, which was probably the least disappointing part of the FlexPai.