• The Microsoft Surface Duo.

    Microsoft

  • Here it is closed with a pin.

    Microsoft

  • Laptop mode.

    Microsoft

  • The 360 ​​hinge.

    Microsoft

  • It folds flat and each half is insane thin 4.8mm.

    Microsoft

  • Two screens mean apps that are next to each other.

    Microsoft

  • You can use it vertically.

    Microsoft

The Microsoft Surface Duo, Microsoft's first Android phone (we don't count the Nokia X), was announced almost a year ago. There were official pictures and even live photos of the dual-screen phone for most of the year, and Microsoft has been quietly evolving it. Today the company is finally ready to talk about specs, release date, and price. The phone is available for pre-order now, it ships on September 10th and the price – wait for it – is $ 1,399.

Before we get into the details, a quick rundown of the technical specifications: The phone comes with two 5.6-inch OLED panels with 1800 × 1350 (4: 3) and 60 Hz, which through a 360-degree -Hinge are connected. A Snapdragon 855 supplies the phone with 6 GB of RAM, 128 or 256 GB of storage and a 3577 mAh battery. Above the right screen there is an 11-megapixel camera that, thanks to the hinge, doubles as a front and rear camera. The device has a USB-C port on the bottom, a single speaker, a fingerprint reader, Android 10, and surface pen input support. Sales appear to be only in the US at the moment, and in addition to being sold unlocked, the phone is also being sold at AT&T.

It's a little exciting to see Microsoft's first Android phone, especially when it has such a unique form factor and carries the company's premium brand "Surface". But $ 1,400 is a lot of money to ask about this device, especially with so many flaws on the spec sheet. I haven't tried the phone yet, but I have many concerns about the Surface Duo.

First, the 3577 mAh battery is extremely small. A Galaxy S20 with a screen has a 4000 mAh battery and the Ultra version has 5000 mAh. Neither of these phones attempt to cast dual 5.6 inch displays. Displays make up the majority of smartphone batteries, and there is no avoiding the fact that two of them will use a lot of power. The Surface Duo is extremely thin at just 4.8 mm when open and a little more than twice as large (9.9 mm) when closed. Microsoft has definitely prioritized thinness over battery life.

(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqRKOY4Cgvw (/ embed)

While concessions have been made for thinness, it doesn't seem like the Surface Duo will be that easy to carry around. The full dimensions are 145.2mm (H) x 186.9mm (W) x 4.8mm (D) when open, with the phone collapsing to an absolutely ridiculous, pocket-breaking width of 93mm when closed. Screen sizes may get bigger every year, but this is mainly due to thinner frames, bigger phones, and bigger screens. The breadth of smartphones was surprisingly stable. Just compare the 2015 Galaxy Note5 with a 5.7-inch screen to one of the largest phones on the market: the Galaxy Note20 Ultra with a 6.9-inch display. The widths are not very different: 76.1 mm for the Note5 compared to 77.2 mm for the Note 20 Ultra. One of the reasons the width doesn't really change is because phones have to fit in a pocket. One of the widest flagship phones of all time was Google's Nexus 6 at 83mm, which was immediately considered too wide by the entire industry. The Nexus 6 was uncomfortable to carry in your pocket and restricted your movement, and no phone has come this width since then.

The Surface Duo is 10 mm wider than the already too wide Nexus 6. It is by far the widest Android phone of all time. And we say "phone" because the Surface Duo was not designed as a tablet device for home use. It's supposed to be your primary device and you should carry it around. No size is too big for someone who carries a bag, but if you want to keep your primary device in your bag, the Surface Duo might make you fun.

In the world of Android, dual screen devices are not really a new category of products. More recently, LG has been shipping accessories that have turned its flagships into dual-screen devices for the past two years, and while the Surface Duo certainly looks better, the basic form factor concerns still linger. One thing I learned from trying these devices out is that typing on a dual screen phone can be a challenge.

Enlarge /. As with other dual-screen devices, the Surface Duo doesn't seem to support a split keyboard. So when you type, you'll either have to close the phone or clumsily hunt and peck with one hand.

Microsoft

The whole idea of ​​a touchscreen keyboard is that you put your hands around the sides of the phone and type with your thumbs, but you can't do that with a second screen in the way. Tablets and leaflets get around this by having a split keyboard that displays thumb-accessible keyboard halves on the left and right of the screen. The complicated screen configuration has historically prevented two-screen Android phones from having a split keyboard, and Microsoft's own press photos only show the interface with a regular one-screen keyboard hanging awkwardly on one of the screens. With LG phones, every serious type of input requires you to get the second screen 360 times out of the way to be able to type, and having to keep opening and closing the phone to type is inconvenient. Such a barrier to typing has belied claims of "dual-screen productivity" in the past, and the Surface Duo doesn't seem to fix that issue.

There's also a lot about the spec sheet that just seems out of place for a $ 1,400 phone in 2020.

  • Due to Microsoft's novelty in smartphone gaming and the extremely long development cycle of the Surface Duo, the phone ships with last year's Snapdragon 855 instead of this year's Snapdragon 865 (although we can't fault that too much).
  • The Surface Duo only has 60Hz displays, when most of the phones released this year hit the high-refresh rate, a rare industry trend that actually improves the user experience significantly. Even the leaflets go there. The Galaxy Fold 2 has a 120 Hz internal display.
  • 6GB of RAM isn't much for a high-end Android device in 2020, as only Google ships such a small amount in a flagship device. Also, keep in mind that a dual-screen device encourages multitasking, so the Surface Duo should have higher RAM requirements than your regular smartphone.
  • There's no NFC, so forget about tap and pay.
  • The device has a single speaker.
  • There is no such thing as 5G, but almost no one should care about it at this point.

Fourteen hundred dollars is also a lot of money to buy for a device that always looked like a compromise between a device with a screen and a foldable smartphone. A good foldable smartphone would be inherently superior to the Surface Duo design. You get all of the app's benefits side by side, but with a more productive split-screen keyboard and the ability to use the device like a tablet if you want. A foldable device can be a large-screen device that you can use to watch videos, play games, use a tablet-style app, or browse a desktop website. The Surface Duo will never be a good device for these use cases. While the device has a mode that merges the two screens into one large 8.1-inch display, there will be a large gap in the middle.

The whole argument in favor of a dual-screen device was that leaflets weren't ready for prime time, and the Surface Duo was a stopgap between now and the future. That seemed reasonable a year ago when the duo was first announced, but now Samsung is preparing to ship the second-generation Galaxy Fold 2 with a glass cover and a number of other improvements. The original fold was more than the Surface Duo at ~ $ 2,000, but Microsoft really can't come up with a value argument at $ 1,400.

The good news is that Microsoft apparently hinted in a statement to Android Central about the lack of NFC that it was just getting started on the Surface Android line. Calling the device a "first generation design," the company said it will "listen to customer feedback and apply this lens to future iterations of the product."

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