The Google Pixel Fold has ruined my love for the Surface Duo — and it's all Microsoft's fault

Pixel Fold
The Pixel Fold looks an awful lot like a Duo 2. (Image credit: Google)

Yesterday, Google unveiled the Pixel Fold after months of leaks and rumors. The device resembles something akin to a foldable Surface Duo, with a short but wide aspect ratio in an incredibly thin chassis. In a word, it’s gorgeous and is the exact kind of foldable I'm hoping Microsoft is eventually able to deliver with a future Surface Duo 3.

I’ve been daily driving a Surface Duo since the first one shipped in 2020, and I’ve loved my time with it. It changed how I use phones, putting multitasking at the forefront of the experience without me really even needing to think about it. That’s the beauty of defined real estate; it forces you to multitask, and the multitasking is effortless as a result.

But the phone market moves quickly, and Microsoft cannot afford to skip updating the Surface Duo with new hardware on a regular schedule. Any phone maker that wants to be taken seriously is updating their flagship phone on an annual basis, and Microsoft needs to be doing the same if it wants the world to take Surface Duo seriously.

Sadly, Microsoft opted to skip releasing a new Surface Duo at the end of 2022, and now the company is rumored to be pivoting away from the dual-screen form factor, adding a further delay to when we might next see a Surface phone from Microsoft. If Microsoft truly cared about making a name for itself in phones, it wouldn’t be fumbling this execution so poorly.

Three years off the scene is a death sentence in the phone space. If you’re going to take a three-year break, any goodwill you may have built up with fans and customers will all be gone by the time your next phone is ready to ship. Why would anyone pick up a Surface Duo 3 if they can’t guarantee it’ll be updated on a timely schedule?

Drag and drop between two apps on Pixel Fold. (Image credit: Google)

Now, I’m actually not against Microsoft moving away from dual screens like some die-hard Surface Duo users might be because the dual-screen experience can (for the most part) be emulated across a single-foldable screen. The only thing you’re not going to get is that automatic multitasking experience, as the Pixel Fold (and Galaxy Fold) require user input to run two apps side by side.

But, frankly, that’s a small price to pay for an up-to-date phone with excellent cameras that’s still pretty great at multitasking, with the added benefit of not having a gap running down the middle. This benefits video consumption and most Android apps that never updated to correctly support spanning on Surface Duo, but operate fine on a larger folding screen (looking at you, Gmail.)

And that’s ultimately the reason why I’m dropping the Surface Duo 2 for the Pixel Fold when it starts shipping next month. Microsoft’s lack of feature updates (and seeming abandonment of the device from an app-development perspective) is adding insult to injury at this point. With no hardware on the horizon and disappointing software support for existing users, why should I stick with the Duo 2 when the Pixel Fold is able to mimic 90% of it but better?

I’m just so disappointed that Microsoft dropped the ball once again in the phone space. I truly believe Microsoft could have a successful phone business if it actually put some effort into supporting the hardware and software long term. Phones are not like PCs, they need to be updated and refreshed on a regular basis. That includes both software updates and hardware updates.

The Google Pixel Fold

(Image credit: Google)

I know I’m going to get that with the Pixel Fold. I know it’s going to get new features on a regular basis thanks to Google’s consistent Pixel Feature Drops that occur every few months, and I know Google updates its hardware portfolio on an annual cycle, making it easy to predict that a Pixel Fold 2 is likely to launch next fall.

The same simply cannot be said for Surface Duo. When is the next feature update coming? When is the next phone on the way? We don’t know, because Microsoft doesn’t communicate. Again, phones are not like PCs. People care about their phones, they want to know what’s coming next and when. Phone refresh cycles are an open secret for a reason. Everyone knows when the next iPhone, Samsung, and Google phone is coming. The same cannot be said for the next Surface phone.

And that’s Microsoft’s ultimate downfall in this space; a lack of consistency and stability. It’s a hardware maker that can’t be trusted to keep things updated, and the more Microsoft fumbles this, the harder it’s going to be for them to return to the phone market once more.

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 and Threads

  • Myst0g4n
    Going with Android was a mistake.
  • spicypadthai
    Myst0g4n said:
    Going with Android was a mistake.
    Please, Windows Phone/Mobile/whatever is not viable. That ship sailed long ago. Android was/is the correct choice. Unfortunately, MS is using the same strategy with the Duo as they did the last couple of years of Windows Phone/Mobile: buggy and incomplete products at launch that don't give the products a chance to gain a foothold followed up with minimal and vague communication for the short-term plan for fixes and new features, and then zero communication for the long-term vision.
  • Sean Endicott
    Myst0g4n said:
    Going with Android was a mistake.
    I don't see the alternative. What was Microsoft going to do? Windows isn't built for phones. iOS isn't an option.
  • Paracelzus
    PXF -> do not forget: no pen support ..... !
  • Cmndr_Bytes
    Sean Endicott said:
    I don't see the alternative. What was Microsoft going to do? Windows isn't built for phones. iOS isn't an option.
    But why couldn't they make it so it was. Especially with Windows 11. For so many years MS was pushing the one OS for all devices. And with Win 11 and the ability to run Android apps. Could have been best of both worlds. (?)
  • GraniteStateColin
    I love the Duo 2, but if MS won't provide a sequel, I'm not sure I'd go with a Google Pixel (as the next closest hardware option) over a non-folding Galaxy for the better Windows integration. I also strongly dislike the external screen for all the added wasted thickness (one of many problems with a single foldable screen over 2 screens). If the Pixel fold is anywhere near as thick as the monstrous Galaxy Fold, that's a dealbreaker for me. On the other hand, if Google has managed to make something as thin as the Duo 2, that would nullify that concern.

    I love the 3:2 aspect ratio of the Duo screens. If the Pixel Fold's screens are close to that, where Samsung's are quite narrow, that would be a compelling advantage to the Pixel over Samsung.

    I also use the Duo's tent-mode posture all the time, either to set it on a table or wrap around my hand like a self-contained pop-socket for stability. So far, none of the foldable devices support this. I know Zac has pointed out that a foldable screen is too soft and easily scratched to be on the outside, but I think I'd rather take that risk than settle for a screen that can't fold open. I wish someone (ideally MS) would offer a foldable screen where the screen is on the outside instead of the inside, eliminating that absurd hack of a solution of a separate external display and its extra thickness.

    I'll read the reviews and accept that at some point I may need to move to a non-Duo phone, but for now, I have no need to update my Duo 2, which is almost the perfect device for me. MS has some time to update before I'm forced to an alternative. While I don't dispute that annual updates are probably important to the marketplace as a whole, as long as the phone works and is fast enough to run everything well and is not missing any critical features other phones have added, I'm happy. The main thing missing from the Duo 2 for me is Qi charging. Other than that, I'd like an ever better camera, but Duo 2 hits the mark for being "good enough" in that regard (where the Duo 1 had an even better, thinner form, but fell FAR short with its terrible camera).
  • The Werewolf
    For me, the price/benefit ratio for foldables is still way too low. Admittedly, I may have been soured by my Surface Duo first gen (which I bought at US$400 when AT&T bonfired their stock) which was underwhelming feature-wise and further crippled by AT&T disabling the eSIM slot. Having the USB port crack (a common problem on Duos and Duo 2s) didn't help.

    But the Pixel Fold is US$1800. To put that into context, an ASUS Rog Flow Z13 i9/16GB/1TB/RTX4060 tablet - with keyboard costs the same price. MacBook Pros are cheaper!

    And many large screen Android phones and tablets support split-screen multitasking.

    Don't get me wrong, I was all in on foldables and dual screen devices and have been since the Courier videos leaked... but these are not consumer devices... they're bougie "aspirational" devices - and I'm not bougie. I'll buy a really solid affordable phone and a really solid affordable tablet and save half that price.

    Now, what we need is a new top end 8" Android "iPad mini" class device to pair with a good 6.5" phone.
  • dkstrauss
    With independent developers successfully porting Win11 for ARM to the original Surface Duo, there is NO REASON that Microsoft with its resources couldn't do an even better job and bring us the Courier that many have begged for in an even better, smaller, and dual screen package than the Courier concept.
  • MisterBear
    Microsoft has a very long list of product failures. The products were never bad, and were initially cutting edge concepts, but Microsoft has never been consistent in the support of their own products. It's all withered fruit now, dead, and dropped off the tree into oblivion. I know because I have several of those amazing and dead products.
    I'm sure the success of the Surface Tablet was a complete surprise to them considering how they bungled the first release, and have shown mostly apathy to anything that came later.
    All hail another dead phone with nobody to blame but themselves. Past and present product potential dead and ignored. I thankfully didn't get suckered again. My past lesson was well learned.
  • taynjack
    I think Microsoft might have 5 fans left. They burned so many, yet they just keep doing the same thing and scratching their heads why it isn't working. I hate Google and yet even I'm considering a Pixel Fold. Microsoft is the best player on every other team.