Update: The Surface Duo is available to buy. Reviews haven’t been wholly positive, although most seem to agree there is plenty of promise for the future.
Microsoft’s folding, dual-screen Surface Duo is finally available for preorder. The Android device, which boasts two 5.6-inch displays, starts at $1,399. Orders will begin shipping on September 10.
Unlike Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, Microsoft’s “folding” phone doesn’t actually feature a folding display. It packs two separate screens with a 180-degree hinge holding them together. Apps can play on one screen or stretch across both. Impressively, Microsoft managed to slim down both screens so that, even folded, it measures just 9.9 millimeters thick.
The specs look pretty impressive. The Surface Duo boasts a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor. It also comes with 6GB of RAM, and a maximum of 256GB of storage. It comes with one 11-megapixel f/2.0 camera with a a 7x “super zoom” feature. It’s capable of low-light filming, capturing 4K and 1080p video at 30fps and 60fps, and HDR multi-frame captures.
The device supports Microsoft’s Surface stylus and ships with a bumper cover. Interestingly, it runs a reskinned version of Android, reflecting how Microsoft’s mobile ambitions are changing.
The Duo, which Microsoft first showed off in October 2019, features LTE networking on T-Mobile, AT&T or Verizon. However, it does not support high-speed 5G, which is expected to be a big selling point for this year’s iPhone 12. Microsoft reportedly omitted 5G to conserve battery life.
Microsoft has yet to reveal when its larger foldable tablet, the Surface Neo, will ship. The Neo will run a special version of Windows 10X on an Intel processor.
It’s all about the wearables
Folding phones are the hot new idea when it comes to smartphones. Apple is reportedly working on a foldable of its own. Earlier this year, Apple was granted a patent for a concept that sounds similar to Microsoft’s Surface Duo. The “System with multiple electronic devices” patent describes two screens adjoining each other with a small gap between them. Apple leaker Jon Prosser suggests that Apple is currently prototyping just such a device.
Whether Microsoft’s Surface Duo resonates with users remains to be seen. Microsoft has been killing it in terms of hardware design for a few years now, most noticeably with the Surface Studio which challenges (and, in my view, beats) the current iMac in terms of jaw-dropping gorgeousness.
The biggest challenge for the Surface Duo is likely to be its price point. People balked when Apple crept past the $1,000 mark with iPhones, and Apple’s a brand people are far more likely to associate with premium products than Microsoft. The lack of 5G also could be a no-go for a phone costing that much.