If you don't follow the smartphone industry that closely, you may not know that the first foldable smartphone introduced to the public was not the Samsung Galaxy Fold. In October, approximately four months before Samsung took the wraps off of its device, a small Chinese based firm called Royole unveiled the FlexPai. Unlike both the Galaxy Fold and the Huawei Mate X, the FlexPai is rough around the edges. The FlexPai is priced at $1,318 for the model with 128GB of storage, and $1,469 for the model with 256GB of storage. That compares with the $1,980 for the 512GB Galaxy Fold and $2,600 for the 512GB Mate X.
According to Bloomberg, Royole is looking to go public and seeks $1 billion in financing before it files for an Initial Public Offering (IPO). Besides producing the FlexPai, Royole is known for its flexible OLED panels, which means that it competes with Samsung and BOE Technology. The firm put into service last June, a new flexible panel production facility in Shenzhen that cost $1.5 billion USD to build.
During the last round of financing, Royole was valued at $5 billion. It is looking to raisethe new financing at a valuation of $8 billion. Even if it raises that money and ends up going public, the future of Royale might not be in finished products that are sold directly to consumers. With phone manufacturers like Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo, TCL and eventually Apple expected to each launch a foldable phone sometime over the next two years, Royale might end up focusing on its business as a source of flexible screens to other companies.