The Microsoft Surface Duo is a smartphone I haven’t examined but—however based mostly on what I do know, it already has me nervous. It’s considerably like the brand new crop of foldable telephones in that it could possibly fold and flip, and it runs Android 10 identical to the Galaxy Fold. It additionally calls for a sky-high value 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 gadget with big bezels that’s operating a model of Android overlaid with a heavy coating of Windows.
Compared to a equally priced flagship gadget 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 intently on the issues I’m already seeing in specs, design, and capabilities.
Surface Duo specs: Falling quick
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 digicam: 40MP, f/2.2
Rear digicam: 12MP ultra-wide, f/2.2 + 108MP broad, 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.
Surface Duo design: Feeling awkward
The Surface Duo’s design is definitely fairly. It has an impressively skinny glass-and-metal building 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 loads. With no outdoors display screen, each time you need to use you Duo to test a notification or the e-mail that simply got here in, you’re going to want to take it out out of your bag or purse and open it.
That design may work for a clamshell laptop computer just like the Surface Laptop 3, but it surely’s awkward for a tool that’s alleged to double as your cellphone, particularly one which prices $1,400. While Samsung improved on the unique Galaxy Fold with an even bigger outdoors display screen on the Galaxy Z Fold 2, Microsoft’s Duo makes no such effort to be versatile.
Don’t neglect the digicam. Aside from the as-yet-unknown picture high quality, you’re going to want to open your Surface Duo absolutely to begin taking pictures. That’s a multi-step and multi-second course of that can get in the best way of a fast shot. Where each different cellphone maker has gadget shortcuts to get to the digicam, 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 quick. While Microsoft touted the enterprise-level safety features of the Duo, together with a “custom engineered Unified Extensible Firmware Interface,” it doesn’t have a biometric digicam. The precise locking and authentication of the gadget is left to a fingerprint reader on the facet of the gadget fairly 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 gadget 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 advised 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 totally 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 reality, none of what the Surface Duo does is all that novel. Picture-in-picture, drag-and-drop, side-by-side apps are all obtainable on different Android telephones, as are the Microsoft Launcher and Office apps.
There’s additionally no assure that the Android expertise shall 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 concerning the hundreds of different Android apps we use?
As we’ve seen on Chromebooks and even Android tablets, plugging Google Play apps into an surroundings that’s not particularly suited to them is lower than perfect. 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 assist a single gadget amid a sea of less-demanding rivals.
Not sufficient pill, not sufficient cellphone
Microsoft isn’t positioning the Duo as a competitor to different top-tier Android telephones—on its website, 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 shall be measured on the energy of its skills, and there’s loads it gained’t be capable of do.
Whether it needs to be categorised 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 try 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 those that the Surface Duo is a helpful addition to their Android and Surface workflows.