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Royole brings FlexPai 2 foldable phone launch forward as it drops out of MWC

The maker of foldable phones is the latest company to cite coronavirus concerns and withdraw from the world's largest mobile trade show.

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Royole FlexPai phone

We're keen to see the successor to the FlexPai... but it won't be at MWC 2020.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Our first glimpse of Royole's latest foldable phone, the FlexPai 2, is coming sooner than expected as the company confirmed on Tuesday that it's joining the growing list of exhibitors that won't be attending Mobile World Congress later this month. Instead, the company intends to show off the phone ahead of time, though it hasn't yet shared details of when that'll be.

"With the safety and wellbeing of our employees, partners and customers being our first priority, we have made the difficult decision to withdraw our attendance from MWC this year," Bill Liu, founder and CEO of Royole Corporation, said in a statement. "It is a shame we are unable to participate in MWC 2020 and use this platform to showcase a new ground-breaking foldable phone, the FlexPai 2, instead we will announce it to the world soon prior to MWC."

Royole joins Cisco, Intel, MediaTek, Vivo and Facebook in announcing withdrawal from the show on Tuesday. These firms are all part of a larger group of companies that say it isn't worth the risk to attend, due to the outbreak of coronavirus.

Coronavirus is currently the dominant topic of conversation around the mobile show this year ahead of trends such as foldable phones and 5G. First disclosed in late December, the virus has infected over 42,000 people and killed over 1,000 as of Feb. 11. The outbreak has also affected the broader tech community, with companies including AppleGoogle and Nintendo closing offices, limiting business travel and facing supply chain disruptions.

The GSMA, the organization that runs MWC, said it will have additional medical personnel on-site. It will also put other measures in place to reduce the risks posed by the disease, including a no-handshake policy. In spite of assurances from the GSMA, many companies have decided it doesn't make sense to risk the health of their employees to attend. At the time of writing, the show is otherwise going ahead as planned, with updates issued daily via the official MWC site.