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Fast Charge: Is it too late for the Surface Duo in the UK?

Many months after its initial release in the US, Microsoft has finally announced the first Surface phone will be hitting UK shores next week (February 18). But is it too late?

The Microsoft Surface Duo caused quite the stir when it was first announced. A whole new category of device that would take the best of a foldable and merge it with the productivity traits the brand has long been known for was a tempting prospect. That was in late 2019, a few weeks after Apple introduced its iPhone 11 series.

Fast forward to 2021 and not only has the world changed considerably, but Apple’s iPhone 11 is a mere memory and the iPhone 12 has been on shelves for over four months. And now, finally, us in the UK are getting our hands on the first Surface phone – it’s been a long time coming.

Microsoft revealed that on February 18 you’ll be able to buy the Surface Duo, either from its own online store of from Currys PC World, in the UK for a mere £1349. That’s £200 more than the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, which is not only the best Android phone around, but also the best phone you can buy right now.

I’ll be the first to admit I was hyped for the Duo when it was revealed all those months ago. 2019 was the year foldable phones turned from CES concept to consumer product and I had spent a lot of time living with the quirks of the original Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X. Seeing the Duo manage to swerve the dreaded screen crease and offer what felt like actual benefits of the two screen approach got me interested. Plus, I have always loved the simple aesthetic of Microsoft’s Surface line. 

Fast forward to today and my excitement isn’t what it was, even though I am still curious about trying what has been such a mystical device up until this point. When the Duo was released in the US it was met with plenty of criticism and it seemed like the software wasn’t quite ready.

It also felt like it was lacking when it came to what you were actually getting for your $1399 investment. That’s always going to be the case when something is announced so far ahead of the release, but the sting is still there. Read through the spec list of the Duo in 2021 and you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a £300 phone, not a £1300 one.

The Snapdragon 855 chipset, for instance, is two generations old and the bezel-heavy design looks outdated. You’re also lacking bits we would expect from a ‘flagship’, notably an IP rating and wireless charging. But the biggest omission, especially for a device that 1) costs so much and 2) is trying to feel futuristic is 5G.

Now, 5G isn’t yet a reason to upgrade (I said as much in our iPhone 12 review) but for a phone that has a business audience and a focus on productivity on-the-go, it does feel like an ideal platform for the next-gen data tech.

Another reason for my scepticism is the price. £1349 might undercut other multi-screen devices like the Galaxy Z Fold 2, but it’s still a tough sell when there are so many other options around with far superior internals, cameras, displays and so on.

It also seems odd to announce it with that price-tag and then reveal the US price is dropping to $999. Why not launch in the UK with a £999 tag to match – it’s not like the device is any different.

With all that being said though, I am still excited and intrigued to get my hands on one and see whether any of the initial issues have been ironed out with software updates.

Let’s just hope that when we do see the Surface Duo 2 arrive, we don’t have to wait quite so long to actually buy one.