Surface Duo Brings Microsoft into the Android Fold
Michael Alba posted on August 13, 2020 |
Long-awaited folding Surface phone will finally be available this September.
The Microsoft Surface Duo. (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)

The Microsoft Surface Duo. (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)

Microsoft has revealed the release date of its first-ever Android smartphone, the Surface Duo. Announced last October, the Surface Duo is a dual-screen folding phone that brings the style and stylus of Surface computers into a pocket-sized device.

If you have big pockets, that is. Not to mention deep. The Surface Duo has a width of 93.3mm when folded shut, and it starts at US$1,399 for the base 128GB model. That width is necessary to accommodate two 5.6” AMOLED screens, which combine to form a generous 8.1” display with the Surface’s trademark 3:2 aspect ratio. 

Drawing of the Microsoft Surface Duo. (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)
Drawing of the Microsoft Surface Duo. (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)

The Duo’s two screens are connected by a 360-degree hinge that lets users swivel the displays to suit any mood—open it, close it, fold it like a tent, prop it open like a gameboy, take your pick. The Duo also supports any current Surface Pen (sold separately), so users can jot notes, draw sketches, or just keep their displays fingerprint free. It’s that wide versatility that makes the Surface brand so good for unique user workflows.

The many modes of the Surface Duo. (Images courtesy of Microsoft.)
The many modes of the Surface Duo. (Images courtesy of Microsoft.)

The Surface Duo has the same premium industrial design of all Surface devices, but there are a couple pain points. For one thing, check out those massive bezels. In an era of screen-to-body ratios over 90 percent, the Duo’s massive forehead and chin stick out like a sore thumb.

And you might just get a sore thumb from the Surface Duo, considering the width of the phone. At 20 percent wider than the largest iPhone, one-handed use of the Duo will likely be difficult even for the ham-handiest of users.

Size comparison of Surface Duo (left, folded) and iPhone 11 Max Pro (right). (Images courtesy of Microsoft and Apple.)
Size comparison of Surface Duo (left, folded) and iPhone 11 Max Pro (right). (Images courtesy of Microsoft and Apple.)

The Surface Duo tops out at $1,499 for 256GB of storage. While steep, the price of the Duo is favorable to other folding Android phones. The foremost folding phone currently on the market is the Samsung Galaxy Fold, released last September for $1,980. A new version of the Galaxy Fold will likely ship next month and is expected to cost the same.

In a recent blog post on the Surface Duo, Microsoft’s Chief Product Officer Panos Panay noted the novel engineering behind the new folding phone. The Surface Duo incorporates a custom pixel stack and new manufacturing process to ensure the displays are pixel-perfect, a proprietary digitizer algorithm for smooth touch transitions between displays, thinner-than-hair micro-cables connecting the displays across the hinges, and a new dual-system architecture to optimize performance. Panay also stated that Microsoft is working closely with Google to extend Android’s capabilities for dual displays.

56 micro-cables connect the dual screens of the Surface Duo through its hinges. (Images courtesy of Microsoft.)
56 micro-cables connect the dual screens of the Surface Duo through its hinges. (Images courtesy of Microsoft.)

The Surface Duo is now available for pre-order in the U.S. and will work on AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless networks. It will start shipping on September 10.

Want more Surface? Check out our hands-on review of the Surface Book 3.

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