Samsung has just announced a refresh on the Galaxy Fold device, and now Microsoft has finally revealed more details about its own dual-screen device that is set release even earlier. The company announced that the Surface Duo will be launching in North America as early as September 10, although it’s not clear exactly when it will be coming to other markets yet.
The Surface Duo is Microsoft’s first foray into the smartphone market after their Windows Phone models failed to take off, despite the devices and operating system themselves being capable of providing a solid user experience. Microsoft has learned from its mistakes, and in realising the strength of an app ecosystem, its replacing their operating system with Google’s Android instead. Only this time they’re repurposing it to run on two separate screens at the same time.
An approach which sees the company differ in its foldable device strategy, choosing to rather have two screens operate in tandem rather than a folding surface like what Samsung and Huawei are doing.
Microsoft has been teasing their concept for a while now, but have finally released some more specific technical specs that will be powering their new hardware (as detailed by The Verge). The basic Surface Duo features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, 6GB of RAM, and up to 256GB of storage. Interestingly though, the device does not support 5G at the moment, which is rather surprising given that this technology is rolling out at such a rapid rate and this may be an oversight by the company
The device includes two separate 5.6-inch OLED displays (1800 x 1350) with a 4:3 aspect ratio that connect together to form an 8.1-inch overall workspace (2700 x 1800) with a 3:2 aspect ratio. Unlike those other foldables, the Surface Duo uses real Gorilla Glass, and the displays are designed to work in a similar way to multiple monitors on a Windows PC, aimed more for multitasking across both screens that trying to work with one uniform screen that provides bigger real estate.
As for cameras – which are always a big aspect of smartphones these days – Microsoft is using an 11-megapixel f/2.0 camera, which will include auto modes for low light, HDR multi-frame captures, and a “superzoom” up to 7x. Both 4K and 1080p video recording will be supported at 30fps and 60fps, with electronic image stabilization. What is different this time though is that there is only a single camera on the Surface Duo, which can be used both for video calls and as a main camera.
Thanks to the device’s foldable nature, when a user does want to use that camera to take images, they simply fold the device in half present on the other screen. Microsoft hasn’t seemed to have paid as much attention to the camera though as its competitors, but hopefully they can make up for it with the quality of the images.
Microsoft is also including two batteries in the Surface Duo, split beneath both displays. Overall, there’s 3577mAh of capacity. That is not exactly a whole lot of battery, but hopefully, the way it balances processing between both screens will help it to last longer. Microsoft is promising “all-day battery life,” which means up to 15.5 hours of local video playback, up to 10 days of standby time, and up to 27 hours of talk time. Bold claims from the company and it will be interesting to see how this device holds up under actual regular use.
Most of the magic with this device though will come from Microsoft’s modified APIs which allow for the dual screens to work together and allow for a number of different display variations. Importantly though the device supports all android apps, with even those that don’t take advantage of its dual screens still able to load and run on a single screen, with the other available for something else. It is certainly a multitasker’s dream, though I’m still not convinced most people will be using their phone with two hands and both screens open all that much. Still, there are so many different things you could do with this configuration that I’m sure it will appeal to many who crave productivity, especially relying on Microsoft’s own office suite
At $1399 though, it is definitely not a cheap device. And while its cheaper than I expected, given how much the Samsung and Huawei folding devices cost, it’s not as premium as those devices in the power and camera departments – and far more than I would personally spend on any form of a smartphone. There is no local release date or pricing model as yet and I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t get this anytime soon, given difficulties of production and Microsoft still building the Surface brand in the country. I am eager to see how people respond to this new device and whether Microsoft will find success the second time around on the smartphone market.
Last Updated: August 13, 2020