My thoughts on using the World’s First Foldable Phone – Royole Flexpai

Summary

rhdr

  • Not a main device (for me) but a useful pocket-able 2nd device (albeit with some significant software restrictions due to Play Store/Services limitations);
  • Heavy, but rock solid hardware;
  • Usable (not as bad as initial reviewers from a few months ago);
  • Battery Life is fantastic – LTE speeds (on Rogers) is also excellent;
  • Company is responsive (despite my location in Canada);

Why Did I Buy This?

rhdr

I had purchased a pre-order of the Galaxy Fold. When it was cancelled I was always aware of the Flexpai, but the dearth of any Internet presence of the device/reviews made me skeptical on if it was real. I contacted Flexpai and they indicated 3-6 weeks to ship. So I ordered one. Then on eBay, I found one available to “Ship Immediately” … Two weeks later I had it in hand. I was able to cancel my original Flexpai order with a simple phone call and get a full refund. I believe they truly only started to ship in early May and I was lucky to be able to get one (albeit at 33% higher than the original price).

My comments in this post are based on using the device daily for 2+ weeks.

Software

rhdr

The biggest issue is the lack of Google Play Store (it simply doesn’t work). See this thread on XDA for more.

  • Play Services can be loaded to enable some functionality in apps to work (that would otherwise not work as long as you don’t try to login to Google). This helps apps like Flipboard, Sirius;
  • Chrome Browser works well (as long as you don’t login via settings to sync history). GMail works (via Chrome as a result however); This is my default browser. Edge Works well also and bookmarks even syncs with other devices;
  • Microsoft apps (Outlook, Cortana) works really well amazingly;
    • One can even set the home button (press and hold) to bring up Cortana summary which includes a Daily Calendar and Weather;
    • I use Outlook to get GMail (and it works nicely). I don’t miss not having the GMail app;
    • Photos get sync’es using One Drive (and that gets sync’ed to Google Photos).
  • A very useful app is APKPure (which is an alternative in some ways to the Play Store).
  • Apps I could not get to work include Pushover, Any Location based app (like Google Maps), GMail (Or other Google apps where you must log in).
  • Apps that work well include Spotify, Instagram, Blackvue, NYTimes, Whatsapp, Kindle (Works Nicely in form factor), Facebook, TweetCaster, OneNote.
  • If Google Play works, I would consider using this as my main device.
  • Setup was a pain (as I had to switch from Chinese to English). The keyboard was a hassle to get working in English properly;
  • Pressing the power button twice takes a screenshot quickly;
  • There is a “Enjoy FlexPai” app that shows device specific features;

WhatsApp Image 2019-05-27 at 7.18.12 AM

  • When folded, there are two displays on the device. The FlexPai shows a specific home screen pane depending on which display is being shown. The normal display shows the “Home” pane. Unfortunately the 2nd one (display pane) is effectively useless as it cannot really be customized. Below is this “2nd Display”:

WhatsApp Image 2019-05-27 at 7.08.28 AM

  • Multiple Apps can we displayed – it took a while for me to get the hang of it. I liked the portrait app split (the Ipad does not support this specific app split). Below it shows the Chrome and Spotify apps:

WhatsApp Image 2019-05-27 at 7.30.17 AM

  • WaterOS – this is a limited form of Android 9 effectively. Many options are not available in Settings. Being a developer with ready access to ADB tools makes it much easier to do things. There are some (albeit few) customizations in WaterOS specific to the FlexPai (however I am not sure they actually work).

Hardware

  • I used to use an Ipad Mini and a Nexus 7. But pocket-ability was not possible with those devices. The Flexpai’s screen is effectively the same size as the iPad Mini (but with the benefit of folding to fit in a pocket). This is the key use case for me (along with being able to use a Roger’s SIM card). The Flexpai is a foldable tablet (not a foldable phone).
  • The packaging is very nice. It comes with a “cover” that looks nice and protects the display. It is a bit “Slippery” but it does it’s job.

qrf

hdrpl

hdrpl

  • Initially I had a Firmware update to download. It was 100+ MB and took a very long time (not sure why other than it could be server specific).

qrf

  • Camera is OK, the use of the Dual displays when taking a screen shot is interesting/useful. I would not use this device to take pictures (my main device is currently the Huawei MAte 20 Pro RS).
  • Portrait (Unfolded) mode is fixed to have the cameras on top. The display doesn’t allow for that edge of the device to be on the button. This means that the hardware buttons are always on the bottom (in unfolded portrait mode). Accidental power off was an issue initially.
  • The fingerprint reader works really well.
  • The display is not too readable in direct sunlight. I had no issue with the Screen. However I did get an email from my eBay seller saying to not take off the screen protector!!! I never really saw one on the display so it wasn’t an issue for me (but still a bit of a surprise to get this message given the Galaxy Fold issues).
  • There is a LED for notifications which is minimally useful.
  • LTE SpeedTest (On Rogers):

WhatsApp Image 2019-05-27 at 7.33.20 AM

Whats Next?

rhdr

  • Well I already pre-paid to get the Huawei Mate X (Chinese version) as I believe the form factor would be lighter and more refined. That said, the Flexpai is making it much easier to “wait”. With the recent Huawei issues, the Flexpai has already gotten me used to not having the Play store.
    • I expect the form factor, cameras, lighter weight, and better software would make the Mate X a better “device” – but we will see …

 

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