A closer look at Android running on the Microsoft Surface Duo (video)

Surface Duo
Surface Duo (Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft's Surface Duo is coming soon, and the company has been working hard on finalizing the version of Android that will be shipping on Surface Duo later this year. Microsoft has released several emulator builds over the last few months, with each one progressing with new changes, bug fixes, and overall polish.

Not only that, but Microsoft has been working behind the scenes to update most of its own Android apps with support for Surface Duo, this includes Microsoft Launcher, Outlook, OneDrive, OneNote, Office, and many more. To showcase these new features and changes, we've gone hands-on with the latest emulator build and customized it extensively to make it look and feel like an actual Surface Duo.

Now, this still isn't final, so more features and changes could show up between now and when the product ships.

Keep in mind that many of the features and app experiences seen in the video aren't part of the emulator by default. We showcase new features such as app groups in Microsoft Launcher, that lets you open two apps at the same time under one icon, as well as app spanning in OneDrive, Edge, and Office. We also showcase the updated gesture animations and demo how dual-screens can enhance your workflow.

Surface Duo specs

Surface Duo itself is launching later this year with a Snapdragon 855, 6GB RAM, and up to 256GB storage. It has two 5.6-inch AMOLED displays joined together by a 360-degree hinge that makes this foldable unique from the other mainstream foldable devices out there. What are your thoughts on Surface Duo so far? Let us know in the comments.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

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.

83 Comments
  • Love it. You did put a lot of energy into it and it's really a great video
  • Android for the win!
  • Looks great. Hopefully they are not too expensive so I could afford one. I might even stop using Launcher 10
  • I don't know. I'm kinda on the fence regarding this device. So sometime later this year, Microsoft will be releasing a new device, that to me feels like it's already almost 2 years old...
  • Excellent point. So much time spent on the development that while (rumored) to release BEFORE the Galaxy Fold 2; the Fold 2 already had it's first generation and had the feedback for improvements. I don't believe the Duo will be much of a hit during its' first generation. Look at Surface for example...It took a whole 3 generations to take off. I'd like to be optimistic about the Duo but I don't believe it has much potential (yet). IMO.
  • Yet? If you're saying yet, you, by definition, do believe it has potential lol
  • Yet meaning with a V2, it will allow them to improve on it.
  • The CPU itself will be 2 years old when this comes out
  • I still think it's a big miss to not have an outside display on this thing. Unless you have a smartwatch, the device has to be opened to see every caller, each notification, etc. I realize MS is going for thinness here, but it comes at a huge sacrifice to convenience.
  • in the old days of my Lumia windows phones and cortana, I did not have to look at my phone. I would sync my phone to the car bluetooth. when I drove, a text would arrive. Cortana would ask, "you recieved a text form Jamie, would you like me to read it?" and so on. Never had to look at phone.
  • Those were the days. I only had a windows phone at the very end, but man, here I am three years later with nothing close in functionality.
  • Other phones had that functionality, specifically the Motos. It wasn't popular for whatever reason. I found it annoying on WP and Android.
  • Fold it the other way and you get *two* screens on the outside! :)
  • Don't have much confidence in a small software contracting company's Android OS work. Also don't have much confidence in Microsoft as a 1st year Android OEM.
  • If Microsoft was just starting to work with Android I would agree with you. The reality is they have a lot of experience working with Android should provide a lot better expereince.
  • In case you didn't know, this is actually VERY common. Judging by your comment, I would guess that you're just now being made aware but I could be wrong.
    Either way, android, with its criticisms (as with EVERY OS), is a pretty solid os on its own even without the device specific optimizations so I doubt the software will be the biggest hurdle here. As mentioned, Ms has been doing android apps for years too so there's tons of experience. The biggest initial hurdle will be the hardware not being modern. As far as the software side, app developers won't optimize for dual screen until devices take off but they'll still be usable in the meantime. Android will have to step it up though because I'm predicting Apple will raise the bar for expectations from devices and interoperability.
  • Well, considering that even Google bought Android...
  • Might wait until the next iteration wireless charging is a killer for me.
  • exactly what killed it for me
  • Same here. What a shame.
  • Likewise. Show stopper for me. Perhaps the whole thing is too little, too late. Wait for mark 2?
  • Yea it sucks too because the OS looks really clean and I really like it but no wireless charging and no nfc. I'm not going to nerf myself again in favor of a MS device that doesn't have all the modern things that are built into flagship smartphones these days.
  • I tried waiting for this but with an unknown release date I did upgrade to the samsung flip
    lets see how they do with this. Some of the features that have been rumored as missing def killed my excitement.
  • Nice video. It looks great but I'm a big fan of nfc and wireless charging.
  • With no NFC, does that mean no tap to pay?
  • Yes it does
  • Whilst the exclusion of NFC could be bothersome I think it would be too inconvenient to use tap to pay on this, I will be using the NFC on my watch for that.
  • Not to undermined the coming device or this video, but this video really set the tone of how good a modern Duo will be. V2 should be a great looking and feeling device. Get rid of the speaker, shrink the bezel, add nfc, wireless charger. Imagine if they had a watch like device that matched the design language and paired with earbuds. If only Microsoft could have executed on more of its projects. The dream is there but you just know Apple is about to take expectations to another level of polish with their entire Apple device experiences.
  • No NFC and no wireless charging is a no go. Unfortunately I have lost faith in Microsoft's consumer efforts.
  • What consumer efforts? This is not a consumer device. The stores are gone. MS has no consumer products.
  • Is the iPhone a consumer device?
  • Why are you asking such a silly question?
  • I'm asking because you still see a silly divide. What phone is being used by most business execs?
  • Again, this is NOT a consumer device. That you think it is because some "business execs" use iPhones is absurd.
  • Lol so now your argument essentially becomes, "there is no business device" then, doesn't it? Backed yourself into a corner spewing out that nonsense; iPhone isn't a business device, android isn't a business device. You're dismissed, 69^2 lmao
  • I'm a consumer typing this response on my Surface Pro X. Soon I will go spend some time on my Xbox. But, yeah, no consumer products.
  • Nady trying to argue there's a difference is just silly so I'm questioning him on it. Either he has to say the iPhone is a business device, which I already found where he claimed otherwise in a different post from a while ago. Or he has to admit there is no divide between a consumer ios/android and business ios/android device. Its all using the SAME operating systems. To say this isn't a consumer device is just plain silly. To say this isn't a business device is just plain silly.
  • During the text/restaurant search scenario, how are you supposed to type with one hand on the right screen when the devices is open like that? It doesn't make sense.
  • Swipe to type.
  • Either swipe or use a pen.
  • Zac mentioned before that SwiftKey is planned to have split keyboard across two screens. Sadly it's not here yet.
  • You won't have both screens open when you need a one hand device. Simple, when the second screen is folded out, it isn't a one hand device. The majority of usage for this device will be with only one screen open. You will only engage the second screen when necessary.
  • I am looking forward to owning one.
    Since I travel about 45 to 50 weeks out of a year now, this will be my ultra mobile productivity machine.
  • Why didn't you have the Axon or the new LG? This won't be any different.
  • Wondering if Microsoft will have their own android store, similar to Samsung Store.
  • Why would they do that?
  • Even though I have an android phone I really am concerned about android and app security. Even though we know that windows phone is dead I really wish Microsoft would have made there own os for this device. The longer it takes to come out the less excited I am about Duo and android.
  • Android security is fine
    Plus ms just released a defender app on Android.
  • It is fine if the device keeps getting updates or with a good virus scanner (Defender seems like a good fit here). MS has a tendency to give long security updates (even with wp10 it was 5 years in total iirc).
  • Exactly. It'll definitely keep getting security updates. Idk why ANYONE would be worried about that with Microsoft. They may have the BEST history for that
  • App security doesn't require OS updates. Google controls app security from their end.
  • If selling the device is a goal...the price shouldn't be higher than $700. Especially, with lack of wireless charging, NFC, 5G and nearly 2 year old Snapdragon processor.
  • That might be on the low side. No more than $1000. If MS thinks they can price it in 1500-2000 range it will be a total failure. Then again there will be 3 different storage options..
  • I think you are right or close, at least with the entry storage model.
  • $1,000 is way too much for an old device with some big concessions. The LG is $800 and has much better specs. $699 starting.
  • If selling it is the goal, it should be less than that.
    Selling the device and making it into a profitable product that fits into their portfolio are two different things
  • I agree with that statement. I have always questioned MSFT's marketing strategy which seems to constantly pivot. Case and point Surface Headphones 2 and Surface Earbuds. The second generation of Headphones is priced very competitively while the Earbuds are overpriced. How does that happen?
  • The psychology of brands are more important than the product when it comes to marketing. The more I can market as "unique", the more I need to charge for it or the customer won't see the value, regardless of the product is actually better than the competition.
    Premium pricing is about Surface as a brand. The lack of ANC and how they can market that as a "feature" is the psychology.
  • Great! I was wondering if you could have tested the way the camera app works? I understand it would just come up black because there is no actual lense, but I am assuming that when you are taking photos (not selfies) you fold the camera and the left screen becomes the view finder?? Would be good to test. I think there will be many functions for selfies as in having the other screen to operate another app while you are setting up the selfie...
  • Is that Google Messages as default sms app? What about the dialer and contacts, I know contact is supposed to be outlook right?
  • I'm assuming if the launcher is going to be the default presentation application, then the Office suite should be available. Because the device is ultimately using Android as the OS, it would have to use Google Messages for SMS functions.
  • Im not sure that is true. For example, ootb, galaxy devices use Samsung messages, do they? Regardless, whatever solution they use, I just hope it helps get the rcs ball rolling
  • Well Google Messages fully supports RCS, so this is fine. I guess Microsoft is still testing waters with Surface Duo of it will be successful for them, before they pour more resources into it. They could definitely create their own SMS app like wiaht other OEM's tends to do especially Samsung. One thing for sure Google apps like Gmail, Play Music, Play Games, Play Movies, Google Photos has to be included if you need Google Play and even YouTube and Maps.
  • Microsoft has suckered me in to so many of their first-gen devices only to throw me by the wayside shortly thereafter. But... I think they've done it again. This is a very appealing device and remedies pretty much every frustration I have about "modern" smartphones as a replacement for productivity devices like tablets and Ultrabooks. Please don't overprice this!
  • Buy it if you're happy with the features available on release (not which they promise). Considering its MS its a safe bet it will get security updates for some time it is just unsure how long support for feature updates will be etc. And yeah I hope too they don't overprice this.
  • Update for Aug 12, 2020: They over priced it! 😭
  • Hopefully after the IOS 14 announcement Google improve widgets on Android as they suck at the moment as they could come in handy on a daul device.
  • This should be on android central.
  • It should be on both, like it currently is
  • This looks really good imho. Although I'm not really a big phone user (never was be it on iPhone, countless Androids and the WP/WMs), I can see they have put a lot of thought into getting this right. Depending on price, I may get it, just for fun as usual hehehe :-). At least the 'app gap' problem is history now going with Android.
  • I know I said to myself many a time that I wasn't going to get the Duo 😂, with the lack of NFC, but I might just take my wallet with me lol 🤣 everyday, and use the Duo, the Duo is just to interesting.
  • I was interested in this phone for awhile and this video was the clincher for me. This will be my next phone. The few things it's missing are not deal breakers for me. I don't use NFC, I don't use wireless charging, and 5G is currently useless. I don't even really care about the camera. As long as it takes decent pictures, that's good enough for me.
  • I use 5g everyday. Much, much better speeds than 4g, but that might just be due to congestion. 5g speeds aren't that amazing yet.
  • I am amazed by the size of the bezels ! One would think returned at the time of the first lumia. This has the consequence of creating a very weak attraction especially when we look at the size of these same bezels of the latest models...
  • Waste of Money...!
  • For you or Ms? How much did it cost you?
    How much did it cost Microsoft?
    Who's money is being wasted?
    Hasn't the surface business proved to be profitable?
    Would ms make more money not selling devices and/or services, especially ones that further integrate their customers into their ecosystem?
  • Who is Money?
  • Lmao that was a hilarious comment
  • MS made Surface Neo running W10x, and thus should have no problems releasing a working version for the Duo as well. Let people who want to run Windows on it do so. They could sell it with Android, just let us switch between.
  • I agree. Let me have a Windows version with phone capability and I'll gladly dump Android, WhatsApp, etc. .. Dual boot would be amazing.
  • I believe dual boot is against Android rules for partners and that would force ms to use aosp but I could be wrong
  • Android in emulation; an Android module in Windows; I don't care. Windows on Phone was amazing in practice and in promise. I want Windows on my phone.
  • MS stopped development of Surface Neo. Last we heard, they were concentrating on single screen devices and Neo would be on hold for now.