Microsoft is hard at work finalizing the next major OS update for Surface Duo, which is based on Android 12L and is expected to ship in the next handful of weeks. According to my sources, the update will feature a refreshed design with Windows 11-inspired “Fluent” elements in many areas, such as the notification shade, settings app, and Microsoft Launcher activity feed.
Contacts say to expect more blurred surfaces and effects in a number of places throughout the OS, as well as more fluid animations when using gesture navigation to open and close apps. Toggles, buttons, and notification boxes have also been updated to reflect the new design style.
Android 12L will mark the first time that Microsoft is applying its own Fluent design language to Android, as previous releases have stuck to Google’s stock Material designs. I understand that this move to incorporate Fluent design is part of a larger effort to better highlight Surface Duo as a great Windows companion device while still being a familiar Android experience.
The company wants to position Surface Duo as an extension of your Windows PC, and incorporating the Windows 11 design language in certain areas certainly helps sell that idea. For example, I hear the quick settings area in the Android notification shade now resembles that of the quick settings panel on Windows 11. The settings app now also utilizes Windows 11 style icons for the different setting categories.
Additionally, there’s a new “pen menu” interface that appears when the user taps the top button on the Surface Slim Pen 2. Similar to Windows 11’s pen menu, this interface is fully customizable, with the ability to add shortcuts to any app you have installed. It will also display your pen's battery level.
Android 12L also introduces Android's new wallpaper-based theming support, where users will be able to set a system accent color based on the dominant color in the wallpaper they have set. This is a feature that is incidentally similar to what Windows already has.
Another feature coming soon to Surface Duo includes a new “Duo Connect” mode for enterprise customers, which will provide a continuum-style experience when connected to a large external display, powered by the Windows 365 cloud PC service. It’s unclear if this will be there with 12L on day one or if it’s a feature that will arrive in a later update.
Regarding the Microsoft Launcher itself, outside of minor design updates to bring it in line with the rest of the new design on Android 12L, not much else will be changing with it, at least for now. I hear the Android 12L "taskbar" UI that devices like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 feature will not be present on Surface Duo.
The Android 12L update for Surface Duo 1 and Surface Duo 2 is in its final testing stages now and is expected to begin rolling out in the next handful of weeks, likely in late October or early November, assuming there are no showstopping bugs found before then.
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