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Upstart Chinese start-up shades Samsung and Huawei

The Thaiger



Upstart Chinese start-up shades Samsung and Huawei | The Thaiger
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A Shenzhen-based manufacturer of flexible displays has launched, and is selling, the first workable flexible screen smartphone, beating Samsung and Huawei into the foldable market.

At this week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Samsung and Huawei made all the noise with their new $2,000 foldable phones. But they very secret with specs and not available for review with people clamoring for a few seconds with the new devices.

But at Royole’s stand visitors could touch and play with the smartphone industry’s newest innovation in years. The question remains however, will buyers actually want a flexible phone? And will they put around $1,300 on the table to be able to have a phone that unfolds unto a tablet, in the case of the Royale FlexPai?

With the world’s tablet market shrinking in the recent years and smartphone screen sizes getting generally larger, it’s a brave bet from these Chinese and Korean tech companies.

Samsung’s Galaxy Fold and Huawei’s Mate X appear sleeker and more robust. But the Royole’s $1,300 FlexPai is already available, out and about. Whilst visitors to the Mobile World Congress were only able to gaze in wonder at the Samsung and Huawei foldable, people were already touching, swiping and ‘folding’ the new Royole.

But Royole is no technology giant when compared to Huawei and Samsung. Just seven years old, it hasn’t produced a smartphone before. But late last year Royole began commercial production of the FlexPai in Shenzhen.

Upstart Chinese start-up shades Samsung and Huawei | News by The Thaiger

INFOGRAPHIC: Nikkei Asian Review

That achievement, and its expertise in bendable screens and sensors, has caught the attention of big international companies. In December Royole signed an agreement with Airbus, the European aerospace heavyweight, to codevelop flexible displays and sensors for next-generation aircraft cabins.

Royole is claiming a number of firsts: the world’s thinnest full-color AMOLED flexible display and flexible sensors, the world’s first foldable 3D mobile theater, with collapsing headphones attached to a 3D headset and the world’s first curved car dashboard based on flexible electronics.

It holds more than 2,500 patents and has a 102,000 square metre flexible display production campus in Shenzhen, as well as offices in California and Hong Kong.

Co-founder and CEO Bill Liu says that the idea of inventing a screen as flexible as a piece of paper suddenly struck him. “I thought that would be really cool and flexible displays could revolutionize the way we interact with the world,” he recalled.

“Since there were no examples to follow, we had to do everything from scratch,” Liu said. “We tried and failed. The screen we made contains more than 20 million transistors and has nearly 100 nanomaterials. You have to get every detail right to make it work. Calling the experiment exhausting feels like an understatement.”

Before launching its flexible smartphone last October, Royole was mostly known in the business world. Liu says his startup has supplied customised flexible displays to more than 200 corporate clients, including Hong Kong-listed sporting goods maker Li Ning Company and Chinese smart device producer Toppers. The partnership with Airbus marks a significant coup, even if there is no set timeline for production of the cabin displays.

The Royole booth at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was the only place visitors could actually touch a foldable smartphone.

Upstart Chinese start-up shades Samsung and Huawei | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Yoshiyuki Tamai

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Fishermen abuse and slavery cases solved “off-the-record”

Caitlin Ashworth



Fishermen abuse and slavery cases solved “off-the-record” | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Caitlin Ashworth

Many cases of alleged abuse and slavery at sea are not being reported to the Thailand government. The Thomson Reuters Foundation did an analysis on the claims of slavery and abuse on Thai fishing boats and found that the majority of complaints are not documented with labour ministry officials who solve issues “off-the-record”.

Many fisherman agree to mediation because they don’t want to waste time if the case goes to court, Suwanee Dolah from Raks Thai Foundation, a non-profit focusing on a variety of humanitarian and supports fishermen, mostly from Cambodia and Myanmar. Employers would rather not have a large number of complaints, Dolah says. One labour ministry official explained to Reuters that they encourage the employer and employee to mediate before submitting a complaint, if the case is minor.

Reuters obtained labour abuse complaints from 289 fishing workers lodged between 2o15 and 2020. Nothing was documented on the outcomes. Some fishermen seek help from charities rather than the government. Since 2015, charities have been helping out around 1,600 fishermen solve problems with their employer involving payment and abuse, according to Reuters.

Although complaints are supposedly getting resolved, a lawyer specialising in human trafficking told Reuters that labour inspectors tend to support the employers rather than the workers. He added that many workers are afraid of taking legal action.

“If the cycle of violations kept in the dark and solved one-on-one goes on without punishment, some say the employers may keep abusing the employees…. it will cause a never-ending cycle of rights violations.”

SOURCE: Reuters

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Low cost carrier Thai AirAsia ponders merger

Jack Burton



Low cost carrier Thai AirAsia ponders merger | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Tassapon Bijleveld - Travel Daily News Asia

The CEO of Thai AirAsia says it may merge with another low-cost carrier to avoid cutthroat pricing wars once flights resume after the Covid-19 crisis subsides, and has admitted to conversations with other airlines. He says if tourism doesn’t resume by July, TAA will be forced to begin laying off employees, downsizing the company and its fleet to keep its business alive.

Thailand has 7 low-cost carriers which has forced a vicious price-war in the past five years providing cheap flights for people using the carriers in Thailand.

But local low cost carriers have suffered disproportionately over the past few months as the Covid-19 pandemic virtually shut down air travel in Asia and in many countries around the world. The Thai government’s restrictions on international and even domestic air travel have caused TAA serious losses. Some 40% of its revenue previously came from flights passing through Phuket’s airport.

The Thai franchise of Air Asia is losing about 1.2 billion baht per month due to the lockdown. Its 60 aircraft fleet is left stranded at airports according to Tassapon Bijleveld, executive chairman of SET-listed Asia Aviation.

Tassapon, a major shareholder with 40.52% of Asia Aviation, the owner of TAA, told the Bangkok Post he’s already had conversations with other airlines about the possibility of a merger. He couldn’t disclose any details but says there isn’t a concrete plan, and other conditions must be fulfilled to enable a decision.

“A merger is possible if aviation in Thailand resumes with the same old fiery price wars. Furthermore now we have more limited revenue sources.”

Though domestic air services have taken off since May, passenger loads have not been good, as only those required to travel are doing so, and there is virtually no leisure travel.

SOURCE: Chiang Rai Times | Bangkok Post

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High speed railway linking Thailand and China takes another step

Jack Burton



High speed railway linking Thailand and China takes another step | The Thaiger

A high speed rail link between Thailand and China is closer to becoming a reality, according to Thai Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob. The signing of “Contract 2.3″ for the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima section is expected in October this year. China has become a major player in the railway industry and, as a result, many countries, including Thailand, are working with China to develop their own high speed rail networks.

Following the meeting of the 28th Thai-Chinese Joint Committee, Chidchob said the 2 sides agreed on the 50.6 billion baht draft contract including the content on signaling and operation systems. The 253 kilometre rail route from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima in the northeast is part of a stage 2 project which will ultimately link Bangkok to NongKhai, bordering Laos.

The first phase covers a 125 billion baht link from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima. The second, expected to cost 200 billion baht,will run 355 kilometres from Nakhon Ratchasima to Nong Khai. For the second project, Thailand is working with China’s State Railway Group.

The projects form part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, launched by President Xi Jin-ping 6 years ago, according to the president of the All-China Journalists Association.

“This Belt & Road Initiative project will help China integrate with the rest of the world and link the Chinese dream with the global dream.”

The Belt and Road Initiative was developed to bolster economic and social ties with 65 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe, covering an estimated population of 4.4 billion people.

“I think it is important. The project will help connect people in the two countries via Laos. It can help promote socio-economic development and prosperity in these two countries and also across the whole Asian region. China has made a lot of investments in Laos. Among them is the China-Laos Railway, running from Kunming to Vientiane.”

Under Contract 2.3, 80% of the payment will be made in US dollars and the remaining 20% in baht.

The signing is scheduled for October or sooner before the 5 year project commences. PM Prayut Chan-o-cha will preside over the signing ceremony at Government House.

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | TNA

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