The Microsoft Surface Duo is now available to buy in the US

Yes, the Surface Duo is a phone, but that's not it's fundamental objective.

Microsoft Surface Duo phone
Image source: Microsoft

There is a piece of good news for those who are waiting for Microsoft’s dual‑screen smartphone – the Surface Duo. It is officially launched by Microsoft and is now available to buy starting September 10. The bad news is that it is initially only available in the US, with the UK release believed to be some way off. It’s also quite costly.

Microsoft will be charging $1,399 (around £1,050) for the base variant of Duo with 128GB of storage (extra $100 for 256GB). Honestly, you’re not getting enough for your money other than the joy of being first. It has previous year’s top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, just 6GB of RAM, a comparatively smaller 3577mAh battery, and a single 11MP camera unit. It’s also heavy at 250g and not all that pocket-friendly at 145.2×93.3×9.9mm (versus 164.8×77.2×8.1mm for the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra). It’s more like a small touchscreen laptop than a phone, though you can use it to make calls.

Microsoft fold phone
Image Source: Microsoft

But with Android 10 onboard rather than Windows 10 – even a massively skinned and specified version – the Surface Duo’s contest will be against the latest and greatest Android phones. On that scale, the Duo costs more than the just‑released £1,179 Galaxy Note20 Ultra, even though it has less‑powerful specs. The Surface Slim Pen, which appears central to the experience, costs extra and can’t be attached to it. The Duo also doesn’t support 5G, Wi‑Fi 6, nor it has an NFC chip for contactless payments. Initially, it will be limited to United States customers and will work on all major carriers.

Its design is certainly impressive, though. Rather than a proper folding display, the Surface Duo opens to a couple of 1,800×1,350 AMOLED screens with a 4:3 aspect ratio. Together, they add 8.1 inches of screen space and serve more like a multi‑monitor desktop setup than a single screen. For instance, when you click a link on one screen, it’ll open on the other screen. It supports a bunch of unique dual‑display features, including useful split‑screen multitasking and drag‑and‑drop. However, the Surface Duo lacks an exterior screen like the Galaxy Z, so you’ll require to fully open it to use it. A 360‑degree hinge attaches the two displays for folding it back like a Chromebook.

Image Source: Microsoft

Here are the key specifications of the device:

SoCQualcomm SM8150 Snapdragon 855
(7nm) processor
Octa‑core (1x 2.84GHz Kryo 485, 3x 2.42GHz Kryo 485, 4x 1.78GHz Kryo 485)
RAM6GB
Storage space 128GB/256GB storage
GPUAdreno 640
Displays8.1in (2,700×1,800; 401ppi)
Dual PixelSense Fusion Displays;
CamerasRear‑facing camera: 11Mp, f/2.0, 23mm (wide), 1.0µm, PDAF
Selfie camera: Uses the main camera
Connectivity802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi‑Fi dual‑band
GPS with A‑GPS
Bluetooth 5.0, A2DP, LE, aptX Adaptive
USB 3.1, Type‑C 1.0 reversible connector
BatteryNon‑removable 3,577mAh lithium‑polymer battery
Dimensions and weightUnfolded: 186.9×145.2×4.8mm
Folded: 145.2×93.3×9.9mm
250g

Future of folding phones

While the foldable phone idea might have seemed unconventional last year, Microsoft’s Surface Duo enters a growing market of folding phones, including the Galaxy Z Flip, Galaxy Z Fold 2, and Motorola Razr. Also, the LG Velvet has a Dual Screen setup that turns it into a Surface Duo‑like phone with a second screen when opened.

However, Microsoft isn’t attempting to wrestle with the folding Android phones. Calling it “the next wave of mobile productivity,” Microsoft is promoting the Surface Duo’s capability to shift between Android apps and Microsoft 365, as well as it’s robust security – the firm says that it wrote and examined “every line of firmware code in house” – as integral to the experience. In an enterprise-oriented blog post, Microsoft also showed the Duo’s ability to blend with Microsoft Intune for handling multiple devices through the cloud.

surface duo launch date
Image Source: Microsoft

But even as a business phone, the Surface Duo has a steep hill to climb. Considering you can get a Surface Pro 7 for just £699, the Surface Duo is a costly deal that doesn’t look to be all that beneficial. Even if you can adjust it in your pocket, you’ll need to unfold it to use it or even view who’s calling. Its size and absence of an external screen will make simple things like seeing notifications and taking pictures more complicated than other phones. And it remains to be seen how well the Duo will process images and videos compared to other Android phones.

Microsoft has created a device that plays by its own rules, but it’s missing many of the critical features we take for granted along with way. 5G isn’t a necessity yet, but it will be in a few years. In a post‑COVID‑19 environment, not being able to use your device to make payments will feel antiquated. And the absence of wireless charging in an over thousand bucks mobile is a significant disappointment.

But one point is clear: Microsoft is finally back in the mobile game with the Surface Duo, and Windows and Android fans alike should take notice. Even if they don’t purchase one right away.

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