The Microsoft Surface Duo is a smartphone I haven’t examined but—however primarily based on what I do know, it already has me anxious. It’s considerably like the brand new crop of foldable telephones in that it may well fold and flip, and it runs Android 10 similar to the Galaxy Fold. It additionally calls for a sky-high worth just like the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 and Galaxy Z Flip.
But whereas folding telephones are pushing the boundaries of what a show can do, and charging costs to match, you’re not getting that with the Surface Duo. Instead you’re getting a dual-screened machine with big bezels that’s operating a model of Android overlaid with a heavy coating of Windows. That’s wonderful—a lot of Android telephones have customized skins—however the Duo is a Surface machine first and an Android one second, which is regarding.
Compared to a equally priced flagship machine just like the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, the Surface Duo already isn’t stacking up. If it’s a Surface, why doesn’t it have the most recent processor? If it’s a cellphone, why can’t you utilize it with one hand? Let’s look extra carefully on the issues I’m already seeing in specs, design, and capabilities.
Surface Duo specs: Falling brief
The issues begin with the specs, evaluating them to the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. Even on paper, Surface Duo isn’t trying so good:
Dimensions (folded): 145.2 x 93.3 x 9.9mm
Display: Dual 5.6-inch PixelSense Fusion AMOLED, 1800×1350, 401 PPI
Processor: Snapdragon 855
Camera: 11MP, f/2.0
Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
Dimensions: 166.9 x 76.0 x 8.8mm
Display: 6.9-inch WQHD, 3200×1440, 120Hz, 496ppi
Processor: Snapdragon 865
RAM: 12GB LPDDR5
Front digital camera: 40MP, f/2.2
Rear digital camera: 12MP ultra-wide, f/2.2 + 108MP large, f/1.8, OIS, + 48MP telephoto, f/3.5
The Note 20 Ultra isn’t simply across-the-board higher than the Surface Duo, it’s additionally $100 cheaper. Plus, you get 5G, NFC, Wi-Fi 6, and wi-fi charging, none of which can be found on the Surface Duo. And if you wish to use the Surface Slim Pen to take notes, it’ll price you an extra $145. That’s an awfully excessive bar for entry right into a world that is nowhere close to innovative.
Surface Duo design: Feeling awkward
The Surface Duo’s design is actually fairly. It has an impressively skinny glass-and-metal development that appears like a sturdy pocket book, and a 360-degree hinge that appears extraordinarily sturdy.
That’s good, since you’re going to be opening it rather a lot. With no outdoors display screen, each time you wish to use you Duo to verify a notification or the e-mail that simply got here in, you’re going to wish to take it out out of your bag or purse and open it, very like the function telephones of previous.
That design would possibly work for a clamshell laptop computer just like the Surface Laptop 3, nevertheless it’s awkward for a tool that’s purported to double as your cellphone, particularly one which prices $1,400. While Samsung improved on the unique Galaxy Fold with a much bigger outdoors display screen on the Galaxy Z Fold 2, Microsoft’s Duo makes no such effort to be versatile. Android has solved the issue of unlocking telephones and lighting up screens with always-on shows, however the Surface Duo ignores that. There is not even a tiny show on the entrance just like the Galaxy Z Flip.
Don’t overlook the digital camera. Aside from the as-yet-unknown picture high quality, you’re going to wish to open your Surface Duo absolutely to start out taking pictures. That’s a multi-step and multi-second course of that may get in the best way of a fast shot. Where each different cellphone maker has machine shortcuts to get to the digital camera, Microsoft has made it tougher to make use of the factor most individuals attain for his or her cellphone to do.
Even the biometrics falls brief. While Microsoft touted the enterprise-level security measures of the Duo, together with a “custom engineered Unified Extensible Firmware Interface,” it doesn’t have a biometric digital camera. The precise locking and authentication of the machine is left to a fingerprint reader on the aspect of the machine reasonably than the Windows Hello facial recognition system, which is safer than a fingerprint and will faucet into Android’s BiometricPrompt API just like the Pixel 4 does. There’s loads of room within the bezel for it.
Surface Duo capabilities: Android nervousness
The Surface Duo’s expertise will doubtless be coloured by its hybrid Windows-Android expertise. Microsoft has turned the novel dual-screen machine to work with the corporate’s ecosystem of apps and providers. Kind of like a multi-monitor PC setup, the shows are supposed to work collectively or individually. As Panos Panay instructed the Verge, “There is an algorithm in there that’s very smart and trying to be predictive. If you’re on one screen and you’re invoking a link, it will fill the other screen.”
That doesn’t sound all that completely different from LG’s Dual-Screen case for the Velvet, nevertheless, a cellphone that prices half as a lot because the Duo and has 5G. In truth, none of what the Surface Duo does is all that novel. Picture-in-picture, drag-and-drop, side-by-side apps are all out there on different Android telephones, as are the Microsoft Launcher and Office apps.
There’s additionally no assure that the Android expertise can be a premium one. Sure, Microsoft’s apps will all be optimized for the dual-screen expertise, as will a number of others, such because the Kindle reader. But what in regards to the 1000’s of different Android apps we use?
As we’ve seen on Chromebooks and even Android tablets, plugging Google Play apps into an atmosphere that’s not particularly suited to them is lower than very best. Multitasking advantages may not be there for many apps. None of Microsoft’s product photographs present an Android app, which is already regarding. Good luck getting builders to help a single machine amid a sea of less-demanding opponents. And whereas it is nice that Microsoft is guaranteeing three years of updates for the Surface Duo similar to the Pixel and Galaxy telephones, that is principally desk stakes for a $1,400 cellphone. Imagine Surface customers had been solely assured three years of WIndows safety updates?
Not sufficient pill, not sufficient cellphone
Microsoft isn’t positioning the Duo as a competitor to different top-tier Android telephones—on its web site, Android is talked about solely twice—however at $1,399, it must be greater than a transportable conduit for Office apps. Once the novelty wears off, the Duo can be measured on the energy of its talents, and there’s rather a lot it gained’t be capable of do.
Whether it needs to be labeled as a cellphone, a mini-tablet, or one thing else fully to usher in “the next wave of mobile productivity,” the Duo looks like a step backward for each the Surface line of merchandise and Android smartphones. Where folding telephones are trying to merge two units, smartphones and tablets, the Surface Duo doesn’t actually add something to the folding dialog. With a litany of challenges which can be seemingly by design, Microsoft goes to have a tough time convincing people who the Surface Duo is a helpful addition to their Android and Surface workflows.
Update 12:40am: Added information that Microsoft is guaranteeing three years of Android updates.