Microsoft Surface Duo: All you need to know about the upcoming Surface Phone

Microsoft has long been rumoured to be working on its own smartphone – the so-called Surface Phone – since at least 2016.

Well, we finally got a glimpse at what the company has been working on all these years. It’s called Microsoft Surface Duo, and it’s a foldable Android smartphone.

While Windows Mobile limped along for most of its life until it was put out of its misery, the “new Microsoft” has taken a vastly different approach to the world’s thirst for smartphones since CEO Satya Nadella took over the lead of Microsoft from Steve Ballmer in 2014.

Instead, it focused on developing apps that worked on iOS and Android on the one hand and its undeniably successful Surface lineup of Windows PCs on the other. For a long time, it resisted developing hardware in the smartphone space since its failed acquisition of Nokia cost it a humongous $7.6 billion.

But at Microsoft’s October 2019 Surface launch a couple of things became clear – not only was Microsoft evolving the Surface series, but it was finally time for it to launch an Android-powered Surface that can be used as a phone. And here we are. 

As for a release date, Microsoft said in October that it wouldn’t be ready for release until holiday 2020. And we have no idea about price as yet. 

Is Surface Duo a phone?

Microsoft Chief Product Officer Panos Panay revealed the Surface Duo at that aforementioned event last October where he demonstrated how the device can do everything you’d expect from a modern smartphone.

For instance, you can use it to play with apps and make calls, and it can even fit in your pocket. However, Panay said the company doesn’t view the new Surface Duo as a smartphone.

Our best guess is that Microsoft wants this to be an entirely new type of device, capable of acting like the company’s existing 2-in-1 Surface devices, only it’s pocket-sized and can double as a phone. Microsoft is likely apprehensive to release a phone due to its struggles in that market. While Surface laptops and tablets are successful, Microsoft’s forays into mobile devices have been disastrous.

It’s failed to develop its own adequate mobile operating system, and its purchase of Nokia essentially flopped. It finally stopped its Windows Phone effort altogether in 2017. None of this changes that the Surface Duo is a smartphone, however, even if it makes Microsoft nervous.

Surface Duo: Features and specs

Android

Details are slim at the moment, but this much we know for certain: Microsoft Surface Duo is a foldable, Surface-branded smartphone that runs Android, albeit a heavily skinned version of Google’s mobile operating system that actually reminds us of the new Windows 10 XS that Microsoft also just announced. It appears to offer access to Android apps and will even let you place or accept calls. 

Displays

The Surface Duo looks a lot Microsoft’s larger dual-screen Surface Neo, but it’s more pocketable. It features two 5.6-inch screens and can rotate on a 360-degree hinge so that it works as an 8.3-inch tablet. The device can fold together to protect the screens, or open up so that both screens can be simultaneously used. You can even have the device closed with one screen facing out, like a phone. 

Each display can run two different apps at the same time. You can even use one of the displays as a keyboard or game controller.

  • Microsoft says the Surface Neo and Duo have been “in development for years”

Hardware

The Surface Duo prototype features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, but that might not be in the final production unit – indeed, we now believe it will use the newer Snapdragon 865. Keep in mind the Surface Duo is in early preview. It won’t even be available to buy for a while, so many features and specs have yet to be confirmed. 

Surface peek

In February 2020, Twitter user WalkingCat shared a video of “peek” feature for the Surface Duo. In it, you can more clearly see how the device will work with notifications, which appear on the right side of the display so you can deal with them without having to completely open the device. For calls, you can also open the Surface Duo fully to accept an incoming call.

 

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