Despite all the hype surrounding the Samsung Galaxy Fold and the Huawei Mate X foldable phones, neither one is going to be the first to market. That claim is already assigned to Chinese company Royole with its Royole FlexPai foldable phone, shown above.
Now, according to Bloomberg, Royole is pursuing $1 billion in a new fundraising campaign which could preclude an IPO. If successful, Royole could become a credible threat to Samsung, Huawei, and other OEMs looking to carve out space in the foldable display market.
We had a chance to get hands-on with the Royole FlexPai shortly before its commercial release. We found the phone to be pretty clunky and felt it was more of a prototype than a fully-polished product. That didn’t stop Royole from releasing it anyway with a starting price of $1,318.
Since Royole now has bragging rights about being first to release along with a flexible display plant worth 11 billion Chinese yuan (~$1.6 billion), the company is building itself up pretty well to compete against the big dogs. If it succeeds in attaining an extra $1 billion in funds and successfully files for an IPO (rumored to value the company at $8 billion), Royole will become a threat that Samsung and Huawei can no longer ignore.
However, Samsung, Huawei, and other major OEMs have more experience with releasing polished, ready-for-sale products. Royole, to our knowledge, has never released a second-generation product of any kind — it releases one device and then moves on to the next.
In other words, even if Royole can raise a ton of cash, it will still have to work very hard to compete at the same level as a Samsung or a Huawei.