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5 things we're hoping to see in Microsoft's Surface Duo

Surface Duo unfolded on display
Surface Duo unfolded on display (Image credit: Windows Central)

The Microsoft Surface Duo is arguably one of the more exciting hardware products that Microsoft is launching this year, if only because it's Microsoft's first phone device since it killed off Lumia in 2016. It's also one of the first dual-screen smartphones and is Microsoft's first Surface to run the Android OS. It's a whole lot of firsts, but that doesn't mean it can't impress right out of the gate. So, here's five things we're hoping to see in the Surface Duo when it launches later this year.

Wireless Charging

Surface Duo

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Wireless charging is a big deal for me. I know not everybody is sold on the idea, but I'm one of those people who have kitted out their living space with wireless chargers so that I can put my phone down in places and have it top up on juice. It's the convenience of it that I enjoy, and don't particularly mind that it doesn't charge as fast as plugging it in via a cable.

While it wouldn't be the end of the world of Surface Duo doesn't have it, I consider wireless charging to be a given when you pay more than $800 for a phone, which the Surface Duo almost certainly will easily exceed. The Duo is glass on the front and back, so it can be done with its current design. Microsoft hasn't confirmed if the Surface Duo has wireless charging, unfortunately, and I'll be disappointed if it isn't there.

5G support

Surface Duo

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

5G is even less important than wireless charging, but it is the future. While you may not consider it a big deal right now, in a year, or two years, it will be. Samsung, OnePlus, LG, Huawei, and others have already released 5G phones, and heavyweights Apple and Google are expecte to release their first 5G devices in 2020. If Microsoft opts to skip out on 5G, it'll be the only high-profile phone maker to do so.

I recently switched to a 5G data plan with my carrier and upgraded to a 5G phone. So I hope the Surface Duo has 5G support so that I can continue using the 5G speeds I get through my cellular plan. That said, true 5G coverage where I live in the UK (and everywhere) is still incredibly sparse, and I've barely seen my 5G phone connect to a 5G cell site. This will change in the coming year or two, so it's down to whether or not Microsoft wants to future-proof the Surface Duo. I hope they do.

A good camera

Surface Duo

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

A good camera is essential for any device that can fit in your pocket because it's often the only camera you have on you. Microsoft has remained tight-lipped around its plans for the camera on the Surface Duo, but many are rightly concerned as so far, we've only seen a tiny front-facing sensor on the device. There doesn't appear to be any rear dedicated camera module.

Of course, Microsoft could add one to the final product, but Microsoft hasn't revealed if that is the plan. The size of the single front-facing sensor doesn't mean it's going to be terrible, though. The original Google Pixel has a relatively small primary sensor, yet produced great photos thanks to post-processing. If Microsoft can nail post-processing with the Surface Duo, we should end up with a device that can take good photos. I'm not expecting it to be the best on the market, however.

A single sensor isn't going to be able to beat out competing devices that have two, three, even four sensors of varying types. I think it's fair to say that if you're a smartphone photography enthusiast, the Surface Duo isn't going to be for you unless Microsoft surprises us with a dedicated set of cameras on the rear before launch.

Good haptics

Microsoft Surface Duo

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

I'm obsessed with haptics on smartphones, and on devices that cost more than $1000 I expect nothing less than excellent haptics. Anything similar to the Google Pixel, OnePlus 7 Pro, or iPhone will be good. I don't want the Surface Duo to rattle when it vibrates; I want it to feel controlled and dedicated, like on the iPhone.

More and more people are starting to become familiar with better haptics, and it would be a real shame if Microsoft opts for a standard haptic driver in the Surface Duo. There are better ways to do haptics on devices in 2020, and I hope Microsoft opts for one of the more premium methods. It just feels better and helps out when it comes to the overall user experience of a premium device.

Colors!

Surface Duo

Source: Marques Brownlee (Image credit: Source: Marques Brownlee)

Last but certainly not least, I'd love to see options for more than just white and black. A beautiful call back to the old Lumia days would be if the Surface Duo is available in vibrant colors like cyan or orange. At the very least, make the Surface Duo available in all the same colors that the Surface Pro Type Cover is available in.

Being able to stand out from the crowd with a colorful phone that also happens to have two screens and folds would be pretty cool. Don't get me wrong, the white version that Microsoft has also unveiled looks fantastic, but having the option for a red or blue one also wouldn't hurt.

What are you hoping to see?

That's our list of things we're hoping to see with the Surface Duo, but we know you've got opinions too. Let us know in the comments what you are also hoping to see in the Surface Duo.

Zac Bowden
Zac Bowden

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

81 Comments
  • I'm old enough to remember having wireless charging tablets. :)
    #webOSOS
  • It was one of the things I hated losing when my Nexus 7 died.
  • I'm with you on the colours and the wireless charging. I'm happy with most average cameras these days and 4g is more than capable for my usage.
    I've always preferred the older surface colour, it's the black over the silver for me. I'm still getting this device either way tho! Can't wait!
  • It would love Surface Duo to have continum features over USB C and miracast.
  • Android 10 does have desktop mode. Microsoft will just have to leverage it.
  • They need to REALLY work on it then. So far none of the Android implementations have been great. MS could really make some noise in this area, especially in the road warrior crowd.
  • I'm still holding out hope (foolishly) that we'll be able to flash Windows 10X to it and have a proper desktop once Microsoft compiles Windows 10X for ARM.
  • You are assuming Windows 10X is a proper desktop? If you want a desktop, there a hundreds of laptops to choose from that will give a far better experience without ruining your phone too.
  • Laptops arent as portable so that's a deal breaker right there.
  • Windows 10X is still Windows 10 so of course it's a proper desktop. It's just optimised for dual-screen devices, with Duo is. If 10X works on the Neo then it will work as a proper desktop on Duo. The potential issue is obviously the size of the device, not the OS.
  • PLEASE PLEASE reduce the bottom & top bezel, it is far to big.
  • With the use scenarios for the dual screens you are going to want that bezel to some degree. To leverage the hold on one screen with a thumb while you interact with the other.
  • It isn't an issue with the Galaxy Fold. That is my only issue with this device. It looks like two iPhone 4 side by side. It will feel outdated next to everything else out, especially if they try to price it high.
  • They won't change the form at this point, the hardware is finished. That's what Zac said in the podcast at least
  • Solid list, Zac. How sure are you that there will be a black variant? I know we've seen it, but as far as I know, they only showed off the white version at the announcement.
  • I hope has a pen support, and magnetic wireless charging for pen. And that black prototype duo has what appears to be camera or a hole on the corner 🤔 (panos holding)
  • They demo it using the new slim pen, which means N-Trig tech. I can't imagine that will drop. Now they just need a slim pen that changes button profiles between devices, much like the precision mouse.
  • This.. I hope at some point a version comes with a slot to carry a small surface pen. I love the pen on my Note9. Love the Camera function.
  • How about a way to check notifications while the device is closed? Seems like a gruesome oversight. In order to check, you have to open it. This is something you don't need to do on any "slab" phone or with Huawei, Samsung, and Motorola's foldables. Without it, seems DoA for me to purchase.
  • At least there are plenty of Android watches that will replace that function.
  • You can also easily use a Garmin or Fitbit or other fitness devices for notifications, not just smartwatches.
  • I'm wondering if this is where devices like smart watches will come into play. I leave my phone in my pocket and check notifications on my Garmin.
  • I also think this might be a big oversight. I'm guessing they are thinking that you'd have it folded such that the screen (or, one of them) is facing out when it's on your desk so you can passively monitor notifications. Some sort of AOD might be in the cards if that's the case. Another possibility is a good old fashioned notification LED. Boy I miss that on my Note10.
  • There is no reason for the glass back if it doesn't have wireless charging. They might as well put in the Surface Mg case then (I'd probably give up wireless charging for that). The camera needs to be good but it doesn't need to be flagship level, most of that is pixel peeping at this point (we saw the same thing in DSLR cameras). Colors are a big meh for me, Surface is meant to be utilitarian/minimalist. I want great MS apps taking advantage of the Duo right out of the box, both productivity and entertainment... maybe bundle XCloud with it for the first year to highlight the use.
  • Yep, if Microsoft makes its Android apps all work with two screens, which I assume they will do, I can easily live with that. The non-MS apps that I use regularly are Twitter, Garmin Connect, Spotify and a couple of store and bank apps. It would be nice if these apps made productive use of two screens, but it is no big deal to me if they don't.
  • I'm going to take the camera thing and go a couple steps further. I remember a demo Microsoft did a few years back with an HP Elite x3 and they used it to produce a 3D scan of an object (a sand castle if I recall). It'd be awesome if that came to Duo. Additionally, I've always wanted to see a solution with 2 cameras for creating 3D pictures that can be viewed on VR devices. Additionally, I'm hoping Microsoft can remove as much Google "Big Brother" as possible from the OS. One of the reasons I loved Windows phone so much is that I didn't worry about what Microsoft was doing with my data as much as I do with Google given their very different business models.
  • Fun thing I just learned about yesterday, you can block Google services on Android without rooting the device by using ADB and blocking their services on your user profile. Once you're done they might as well have been uninstalled. XDA Developers has a how to guide.
  • Your carrier and everyone in-between still see everything you do. Google is the least of your worries.
  • 1. No wireless charging. I would rather a durable magnesium-case construction for my new $2,000(?) baby.
    2. 3.5 mm output jack and a Quad DAC
    3. Not a good camera - a GREAT camera
    4. A car dash mount accessory
    5. An easy-access SIM card - because I am sure I won't be taking it on any long bicycle rides or kayak paddles and will want to easily revert to an older phone
  • I'm guessing the price will fall between a top Sammy flagship and the Fold Gen2.
    No headphone jack, too thin on each side would be my guess.
    You'll probably be using Android Auto in the car, it has become ubiquitous in recent models.
  • Might be exclusively eSIM.
  • I have no expectation of colors. I hoped they would do it with the Surface Pro, but they haven't. They have kept it for the Surface Laptop. What's more they have gone from fun, exciting colors with the old Type Covers and Lumias to being really subdued and uninteresting with the Lumia 950, newer Type Covers, and Surface Laptop.
  • I agree... I think it's silly that people get so obsessed with what their phone looks like when any sane person will put a cover on their $1k investment. I was just shopping for a used Google Pixel phone and found and endless supply of phones with cracked screens and backs because the foolish owner didn't spend $10 on a cover.
  • I don't understand people who buy a thin iPhone or Galaxy and then surround it with a thick case like an Otter where the phone is now the size of a thin book.
  • I think the wishlist given is at this point in time. I consider it a given. I'm not too worried about these. Top 5 things I think this duo device, based on my longterm experience of Surface, Windows Phone, and recent experience with Android: 1. Android with at least 5 years of update support from time of delivery to the user.
    2. Microsoft support Multiple Launchers with a Microsoft flavour (Microsoft Launcher, Microsoft Launcher -designed for touch and pen-, Microsoft Live Tile Launcher) for the duo.
    3. At least 5 years of good timely update support for Microsoft products and services (apps, services, skins, Launchers, bugfixes, all language support, security support) from time of delivery to the user.
    4. At least 7 years of the top 50 popular third party app support from time of delivery to the user.
    5. High repairability rate and easy battery replacement (if possible validated by iFixit, among others).
  • You received none of that support from Microsoft in the past, why would you expect it now? 1. 3 years of updates is plenty. Items 3 and 4 cover this. It isn't realistic as Qualcomm becomes the biggest issue. Android has been design so that Android update don't matter. 2. One official launcher is plenty. One great launcher is better than bunch of crappy ones. Launchers will probably not work well due to the unique design. 3. Android is supported directly by Google for several years. Google will determine how long apps will be supported, not Microsoft. At long as Microsoft is updating the app, there shouldn't be an issue. 4. Same as 3. Every Android phone is directly supported by Google for several years. App compatibility is rarely an issue. 5. It would be nice, but it is unrealistic. People care more about the form, function is second. It needs to sell.
  • I REALLY REALLY want Android Auto to work flawlessly. Battery life is big too. Of course the camera has to be awesome as well.
  • I'm going to add one more to my list: A dedicated camera button. I've really missed this since moving on from Windows 10 Mobile.
  • This is why I moved to Sony phones, still have the camera button.
  • You can set the hardware button on OnePlus devices to anything you want. I have mine set to Alexa but you can set it to camera very easily
  • I would love to see waterproofing I also think it would be smart of them to release a first party case for it, so when I drop it, the clean edge of the phone isn’t chipped away over time. If they leave case designs to otterbox and belkin and the like, we will have basic leather or plastic wallets. How about some of the original designers show us how they can protect the frame in a way thats designed and thoughtful rather than cheap and obvious.
  • Not sure how you put a case on this at all.
  • Hoping to see... Windows.
  • Agreed; 5G and colors!
  • What about an ip67 rating. People are not discussing durability or if it will shatter on a drop. If I'm going to spend close to a grand on a phone I hope it won't break if slides off my bed and hits the floor. And I agree that bright colors would be dope but I'd go for the white on launch day. And wireless charging is a must for me as well!
  • so many phones are glass nowadays. you just adapt. my samsung galaxy s10+, s9, and s8 were glass phones and I was fine with them (though my S9, I didn't have for that long because I got a good trade-in deal for the S10+; and my S8 did have a cracked screen but after multiple drops and the drop that really cracked it was 4 feet onto concrete and it landed right on the corner which is the worst position for a phone to hit).
  • Waterproof (snow, rain, sweat, by the pool or bathtub, it should work near all these places without worry)
  • With the rash of articles lately regarding Surface Duo, I’m concerned we haven’t heard from Rodney. I hope he's O.K.
  • Facts. We haven't heard from him. I was just thinking about Jason ward too
  • LOUD speakers. They don’t need to be IMAX quality just loud enough to be heard. I use my device in crowds n roadside to teach n found lately most device mfg feel ear buds is the way to go and design the speakers to be used only in quiet chambers.
  • For me the decision to get this phone will hinge on one big question: does it have dual sim or not. Because if it doesn't I can't use it...
  • The only thing I care to see is this thing crash and burn.
  • That seems rather stupid. If it's good then it should do well and if it's not then it shouldn't. You're basically hoping for it to be bad. Why would you want it to be bad? Oh, I get it. You're one of those people who base your self-worth on the performance of your preferred tech company. That's why it seems stupid.
  • Very unintelligent comment. There's no reason to want this product to be unsuccessful other than your petty childish fanboyism (or fangirlism). I highly suggest you grow up. It's a well known fact that competition is a good thing and can lead to better products at lower prices. Betting against this thing is like betting against yourself when you go gamble in Las Vegas.
  • Not bothered about Wireless charging or Haptics. They're gimmicks. It'll need to have at least one good camera lens though. I'm not bothered about 5G but like you say I will be in future so agreed. Although 4G on the first phones was ropey so any 5G modem today won't be much cop in future though.
  • Hoping for an ultra wide angle lense and a standard shooter that works well in low light... I don't need ultra slow mo or anything like that... I don't need a FFC: If MS does this right, you only need 1 camera, and just fold where required... Gestures, like those on Motorola devices, are always desired... ALWAYS... I'd love to have a way for the stylus to be built in, such that it is always available. I'm okay with clever ways of doing this, but for this device to have value to me, to pull me away from the Note series, it has to have this... I'd love for MST... I know I won't get it... But it would be so cool if it had it...
  • I'm surprised an excellent speaker and mic system didn't make the list... I mean colors? Ha.
  • Jeeeze everybody. Calm Down. What MS showed was a PROTOTYPE, nowhere near a shipping product. If you want to know if there's a camera, or wireless charging, etc. go get the recently released SDK and see if there is ANY API for them in it. If not. There you go.
    It's most certainly NOT going to be marketed as a PHONE. It will be marketed as a Folding Tablet/PDA-type device.
    It MAY be able to make and take Phone Calls, but it may NOT too.
    It MAY use some brand-new APU like the Qualcomm 865, or it MAY use MS's own SQ1 (probably.)
    So anything it possible. Stay tuned.
    Again, check the SDK out for info.
  • One thing. Optional Windows 10X boot option.
  • Maybe stick to things that they haven't already confirmed will NOT happen.
  • I'm very interested in seeing how practical it will be having to open the phone each and every time to use it... or can we choose to have the screens on the outside all the time - even in our pocket?
  • I would love to see Windows 10X.
  • I have one major wish for Duo. That they drop the whole Android "abandonware" thing. It's ridiculous that a phone gets no updates after two years. I have a desktop computer that is 6 years old, and its OS is up to date. My laptop is 3 or 4 years old, yet it is also running the latest OS version. Devices being abandoned so quickly is why I've given up on Android tablets (plus their lack of development) and am ready to quit on Android completely, but the choices are few, so I'm stuck. Everybody builds the new shiny thing each year and doesn't want to spend time keeping that "old" stuff from last year running. Personally, I want a dual screen phone-like device that will last. Hey, guys? Can you ask Microsoft if they plan on maintaining the OS updates on this for more than two years? I know, the hardware is fascinating, but just look at Sonos and you'll get why I want that question answered.
  • Google supports Android through Play Services updates for several years. Android updates stopped mattering years ago. No Android phone is abandoned, even if it never receives an Android update. This isn't Windows phone, it is designed much differently. A browser, API, security, or feature update doesn't have to come through the operating system.
  • you're exaggerating things. "no Android phone is abandoned"? please, try to run a new app on something with Froyo or Gingerbread and chances are good that you will get an error message rather than the app just running slower. but at least Android is somewhat better than chromebooks which do expire after 6 years.
  • in the emulator demo videos, they show the span mode where a single display is spread across both screens. However, in the video, the bezel splitting the screens was "not recognized" so that text or image that occurred underneath that bezel was not viewable. I know they didn't want to alter aspect ratio or anything. But that would be so annoying to be missing text when reading text spanning both screens. They need to provide an option where the display would be split so that anything at the bezel would be pushed to either side so no missing text or image would happen.
  • Yeah I have also noticed it. Content hides due to virtual bazel. But other dual screen Android phones displayed content as it is on both screens while spanning. So I think this is just an emulator issue.
  • I read this in a Verge article so now I feel better: Developers will also need to consider snapping to the seam, to avoid content in a grid or tabular layout not being displayed correctly. Responsive layouts will help here, by rearrange content when the screen orientation or size changes. Developers can also choose how to handle images spanning across the two displays. They can either mask, where an image is rendered behind the seam, or split which cuts the image apart. The mask technique leaves it up to a users’ brain to “naturally connect the ‘unseen’ parts,” according to Microsoft, and it’s a recommended technique for videos and photos. So what I'm hoping is for videos and pics, they do the mask (where part of the image is hidden by the bezel). And for text, they split so that nothing is rendered under the bezels.
  • I want a camera at least as good as the one on my Note9. Anything else is not acceptable by any means. The last thing we need is another half baked WP7.0 release... MS needs to nail it version 1 out of the box, and set a strong foundation for version 2, 3, and so on.
  • The Note doesn't have the space or form factor issues this phone has. If they want it to fold flat, they cannot have a camera bump. They can still make a decent camera, just not quite flagship level.
  • Certainly a huge challenge since Duo is already thin and it cannot have any camera bumps since it is designed for screen to rotated back. Unless they make it just bit thicker enough to house a decent camera module. I really hope they will incorporate more than average camera, at least 2 cameras as well. One normal camera and one ultrawide, which I think is the best minimum configuration than telephoto cameras. With wide angle, you can shoot landscape better and take big family photos. For more productivity purposes, an ultrawide camera allows to take a photo of site in tight spaces, which I personally do when I visit servers on small offices. If they aim Surface Duo as a productivity companion device, then an ultrawide camera will be useful as well. Still I hope the camera is at least more than good enough. Maybe not Pixel level camera, but maybe as good as the old flagships few years ago.
  • The only thing I want surface duo to have is small external screen that can show caller name & options of pick up Or reject calls, notification badges. If they don't provide it then people will keep surface duo in 360 degree folded position all the time like normal phones which means dual screen will not be in the play all the time & used lesser than they intended it to be. So in my opinion Microsoft is missing the trick by not providing small external screen.
  • Looks strange to me, seeing the Android icons on the screen....should be Live Tiles.
  • I would probably install Launcher 10 on my dUO to experience W10M.
  • Will you lose the major UI and interface features Microsoft designed for this device if you change launchers?
  • 1. Windows 10
    2. Windows 10 Mobile
    3. Windows phone 8
    4. Windows 10x
    5. Windows mobile system
    😁
  • While I'm digging the dual-screen experience for use as a business device, I don't think I'd want this as a personal device. For example, if I get a text or phone call, I have to open the device just to see the text or call??? That'll get real old real fast. Seems like the Duo should have an external screen for quick-viewing of common tasks and for pick-up phone calls w/o opening the device.
  • What I will make with the cameras if I have this opportunity to release a unique product is this : create a system of cameras that can have lenses on both sides of the phone so you can get extreme zoom and great angles because you can use the entire phone witdth to focalise. (I don't know if I explained well because my English is not that good). Also in thi outside I will pot a small screen in all of the fm4 squares of the logo and create a way to display notifications inside them. For example : 1 screen show the call icon, 1 the call id, 1 accept and one reject. This way you preserve the design.
  • A good camera (even a single one) and 5G will do for me. Ideally I would like to see this priced competitively much like with what they tried with the release of win 10 mobile.
  • Live tiles, and Bluetooth text to speech when receiving text messages.
  • To me, the most important thing is a third, exterior screen so you can still use it when closed. As a phone, you need to either have it opened like a tablet on the side of your head or opened 360. If you want to answer quickly and talk, a third screen would be ideal, even if it's small. Without this, I have no interest.