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Microsoft Surface Phone release date, news, specs, rumours and price

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Microsoft Surface Phone: Everything you need to know

The Microsoft Surface Phone is long-awaited, and desperately needed. Here’s what we know about the Microsoft Surface Phone release date, specs, features, price and more.

(Update: 8 December 2016): Microsoft has teamed up with Qualcomm to bring the full Windows 10 desktop experience to smartphones and other mobile devices, courtesy of Snapdragon chips. Read on to find out how this might affect the Surface Phone.

Microsoft has had very limited success with mobile, struggling to acquire any meaningful amount of market share. With titans like Apple and Google currently dominating the industry, Microsoft is under immense pressure to crack mobile successfully.

Unfortunately, the Surface Phone will probably be the last roll of the dice for Microsoft. Despite the company making much of Windows 10 Mobile, the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL weren’t able to carry Microsoft to mobile glory. Now, Microsoft needs to launch a perfect phone that can convert already invested iOS and Android users to Windows.

The Surface team has done a great job of disrupting the computing industry in recent years, with the Surface Pro, Surface Book and Surface Studio devices all proving to be a thorn in the backside of Apple. Can the Surface Phone do the same for mobile? Read on to find out what we know so far.

Latest Surface Phone News:

What is the Surface Phone release date? First half of 2017 (possibly)

How much will the Surface Phone cost? $699 - $1,100 (£499-£799) approx.

What’s new about the Surface Phone? Rumoured: Three variants, Snapdragon 835 CPU, 5.7-inch display

Watch Now: Microsoft Surface Studio – First Look

Related: Samsung Galaxy S8

Microsoft Surface Phone Release Date UK & US – When will the Surface Phone come out?

We can’t say for sure when the Surface Phone is going to come out, but we know that it’s on the way. In November, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told the Australia Financial Review that Microsoft is working on the “ultimate mobile device”, admitting that the company “missed the mobile boom”. That’s not confirmation of the "Surface Phone" name, but it’s clear-cut proof that a new mobile device is on the way.

During the interview, Nadella explained: “We will continue to be in the phone market, not as defined by today’s market leaders, but by what it is that we can uniquely do in what is the most ultimate mobile device.”

But that’s not the only evidence we have. Back in January, it emerged that Microsoft had obtained the following domain name: surfacephone.com. The domain currently redirects to Microsoft’s homepage, but given Microsoft’s existing naming conventions for devices (Surface Book, Surface Pro, etc), it seems obvious what the intentions may be. That said, companies often buy up relevant domain names just to stop competitors bagging them, so the name "Surface Phone" may never actually be used.

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According to Winbeta, Microsoft plans to finally kill off the Lumia brand – the current Microsoft phone line, formerly of Nokia – in December 2016. That means we’d likely see a Surface Phone that same month, or very shortly afterwards.

Microsoft hasn’t announced any press events for such a device, but it’s likely that the company will be attending the CES 2017 tradeshow in Las Vegas in early January next year. That would be a perfect opportunity to launch a new device, although it would mean missing the Christmas spending season.

In any case, we’re in agreement with the lion’s share of rumours that suggest we’ll see a Q1/Q2 release in 2017.

Microsoft Surface Phone Features – What’s new about the Surface Phone?

So we’re all agreed that Microsoft can’t screw this one up, right? Well, it’ll need solid hardware and compelling software to dethrone Apple, Google et al. Here’s what you can expect to see from the Microsoft Surface Phone...

Microsoft Surface Phone Design – All-metal, three variants

Rumour has it that the Microsoft Surface Phone will be available in three distinct variants. One report suggests these will be as follows: Consumer Edition, Business Edition, and Enthusiast Edition. So we’re guessing the first will be a reasonably priced flagship, the second will be a BlackBerry replacement, and the third will be a power user device, just like Samsung’s Galaxy Note phones (minus explosions, hopefully). We’ve got no idea if they’ll look any different physically, or if we’re just talking about spec changes, however.

The other design rumour is that we’ll see a new all-metal aesthetic adopted, to bring the phone series in line with Microsoft’s Surface Book. Microsoft has reportedly been hard at work to make sure the Surface Phone fits with other Surface devices, and sports the same premium finish you’d expect from the Surface series.

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Related: iPhone 8

Microsoft Surface Phone Specs – 5.7-inch screen, Snapdragon 835 chip?

As I mentioned earlier, we’re expecting three distinct Surface Phone models. Usually, that would mean we’d expect to see three different screen sizes, but leaks thus far suggest all variants will use a 5.7-inch display.

Instead, the differences will reportedly come in the form of storage and memory upgrades, as follows:

  • Version 1: 3GB RAM / 32GB storage
  • Version 2: 6GB RAM / 128GB storage
  • Version 3: 8GB RAM / 500GB storage

Now that final version sounds ludicrous, frankly. But this year, we saw Apple introduce a 256GB iPhone 7 Plus, as well as the OnePlus launch of the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T, both of which feature 6GB of RAM. So there’s no real reason why Microsoft couldn’t match such valiant efforts. After all, if Microsoft is hoping to woo business and power users, it’ll need to kit its phones out with the very best components available.

And on that note, it’s highly likely that the Microsoft Surface Phone will come packing Qualcomm’s brand-new Snapdragon 835 chipset. The new chip is set to appear on smartphones early next year, and is a direct sequel to the top-end Snapdragon 820 and 821 chips, which featured in the Galaxy S8, OnePlus 3T, and Google Pixel phones.

What’s exciting about the chip is that it’s Qualcomm’s first 10nm processor, which means it’s significantly more efficient than the old 16nm Snapdragon 820. Qualcomm reckons we’ll see either 40% lower power consumption or 27% higher performance, depending on what manufacturers do with the new Snapdragon 835. If Microsoft wants to go big with the Surface Phone, it’ll need to come packing this chip.

And making the use of a Snapdragon chip even more likely is Microsoft’s announcement of a partnership with Qualcomm in December 2016. Announced at the WinHEC event in Shenzhen, China, Microsoft will be working with Qualcomm to bring the full Windows 10 desktop experience to smartphones and other mobile devices.

The new products will run on Qualcomm’s ARM-based SoCs and, according to Terry Myerson, who heads up Windows Devices, will be a “range of thin, light, power-efficient and always-connected devices”. That means we should see the full Windows 10 desktop experience, including apps such as Office and Windows Hello, on phones, tablets, ultra-portable laptops, and more.

All this makes the prospect of a Surface Phone seem much more likely.

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Unfortunately, we don’t know much else about the Surface Phone in terms of hardware. There have been zero camera leaks, although we’d expect big things from the Surface Phone camera. For a start, Apple, LG, and Huawei have all shipped phones with dual-camera configurations, and Samsung is expected to follow suit next year. So Microsoft is as likely as anyone to utilise similar technology.

But it would also seem appropriate if the Surface Phone had some kind of Intel RealSense arrangement that could capture 3D images. After all, Microsoft has made much of HoloLens and Windows Holographic, so being able to capture and import 3D images onto Windows using your smartphone would make complete sense. We’d be very surprised if this wasn’t a feature, but we’ve heard no rumours supporting it – yet.

Related: Google Pixel XL review

Microsoft Surface Phone Software – Windows 10, Microsoft Wallet, Continuum

One thing you can count on is that the Microsoft Surface Phone will run on Windows 10. Microsoft wants Windows 10 to be the “last version of Windows”, and will keep updating it across all platforms. That means Windows 10 Mobile isn’t going away any time soon, despite its limited success. If Microsoft wants to really push Windows 10 to the fore, it will need a great device to carry it there – specifically, the Surface Phone.

We’re not exactly sure what changes Microsoft plans to make to Windows 10 to accommodate a new Surface Phone, however. Rumours suggest that Continuum – Microsoft’s cross-platform productivity feature – will play a bigger role on mobile, while another source says we’ll see a new Microsoft Wallet mobile payments system introduced to compete with Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay.

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Microsoft Surface Phone Price – Post-referendum price hike?

Unless we’re very fortunate with a leak, there’s pretty much no way of knowing how much Microsoft plans to sell the Surface Phone for.

We’ve seen one report already, courtesy of the Bitbag, which claims Microsoft will kick off pricing from $699, with a top-end model costing as much as $1,099. At the time, that worked out to around £485 to £765, before VAT is added – so we’d expected prices closer to £499-£799 in the UK. That said, with post-referendum currency fluctuations in mind, we could see far higher prices – think closer to £599 and beyond.

Most flagship smartphones these days typically start between £500 and £600, with super-premium models going for £900 and above. So expect something in that region, realistically.

Should I wait for the Microsoft Surface Phone?

We’d only recommend waiting around the the Surface Phone if you have the utmost faith in Microsoft. The company has a proven track record of failure in mobile, so it’s hard for us to believe Microsoft’s next smartphone effort will be any better than previous attempts.

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It’s also worth noting that there are already plenty of great smartphones to choose from right now. Apple fans may have been swayed by the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, while we’re quite keen on Android flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S7, Google Pixel, and OnePlus 3T.

And don’t forget that early next year, we’re expecting to see the Samsung Galaxy S8, LG G6 and the much-hyped iPhone 8 – although that’s still nearly a year off.

If you’re definitely set on getting a Windows 10 smartphone, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t wait to see what Microsoft is cooking up à la the Surface Phone. But otherwise, we’d recommend just buying one of the many great phones that 2016 has graced us with.

Related: CES 2017

Watch: Microsoft Surface Keynote Recap

What would you like to see from Microsoft's next smartphone? Let us know in the comments.

Goga Montana

December 2, 2016, 3:35 am

What MS needs to start a fight with big players is 64-bit OS (better optimised than today's Win mobile) and at least 4MB ram (depends on version). And new, ultra thin and compact design, but try to avoid glass. For start: 5,2" Amoled QHD, Mediatek MTK Helio P30/35 with 4GB ddr4 ram, 20MPx ClearView, fingerprint scan, fast charging, then 5,5" Amoled QHD with Snapdragon 835, 8GB RAM, 3D touch, liquid cooling, 40 MPx CV camera, etc.

Free ChiefHuntingBear!

December 2, 2016, 11:52 pm

The Surface Enthusiast is the next phone I'll buy. But I doubt enough other people will. For the Surface Phone and Microsoft to succeed there will have to be new branding that doesn't refer to Bill Gates being small and limp.

Anonymous

December 3, 2016, 12:38 pm

HARDWARE NEVER WAS THE PROBLEM FOR THE WIN PHONES. These "smartphones" don't even have a proper browser, not to go further -- WTF - wake up MSFT and include google apps and all other big apps. You can find phones with good HW specs with 250$, HW never was/is the problem.

Anonymous

December 3, 2016, 12:42 pm

Nobody cares about HW specs. We want google apps and all the other big apps available. Obviously HW need to support the app's requirements, but that shouldn't concern end users.

Formerly Known as Pnyx

December 4, 2016, 1:00 am

Windows 10 has killed any interest that I may have had for continuing to support Windows Phone beyond the Lumia flagship. Hardware-wise, the 950/XL is bulletproof. Not a single complaint from my part. Dual SIM, SD slot, removable battery? What's not to like? I was sold.

As a business phone though, it was a disaster. The Contact app seems to have been made for a toddler. The Dialer, even worse. Imagine a business phone that does not support a Company name in a business contact! Any contacts synced from Outlook without an actual First/Last name were stripped of all Company information and stored on the phone by number alone. The number became the contact with no other identifying information. Then, the whole mess was synched back to Outlook. /facepalm

Getting a better App from the Store wasn't really an option because there isn't anything of note. I have a Surface 4 Pro and love it but I don't see a Surface phone in my future to complete the set. Sold the XL and bought a Pixel. At least I have my contacts intact.

Goga Montana

December 5, 2016, 5:15 am

This was my comment on new Surface mobile "as-if", and fyi - it HAS to have more hardware power for running full 64-bit OS and apps.

The iSheep

December 6, 2016, 11:19 pm

That and the reboots of the platform that made sure that people have had to buy brand new devices to get the new operating systems. Low end devices may not be able to support new features, but they should at least keep them up to date for a reasonable amount of time. The unified crap app framework helps no one when most devices don't run an OS that even is compatible. It's not so unified if no one can use it. Microsoft needs to port the joke unified framework to ALL operating systems that they still support. That means Windows Vista through 8.1, and Windows Phone 7 through Windows Phone 8.1.

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