As Apple prepares to unveil its new iPhone 12 series next month, Microsoft has launched the $ 1,400 Surface Duo, a foldable smartphone that offers two screens and is very different from everything Apple has to offer.
We’ve checked out a few foldable smartphones like Samsung’s Galaxy Fold and Galaxy Z Flip, so we thought we’d look at the Surface Duo as well, because foldable smartphones offer interesting new technology that we might see from Apple.
Unlike the Galaxy Fold, which offers a single foldable screen with the hinge-covering display technology, Microsoft has taken the folding design with two separate screens connected by a visible hinge, which is smart because Microsoft’s Surface Duo does not have durability and curling issues, seen with Samsung devices.
The Surface Duo is well built and great emphasis has been placed on the design of the hinge, which is no surprise considering the price point. In particular, the Surface Duo and the hinge feel high quality, and this is a collapsible smartphone that looks like a premium, futuristic device. Even with two 5.6-inch screens (8.1-inch combined), the Surface Duo is surprisingly thin, but it’s the hinge that stands out.
Microsoft did a solid job with the build quality of the Surface Duo, but the device’s design is the best part of it because the software does not measure up. Microsoft uses Google-designed Android software, and the lack of integration between hardware and software hinders the user experience and makes it feel unfinished.
Surface Duo runs a Microsoft ripped version of Android 10. It offers the Android 10 features and some additions designed by Microsoft for the dual screen, but the operating system does not feel optimized for this two screen form factor. Of course, Microsoft and Google can improve the software with updates, but upon release it is not ideal.
Despite the bad software, the Surface Duo offers some remarkable benefits in terms of usage when it comes to productivity. Specific apps can be set to launch at the same time with App Groups, allowing you to pair OneNote and Outlook, a web browser and YouTube, etc., which is ideal for multitasking, though some apps can also be opened across both screens to do things like writing an email on one screen while also browsing your inbox on the other. However, this feature is not optimized for all apps, which is a major drawback.
There are several Surface Duo usage modes. Book mode is, as the name suggests, when both screens open as a book. Single screen mode lets one of the screens be turned behind the other for a more traditional smartphone feel, while Compose mode lets the Surface Duo be turned into a portable computer-like seashell direction. There is also a tent mode with the two sides placed down in a tent shape to view media content.
For most use, the Single Screen mode, which has one screen stacked on top of the other, feels most comfortable because most people will not take a picture or chat with anyone using a book-like form factor, but it can be helpful to have the option of to unfold another screen to get the job done.
When it comes to specifications, the Surface Duo runs year-old technology with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip, and it’s limited to an 11-megapixel camera that just isn’t impressive when any other smartphone maker focuses on camera quality. It also has thick frames that smartphone manufacturers are moving away from, which is worth noting.
Overall, the Surface Duo brings innovation in the smartphone space, and we’re interested in seeing where Microsoft’s technology goes in the future, but given the $ 1,400 price point, software issues, and overall usability, this is not a device suitable for most people and not one that we would recommend.
There have been some rumors suggesting that Apple is exploring a foldable iPhone, and Apple has filed a few patents for foldable smartphone technology, but it’s still unclear if this is technology that holds up and if an Apple foldable iPhone will ever come out of prototype stage. We do not know when Apple might release a collapsible iPhone if one is really about to come, but it certainly will not come in the near future.