Surface Duo may be getting its own Insider Program for Android betas soon

Surface Duo Insider Program
(Image credit: Future)

What you need to know

  • References to an "Insider Program" have been spotted in the latest Android update for Surface Duo.
  • The flighting functionality is used internally by engineers currently. 
  • An Insider Program for Duo would allow Microsoft to flight new features and Android updates in beta to enthusiasts earlier.

Microsoft is a big fan of "Insider Programs." It has one for Windows, it has one for Office, there's one for Xbox, and it even has one for Skype, and they all share one thing in common: Giving users access to beta versions of software in exchange for feedback and the chance to help shape the products.

The Windows Insider Program is the largest of the Insider Programs, featuring over 10 million participants. Microsoft has delivered several huge updates to Windows over the last handful of years through the Windows Insider Program, including Windows 10, its many feature updates, and most recently Windows 11 and the 2022 Update. 

So far, Microsoft's Surface Duo, which runs Android, doesn't have an Insider Program, but that may soon be about to change. Software and device tinkerer Gustave Monce on Twitter has spotted references to a "Surface Insider Program" in the latest Android update available for the Surface Duo.

See more

So far, these references point to a page in the Settings app that, when fully functional, would allow users to choose between different preview "rings" just like users can in the Windows and Xbox Insider Programs. The feature also appears to be tied to "feature flags" which can turn beta features on or off either remotely or locally, similar to the A/B testing Microsoft does on Windows.

These references suggest that Microsoft is working on an Insider Program for Surface Duo, which would allow the company to flight preview builds of Android that include beta features and functions ahead of official releases. Samsung does this with its Android phones, as does OnePlus. It would allow enthusiasts access to the latest version of Android on Surface Duo much earlier.

According to my sources, this feature is used internally by engineers, but a public Insider Program for Surface Duo has been on the to-do list for the Duo team for many months. Hopefully the company can finally deliver it externally in 2023, as I know there are many additional software features that are in the works internally, including a new cloud-based Continuum mode, a one-handed mode, and the ability take notes with the Surface Pen on the lock screen. 

For now, Surface Duo just recently got its Android 12L update, which introduced Microsoft's own Fluent design language to the Android OS, bringing it more in-line with the interface found on Windows 11. 

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

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