A few days ago, Microsoft unveiled the yearly refreshes to its portable surface products. However, what caught everyone’s eye were two bold new products, the Surface Duo and Surface Neo. Both of these come as the result of a new age for Microsoft, in which hardware is much more important than it has been to company in the past. The Surface Neo and Duo are both foldable devices with two screens inside.
However, unlike the other foldable devices we’ve seen recently, the Surface Neo and Duo do not have foldable displays and thus, sandwich a thin bezel in the middle. While both of these devices have a very peculiar design philosophy, the Duo, which is smaller of the two devices, seems to be a lot more fascinating as compared to its bigger brother.
The Surface Duo is a foldable Android phone from Microsoft
The Surface Neo is a foldable tablet that runs on Windows. Surface Duo, on the other hand, is in a completely different ballpark. It is an foldable phone from Microsoft that runs on Android. Yes, you heard that right, Microsoft is actually making an Android device and not only that, the thing is actually foldable.
However, the company was adamant on not calling the Surface Duo a ‘phone’. Why? Well, because while the Duo is indeed capable of acting like a phone i.e. making phone calls, Microsoft feels like the Duo should be in a device category of its own.
The Surface Duo isn’t the first foldable device we’ve seen this year. We’ve already seen the likes of Samsung Galaxy Fold, Huawei Mate X and the LG G8X foray into the foldable business. So, how does the Duo actually fare against, what is already, a pretty stern competition? Let’s assess.
Display and Design
While the Surface Duo is a very capable device as far as internals are concerned, most of the magic happens on the exterior of the device. The Duo, from the outside, looks like a minimalist’s dream. Encompassed in an extremely sleek and clean shell, which is disrupted only by a silver Microsoft logo, the foldable phone exuberates pure class. On the inside, much of the same philosophy is repeated.
The thin bezel in the middle is sandwiched by two screens on either side. So, no, the Duo does not have a foldable display like the Galaxy Fold. However, not having a fully foldable display does have its own advantage. The Galaxy Fold’s foldable display is made of soft plastic and is prone to being damaged. The Surface Duo’s screens, on the flipside, are made of glass making them much more resilient and durable.
One department where the Duo does fall behind, is the screen-to-body ratio. Everyone is trying to reduce the bezels around their displays. However, it seems like Microsoft still hasn’t gotten the memo. The internal screens of the Duo have massive bezels on the top and the bottom, making them look really outdated. In Microsoft’s defense though, the Surface Duo is the company’s first foray into smartphones after a very long time. Furthermore, the Duo has been in development for over 3 years, back when bezels were still a thing.
The Duo also has only a single camera, which is on the inside right above the displays. It would be safe to assume that photography probably won’t be the Duo’s strongest suit.
Performance and Software
In terms of performance, the Surface Duo will be very similar to modern flagship Android devices. Powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, the Duo will blaze through everything that is thrown at it. However, Microsoft has stated that it might replace the 855 with the newer chip from Qualcomm by the time Duo comes out. So, there probably won’t be any complains in terms of performance as the Snapdragon 855 is more than capable of handling most tasks.
Microsoft decided to go with Android as the operating system for the Duo (RIP Windows Phone). It makes sense though as Microsoft’s last attempt at making a new mobile operating system didn’t really go well. Furthermore, the smartphone market is at such saturation, that any new entrant would probably fail without an established operating system. Android has the biggest app library and functionality so it makes all the sense in the world for Duo to be running on it.
Microsoft has also stated that there is a ton of potential for non-conventional uses of the Surface Duo. For example, you could stream games on it in the future using Microsoft’s own Project xCloud using one screen as the controller and the other as the display. Other than that, we don’t know much about the battery and the pricing for the Duo.
Does the Surface Duo have a place in this world?
There is so much competition in the smartphone world right now. It seems like everyone is having a go at the foldable smartphone as that is the future. The Surface Duo, however, is not really looking to compete. When the people at Microsoft say that the Duo deserves its own category, they’re not entirely wrong. This is much more like a dual screen phone that is also somehow a tablet. The lines are too blurred at this point.
We’ve seen the likes of LG take a shot at the same concept. Furthermore, the other foldable phones, like the Galaxy Fold are not exactly ready for the consumer market either yet. The Galaxy Fold is still a first generation foldable phone and feels much more like a prototype than an actual product. It is too fragile and prone to dysfunction. However, Microsoft’s product, in comparison, feels much more finished and robust. So, until the fully foldable displays get better, the Surface Duo is a much more practical solution.
Microsoft Surface Duo still has a long way to go until it is released though. The Duo comes out during the holiday season in 2020, which is still over a year away. By that time, we could potentially get the Galaxy Fold 2 and various other foldable devices which would completely change the whole landscape.
Do you think the Duo would be able to make a name for itself in the smartphone industry? Let us know in the comments below!