Microsoft is launching its Android dual-screen Surface Duo phone on September 10, priced at $ 1,399. After months of Microsoft executives harassing the device on Twitter, the company is now allowing anyone to predetermine the Surface Duo today in the US Vanguards will be available at AT&T, Microsoft’s online store and Best Buy.
While Microsoft had unveiled the design of the Surface Duo back in October, the company has kept the glasses relatively secret. The device includes two separate 5.6-inch OLED screens (1800 x 1350) with a 4: 3 aspect ratio that connect together to form an overall 8.1-inch (2700 x 1800) workspace with a 3: 2 aspect ratio. Unlike folders like Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, the Surface Duo is using real Gorilla Glass, and the screens are designed to work in a similar way to multiple monitors on a Windows PC.
A big question on the Surface Duo has been the camera. Microsoft is using an 11-megapixel f / 2.0 camera, which will include automatic low-light modes, multi-frame HDR capture, and a “super zoom” of up to 7x. Both 4K and 1080p video recordings will support 30fps and 60fps, with electronic image stabilization. There is only one camera on the Surface Duo, which can be used for both video calling and main camera.
The basic Surface Duo device also consists of a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, 6 GB of RAM, and up to 256 GB of storage. LTE is available on T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon, but there is no 5G support at all. Microsoft is also sending a bumper cover to the box, designed to protect the Duo.
Microsoft also includes two batteries in the Surface Duo, split under both screens. Overall, it has 3577mAh capacity, which is significantly less than the 4500mAh found in Samsung’s single-screen Note-screen and even 4380mAh in the Galaxy Fold. Despite this, Microsoft promises “full battery life”, which means up to 15.5 hours of local video playback, up to 10 days of standby time and up to 27 hours of talk time. We will have to fully test the device during our review, but the capability here leaves little cause for concern as the device is empowering two screens, not one.
“It ‘s probably one of the sexiest devices we’ve ever built,” Windows and hardware chief Panos Panay told a news conference before the start of today. “It does things that single-screen devices can’t do, period.” Panay’s vision for the Surface Duo is to improve productivity, and Microsoft has also done some interesting software work to compliment the device.
The Android appdo will run on the Duo without modification, thanks to the choice of two separate screens. “Any app should work,” says Panaj, and it was definitely important to support everything Android from day one. Developers can also choose the layouts of their applications to take advantage of both screens and spread across them. Microsoft has tweaked its apps like Office suite and OneDrive to include screens, and third parties like Amazon have also done work on the Kindle app to make it feel like you are reading a book by scrolling pages on both screens.
Microsoft is also using algorithms to predict how to open applications on different screens. “There is an algorithm out there that is very smart and is trying to be predictive,” Panay explains. “If you are on one screen and you are looking for a link, it will fill the next screen.”
The end result is that if you click a link in an email application on one screen, it will open on the other, so you can continue reading the email side by side with a web page. Apps like Microsoft Teams and PowerPoint are also optimized, so you can view a call and the rest of your Teams conversations, or watch a full slide and the rest of the deck at the same time.
Microsoft has been working closely with Google on Android for the Surface Duo. “It was interesting at first,” says Panaj, referring to the initial days of the partnership. “It was a scratch on the head. Satya and I had a lot of conversations. “Microsoft had to go with Android for the pure reason of mobile apps, especially after Windows Phone failed in the market.
“Microsoft needs to turn on every platform,” says Panay. “We had a conversation with Google … the partnership has been crazy fun. I think at first there was little to know about each other, but then very quickly we saw what is appropriate for our client and what might be possible “I think it’s great for Google and Android, and I think it’s great for Microsoft.”
Microsoft has created APIs for dual-screen apps to work with Android code base and plans to use them upstream for other vendors and third parties to use. It is part of a broader push to make dual-screen and foldable devices, and Panay is very confident in this future. “I believe the two screens are coming, I think they are needed.” It will be interesting to see how developers adapt their Android apps here, and it is key to the overall success of dual screens or foldable devices in general.
Pricing will be a sticking point for the Surface Duo, as it was for the Galaxy Fold and other devices that will try to give a foldable or dual-screen future. The lack of 5G and NFC, questions about battery life, and camera quality will need to be addressed in our Surface Duo review, but Microsoft is clearly at the start of a future it believes in. You will have to pay a price to be a part of this initially.
The real question will be how well the Surface Duo, and devices like it, improve on-the-go productivity and whether two mobile screens are really needed. These devices will eventually require hardware advancements to truly capture the vision. But if consumers agree with Microsoft, Samsung and others that two screens are better than one, then we are witnessing the future to be built. If not, we are witnessing unique efforts to test and reorganize mobile devices. At the very least, mobile phones are suddenly becoming exciting again. As Panaj would say, we are pumped to see where everything goes.