Futuristic handset with a foldable screen is unveiled in China

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A Silicon Valley-based firm has released a futuristic smartphone that can fold up.

The FlexPai is billed as the world’s first foldable smartphone by its developer Royole and has a super flexible screen which can be bent from the middle.

With a thickness of just 7.6mm, the duel-camera handset was launched in China this week and is now available for pre-order online.

When the phone’s 7.8in (19.8cm) screen is fully bent back from both sides, it provides three display screens – instead of two – for the user.  

In addition to the front and back displays, the spine will become a third albeit small screen showing incoming calls, messages or emails when they are received.

Depending on the specifications, the phone’s price ranges from 8,999 yuan (£1,005) to 12,999 yuan (£1,452) in China for either a consumer model or a developer model. 

However, only the developer model has been released outside of China at £1,209 for a 128G edition and £1,349 for a 256G edition. 

The phone weighs just 320g and has two cameras at the top.

The cutting-edge handset was unveiled in Beijing on Wednesday by Bill Liu, the 35-year-old founder and CEO of Royole.

Liu is a Chinese entrepreneur with a PhD degree in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University. He established his company six years ago with offices in the United States and China.

Liu has given the screen a poetic name, Cicada’s Wings, to highlight its light weight, flexibility and durability. 

According to Liu, the screen was developed solely by his team and contains more than 20 million flexible high-precision devices, bendy integrated circuits and nearly 100 micro and nano structured thin film materials.

Liu said his team had run tests on the screen for around three years and owned more than 2,000 intellectual property rights.

Experts previously told Wire that flexible screens were more resilient and durable than glass-fronted touchscreen displays used in most current smartphones.

Foldable screens cannot be broken when they are dropped and are also lighter and cheaper to produce. 

The launch of FlexPai has caught many industry observers by surprise.  

It had been widely speculated that Samsung or Huawei would be the first company to launch a foldable phone.

DJ Koh, Samsung’s mobile CEO, previously told CNBC that such a device was in the works, adding that the company was trying to differentiate the experience from a tablet once it is unfolded.

The Korean tech giant is expected to hold a developer conference in San Francisco next Wednesday that could give the public a preview of the technology.

Huawei CEO Richard Yu said in September that the Chinese company was working on developing a phone with a foldable display, adding that it would be out within the next year. The new phone would also support super-fast 5G network speeds.

FlexPai was also released as Chinese smartphone users switch their focus from cheap prices to high quality and more eye-catching designs.

According to a new report released by Internet Data Centre, around 105 million smartphones were sold in China in the second quarter of this year. 

Although the figure is a 5.9 per cent decrease from the same period last year, consumers expressed desire to buy handsets with newer technology they had not seen before. 

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