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After the Galaxy Fold debacle, what happened to the world's first foldable phone?

China’s Royole is suing a social media publication over claims the company isn’t delivering the FlexPai smartphone

This article originally appeared on ABACUS
Foldable phones are in a bit of a pinch right now. Samsung is famously having trouble delivering the Galaxy Fold after complaints from reviewers. But Samsung isn't the first to sell a foldable phone. That honor belongs to Chinese company Royole -- and like their South Korean rival, they're also having to fend off doubters.
Royole announced yesterday that it plans to take legal action against an account on China’s social platform WeChat that openly questioned production of their foldable phone, the FlexPai. The article claims that few customers receive their phones and goes on to ridicule Royole’s other products.

Check out Royole FlexPai on Amazon

WeChat, the app that does everything

Royole did not take the comments lightly.The company has reported the case to authorities, saying that the publication tried to charge the flexible screen maker a fee for deleting the article in question.

Shenzhen-based Royole officially unveiled FlexPai in October 2018 as the world’s first foldable phone. (Picture: Handout)

The timing is awkward for Royole given recent controversy over the potential fragility of foldable displays.

Samsung, a much bigger player in the smartphone market, is facing some pretty harsh reviews after some review models of the US$2,000 phone quickly saw screens malfunction and break entirely. The Galaxy Fold was originally slated to go on sale April 26, but the South Korean company has decided to put sales on hold. Samsung said that it cannot confirm a new ship date yet.
Royole’s FlexPai has faced criticism over its quality as well, although it hasn’t been as scathing as for the Galaxy Fold. Despite the initial reports of buggy software and bulging screens, the FlexPai swiftly sold out on Alibaba’s ecommerce site Tmall on April 28 at the price of around US$1,330. Royole did not reveal how many units were sold so far, but it did announce a new batch would go on sale on May 9.

(Abacus is a unit of the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba.)

Royole’s ability to ship the first foldable phone has given it a temporary edge over Samsung and Huawei, which has yet to ship the Mate X. That handset will sell for about US$2,600.

While customers on Tmall did acknowledge that the phone has some problems, most of the comments were positive. But judging by some of the reviews, this might have more to do with the fact that bragging to own the first foldable phone is seemingly very important for some people.

“Today I got my phone, and I went to the coffee shop in the afternoon and put my phone half-folded phone on the table to watch movies,” wrote one proud owner.

“Several people asked me what kind of mobile phone it was. Haha, now I feel like going everywhere and showing it off.”

For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters, subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast, and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report. Also roam China Tech City, an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus.