The Surface Duo is Microsoft’s first smartphone since Lumia and Windows Phone went the way of the dodo many moons ago.
It was unveiled by Microsoft alongside the Surface Pro X and Surface Neo in 2019 and has an atypical folding, dual-screen design that got tech press and shiny things fans tongues-a-wagging with excitement.
Since then Microsoft’s played down the device leading to rumblings it would be delayed like the Surface Neo.
Microsoft announced it would delay the Neo to focus on developing regular Windows 10 and its web services in a bid to help customers, including critical infrastructure clients, continue operating effectively during the COVID pandemic earlier this year.
But, since then conflicting industry rumblings and rumours have emerged debating how long the delay will be and if it will come out at all, making it difficult to get a clear picture what final form the Surface Duo will take, if any.
Here to help clear up the confusion we’ve created this guide detailing all the official information we have on the Surface Duo and the most legitimate looking rumours.
When will the Surface Duo come out?
The Surface Duo was originally launched with a soft “sometime late in 2020” release date. But the firm then offered no further information about it for months, leading to reports its launch would be delayed.
However, since then Windows Central has reported an unnamed source confirming the Surface Duo will enter production and ship to customers in the very near future. The most recent report suggested the Duo will launch by the end of August.
Surface Duo production has started and will begin shipping to customers the week of August 24th, I’m told. Should be less than a month to go now!
— Zac Bowden (@zacbowden) July 29, 2020
Microsoft hasn’t officially confirmed the news and at the time of publishing hadn’t responded to Trusted Reviews request for comment.
What is the Surface Duo? Specs, design and performance
The Surface Duo device packs two 5.6-inch displays which fold onto each other like a book, in a way not too dissimilar to the Samsung Galaxy Fold. Unlike the Fold, the Surface Duo has two distinct displays rather than a single one. It’s best compared to the Dual Screen option offered alongside certain LG phones, though it’ll likely be a lot slicker due to fact the secondary display isn’t simply a clip-on case
This rids it of an annoying crease and should ensure it doesn’t run into the same issues as the Fold. With the screens folded out, the display stretches 8.3-inches.
Having the device fold in also gives it a certain level of protection. The exterior design is very similar to other Surface products, with a silver look and large Microsoft logo.
While the Surface Neo runs Windows 10X, the Duo is a purely Android-based device. This is hardly surprising, as it instantly gives Microsoft access to apps and developers without having to start from scratch.
During the initial launch event, Microsoft said it has worked with Google on the product and is working with developers to ensure apps work and can take advantage of the unusual screen arrangement.
Related: Best Android phones
Microsoft hasn’t confirmed the exact specs that’ll power the Duo, but thanks to some information from Windows Central we have a good idea of what it might include. According to the report, the Duo will be powered by the Snapdragon 855, pack 6GB RAM and 256GB storage. The displays are said to be AMOLED and the battery a 3460mAh cell that’ll charge via USB C.
There is also said to be an 11-megapixel f/2.0 camera, fingerprint scanner and support for Surface Pen.
The obvious omission seems to be 5G connectivity. This wasn’t a huge deal when the Duo was first announced, but it is now commonplace on Android phones ranging from budget options to high-end models. You’ll also notice the Snapdragon 855 is no longer the flagship Qualcomm SoC, so it’ll be interesting if Microsoft updates to the 865 before release. The above Windows Central information seems to imply it won’t, as the design was finalised before the 865 came out.
A more recent Windows Central report again emphasises there will not be 5G, wireless charging or even NFC.
Related: 5G in the UK
The Surface Duo software could be its biggest win
Microsoft has worked to make its launcher mimic that of Windows, with a similar wallpaper and more squared-off icons. Microsoft currently has a Launcher available on the Google Play Store, so this will likely form the basis. It looks like Microsoft will install its own apps on the Duo, including Edge browser and the Office suite.
The best way to get a basic overview of how the software will work is to watch the above video. This comes from an emulator of the SDK released by Microsoft.
As it’s a dual-screen device, you can have apps open on one screen and not the other. It also looks like you’ll be able to customise the homescreen and make one portion always display the ‘Shelf’. There seems to be lots of customisation options (even down to altering the search bar look) and it’s a very clean UI.
Microsoft Surface Duo – Price
Microsoft has yet to mention any pricing for the Surface Duo. It’ll be interesting to see how much this phone comes in at, and we’d suspect it’ll be at least on par with the high-end £1049 iPhone 11 Pro. Samsung currently sells the Galaxy Fold for £1800.