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The unbelievable $350 Escobar foldable phone won't appear at CES 2020

The company behind the phone, started by the brother of the infamous drug kingpin, was apparently denied booth space at the Las Vegas trade show.

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The Escobar Fold 1 won't be at CES 2020.

Escobar Inc.
This story is part of CES 2020, our complete coverage of the showroom floor and the hottest new tech gadgets around.

A $350 foldable phone named after late Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar was unveiled last month, but we won't be seeing the Escobar Fold 1 at CES 2020. Escobar Inc. has apparently been banned from the trade show, which kicks off next week in Las Vegas. 

With the Fold 1 considerably cheaper than the $1,500 Motorola Razr, $1,980 Samsung Galaxy Fold and $2,400 Huawei Mate X, it seemed like an exciting CES possibility from a relatively unknown company. 

However, an email exchange seen by CNET showed that Escobar Inc. was denied booth space after the Consumer Technology Association, which runs CES, determined that the company was "not a good fit" for the show.

The CTA didn't respond to a request for comment on the decision.

The company, established in 1984, is led by Roberto De Jesús Escobar Gaviria, Pablo Escobar's brother. Escobar Inc. had wanted to occupy a small space near Samsung on the CES show floor, CEO Olof Gustafsson told CNET.

"The establishment of Samsung and the major tech companies are undermining our efforts and clearly see us as a major threat to their existence for them to outright specifically target us and our products," Gustafsson said via email.

The Escobar Fold 1 came out of nowhere last month with a commercial showing off the shiny gold phone alongside a gaggle of bikini-clad women. Questions about the Fold 1's legitimacy were immediately raised, given that the device has a price tag that's a fraction of that of other foldable phones and it's from a company with no track record of electronic products, let alone phones. 

Gizmodo points out that the phone appears to be a rebranded version of the Royole FlexPai, which was the first foldable phone made by a Chinese startup. However, we asked Gustafsson about it and he denied it's the same phone.

Foldable phones mark a potential new wave of devices, with handset makers like Samsung, Huawei and Motorola rushing to wow consumers with their new capabilities. While Escobar has ambitions to join these players, it's difficult to take the company at face value given its outsized comments. 

"The market forces will prevail and I believe soon and share the same vision with Mr. Escobar that we will be one of the top tech companies in the world," Gustafsson said in an email. "Samsung is afraid of this, afraid of us being at the same event next to each other where we showcase a superior product at a superior price. So they use their power to shut us down. [What] they forget is that Pablo Escobar was around before them and we will be around after them as well."

Samsung didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The phone's website and promotional videos are full of scantily clad women showing off the device, but Gustafsson said the company didn't plan on having any such women at the show -- it just wanted to exhibit the device and hold discussions with US carriers. The CTA last year instituted guidelines barring sexually revealing clothing

Originally published at 12:44 p.m. PT.
Update, 6:12 p.m.: Adds Gustafsson's denial that the Escobar Fold 1 is the same phone as the Royole FlexPai.

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