How the Surface Duo 2 gave a researcher in Australia his life back

Surface Duo 2 Kellermann
Surface Duo 2 Kellermann (Image credit: David Kellermann via Medium)

What you need to know

  • A researcher at the University of New South Wales saw his workflow change when he swapped to a Surface Duo 2.
  • The unique form factor of the device allowed him to improve his productivity when on the go.
  • The researcher found himself using the Surface Duo 2 for meetings over his laptop.

Dr. David Kellermann is a senior lecturer at the University of New South Wales in Australia, an engineer, and an academic. He's also a Surface Duo 2 owner that had his work changed by Microsoft's foldable device. Kellermann shared his experience with the Duo 2 in a recent blog post, including how it allowed him to spend more time with his family.

It's worth reading through Kellermann's entire post, but we'll run through some of the highlights.

Surface Duo 2 Kellermann

Source: David Kellermann via Medium (Image credit: Source: David Kellermann via Medium)

Dr. Kellermann swapped his SIM from his Google Pixel 5 to the Duo 2. It wasn't a light switch moment that made it clear that the Duo 2 was the future of mobile productivity. In fact, Kellermann said the experience "felt alien in every way." The unique form factor of the Duo 2 created a learning curve and had him yearning for his more traditional Pixel 5.

But as Kellermann used the Duo 2 as his main device, he discovered its usefulness. "Then, over the coming days, weird things started to happen: I started using it in ways I'd never used a phone before." Kellermann found that the two screens of the device allowed him to multitask on the go. Eventually, he started using the Duo 2 instead of his laptop to attend virtual meetings.

"I started actually choosing to take meetings on my Duo over my trusty laptop," said Kellermann. "I could easily sit it on a bench with one side folded up like a laptop, having the front facing camera pointing at me."

"The form factor of this device changes the way you use it by lowering some barriers and raising others." — Dr. David Kellermann

One instance exemplified how the Duo 2 changed Kellermann's workflow. During a three-hour period in which he invigilated an exam, Kellermann responded to messages on Teams and emails on the Duo 2. Because the device made this process less stressful, he was able to get his work done while at the park with his son.

"I would have been dizzied switching back and forth between apps on my old phone," recalled Kellermann. "Actually, I just wouldn't have taken my son to the park. This thing gave me back life."

Kellermann's piece doesn't paint a perfect picture for the Duo 2. He recognizes its software bugs, flaws, and weird errors. It does, however, show that the form factor of the Duo family of devices works well for some people.

"I don't want a single folding screen like the Samsung Fold. I want this thing, refined. I want this thing with a Google Pixel-quality camera," concluded Kellermann.

Sean Endicott
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  • I pretty much had the same experience with my Duo, love the Microsoft Android app ecosystem and love using my Duo for business... Things are slowly maturing, can't wait for the rumoured Android 11 update...
  • > he was able to get his work done while at the park with his son. I see people doing this , using their phones while ostensibly with their children and think ...poor child, a parent who thinks their screen is more important then them. I find it sad, not something to admire. If you are in the park with your child be WITH you child. >"I don't want a single folding screen like the Samsung Fold. I don't understand this bit at all. You can use the Fold as 2 faux screens if you want, the same as the Duo , the Fold just gives you the option of having a big screen, that option doesn't exist in the Duo. I don't think the Fold needs an entire third front screen though. The lack of a notification screen (even the glance screen would be fine if it worked across every app) would seem the greatest downfall, not the camera. e.g I have no interest in SMS notification as I don't use SMS and I make nearly no phone calls any more. I have a Pixel Pro 6, what a dog that is for me. My plan is to wait for the Fold 4. I came from a Galaxy Note 9, that was an incredible phone, particularly for productivity and from what I have seen (and used in store) it seems excellent and more refined. eg That said, competition is good, I just think MS's approach so far is underwhelming (as a Surface "fan" who had high hopes for the Duo range) . I am hopeful for iteration 3 :) FYI $2320 for the base model here in Aus, (includes tax) good of then to have it out now as it wasn't supposed to get here until Q1 2022
  • The Fold does not multitask anywhere near as easily as the Duo. It's like the difference between a widescreen and dual monitors, if there were no Windows snap feature. Also, you can fold the Duo around fully open, and even put it in your pocket like that. So if you want an "external" display, that's built in with Duo, not hacked in via some external afterthought like on the Fold. If you want a tablet, the Fold is better. For multitasking and productivity, the Duo is better.
  • as an ex Duo 1 owner for a year and now a Fold 3, I have to say the following: the wide-screen / dual monitor example is sort of true but not entirely on Duo case. on a dual. monitor pc you have 2 big screens that each can fully display an app comfortably. If you were using a huge monitor like a 40" to imitate 2x20" and split screen you would have the same experience but with more hassle to snap the apps each time. in Win11 the snapping has been improved but still... too many steps and set everything right. on the Duo you have two small screens (big enough for a phone) and because of the hinge gap you can never use them as one big screen which is what the whole foldable concept is about. to carry the maximum screen possible on a pocket sized device. Productivity on a Fold can actually be better than the Duo because when you need multiple apps you can split the screen but! when you want to focus only on one app you can where as the Duo can't . A real example is joining a Teams meeting and watching the presenter's screen sharing. on the Duo you can do that on a max of 5.6/5.8 inches screen which is small if you have to read texts etc, on the Fold you can on a 7.4 and that is a huge difference. the Duo remains a big phone but the fold is stepping up to a tablet like experience. Also on the Fold you can have up to 4 apps at the same time which I had cases of needing it. Duo is hard-coded to have only 2 and when you have no use for the second screen you have a screen consuming battery for no reason. all in all both devices are awesome and they are certainly a step towards the right direction for mobilizing computers. but I believe the less hardware limitations you have the better, software can improve easily with an update like with latest OneUI that made multi-app handling much easier and smarter and soon A12, and can really come. so close. to. the Duo experience that Duo actually has more limitations than benefits. Someone could write a launcher for fold to imitate the Duo split screen, but not the opposite for the Duo.
  • There is a wonderful breakdown of the multitasking benefits of the Duo over the Fold 3 on YouTube. It really depends on what you're using it for. If it's more media centric functionality, then the Fold does offer the biggest screen. If it's utilizing two applications at the same time the Duo just provides a more fluid experience. True, the Fold can create virtual split screens but it can become cumbersome if you're constantly touching the screens. Because the Duo launches each application in their own partitioned environment, that will never happen. Plus you can change the orientation with gestures to maximize utilization of both screens acting as one and folding the Duo to stand on it's own, which is something the video highlights as an added benefit from the Fold. The video really highlights the best of both phones noting that the Fold 3 is probably the better overall phone from a specs standpoint. It really comes down to preference.
  • Perfectly stated. I don't doubt that many people really do want the larger tablet screen from time to time, in which case the Fold does offer that one (important to some) better than the Duo. It's all the other things the Duo does so much better that trump that Fold advantage for me. I virtually never need a single large screen from my phone (there are hardly any mobile apps designed for that anyway), but I'm constantly, even when I don't realize I want to, using multiple apps at the same time and benefiting from that. It's that automatic multitasking that's so incredibly hard to describe to people why that matters. It doesn't SOUND particularly useful, but imagine if you could only have 1 window open at a time in Windows. If every time you opened a window, it clobbered the old one. It would be crippling (one of the reasons Windows 8 was a failure, but it least it still had the Desktop for legacy apps). That's how all phones feel to me now after having become accustomed to the Duo. Plus the form factor for single-screen use is the best there is. It's a dual-screen phone with a better single-screen experience than any other single-screen phone (hence the comedy of the ignorant people who have clearly never used a Duo saying they wish it had an external screen like the Fold, a hacked on afterthought for the Fold because it has no other single-screen capability). The Duo is the best single-screen phone because of both the 3:2 aspect ratio and because the folding phone is like an-always built in, collapsable pop-socket. In landscape mode, it even folds over your holding hand so it's impossible to drop (fantastic for gaming).
  • but how many clicks/touches does the Fold's software need to be able to have multiple apps (splitscreen) open on those super skinny "screen-halves" (an inch wide x 8' tall screen is the horrible ratio that got me to stop buying Samsung Notes)?!? It was a rhetorical question because the answer is WAY more manual user input than the Duo which is basically "open app, done". So if you're trying to do anything productive other than watch movies, the Duo is the beast you want.
  • While I like the Note series, as i used a note 8 for the last four years, the productivity is different on the Note compared to the Duo. It was the reason I got the Note. However, multitasking was not a pleasant experience, when using split screen. The Duo is better at multi-tasking than the Note. In reality, no one should be getting the Duo with the idea of using it like a tablet. Multi-tasking is just easier on the Duo, in my opinion.
  • By reading what you wrote, it's pretty apparent you haven't really used a Fold or Surface Duo. The best analogy between the Surface Duo 1/2 and the Fold machines is having 1 big monitor versus dual monitors. On the SD 1/2, everything is automatic. You don’t have to think. You load something on one screen. Launch another app and it goes to the other screen. It just seems so seamless. On the Fold, I was always thinking. I was repositioning apps like moving windows around a desktop. I felt like I was always tinkering with apps on the Fold phones. But multitasking on the SD feels more intuitive. I think the Fold phones are only good in tablet mode. In single screen mode, the phone is way too skinny and tall which makes everything awkward including typing. Like on the SD 1/2, I can watch a video on one screen with a huge view of the video while doing everything else on the other screen. But on the Fold phones, it just didn’t feel convenient to do the same thing. I actually find a notification screen not that useful in the grander scheme of things. I'm coming from the Galaxy S20 and the Note 20 Ultra (and I've used the Fold 1 and 2 a lot). For people that tie their lives to notifications, then I wouldn't get the Surface Duo line. But for myself, I kept having to turn on the screen or unlock my Galaxy phones to see the notification properly (too little text). You can have the always-on setting enabled but then there's battery drain (Samsung claims very little drain which I didn't find in my experience especially since I use a phone a lot over the course of a work day). Now I find myself not looking at notifications. if I'm busy on a task where I don't have time to look at notifications, then I finish my tasks before going to secondary things like notifications. There are very few situations where a notification is so critical that I had to address it right away. If it's an emergency, they'll find a way to contact me. If I have the time to just do phone things, then I'm already looking at the screen and don't need notifications. And if I really really need notifications, then I have my Galaxy Watch.
  • "invigilated" There's a word I've never seen in America before. Thanks for the vocabulary boost in addition to the great support for my beloved Duo 2.
  • The US term is "proctored", which is a word that is never used anywhere else.
  • I didn't realize that "to proctor" an exam is an exclusively American term among English-speaking countries. Thanks!
  • Microsoft sells Duo 2 here in Australia? At least they have one purchaser here.
  • It came down to the wire for me between the Fold 3 and the Duo 2. In the end I took the fold and have no regrets for sure but should I be able to justify getting a Duo I certainly will. The Fold can multitask for sure but granted it is not as tailor made for it as the Duo, I actually rarely use it to multitask however it has allowed me to go to events (the few which ran this year) and feel comfortable leaving my laptop behind and know I have a pocket device which is capable.
  • I have the original Duo bought and Fold 3... Both are great but the two larger distinct screens are better for multi-tasking and business use in my opinion... Especially if you use Teams a lot... I look at both of them on my coffee table and it's hard to know which to pick up and use...
  • I pretty much agree on everything said in this article and my experience has been similar. I'm a full time photographer and the duo 2 has completely transformed we way I work on the go. I can actually edit professional photos taken seconds ago on my Sony alpha camera, which would be next to impossible on nor. Al phones screens. I have the Sony camera app and Adobe lightroom mobile set up to launch simultaneously and after I transfer the photos from the camera do the device I span lightroom and corfortably edit the photos. I don't do this for jobs with hundreds of photos but for dozens its awesome. This is just one example for there are many ways in which the duo 2 is set apart from regular phones, and single screen foldable devices. I muktitask like crazy here and the typing experience for writing messages and emails has been fantastic. The only really annoying problem I am having is that I can't find a way to pick up and make calls though my Bluetooth devices without having to manually click the Bluetooth option every single time on the dialer.
  • I too wanted to get a Duo for the productivity increase. But COVID means I work from home now, and there's no point multitasking on the go, when I'm never on the go anymore. And secondly, the camera bump is a hideous, unwieldy mess. No point in getting a Duo until COVID is over, which seems like never.
  • I was very critical of the camera bump... until I held a Duo 2. It's so small as to be a non-factor. I still fold the Duo around completely open to use as a single screen device (with an awesome 3:2 form factor) and put it in my pocket like that. Would it be better if they could have fit the camera without the bump? Sure, but well worth it to now include a flagship-grade camera too.
  • I wasn't fan of the bump, but ive gotten use to it.
  • That is a good point about COVID and the Duo, I also think it will not go away. However there are signs that it is getting milder (eg Omicron in South Africa so far being way less deadly) and some experts believe that it will spread fast and hence many people will get natural immunity this way. From that regard and if governments also loosen the grips a bit, a device like the Duo will make more sense again.
  • I picked up the Surface Duo 1 when it went on fire sale and used it for a few months before selling it. I really do like the Duo and what Microsoft is trying to do with it. My biggest complaint with the Duo 1 is that the SoC simply was too dated and not up-to-the-task of being able to keep up with everything I was doing on the device. My other complaint of the original Duo was the lack of an external display for notifications which has been solved with the Duo 2. The final nail in the coffin for the Duo 1 was the oft promised but never delivered Android 11 update (and remains promised but not delivered) plus no path to Android 12. I will likely give the Duo 2 a try at some point because I still like the promise of Duo. I spend 95% of my time in a browser window or some Microsoft app and I'm not much of a gamer so a Duo would let me do most of what I need to without lugging around a laptop (if Microsoft only had a PowerShell/Terminal app for Android!). But, before I dive back in I am waiting to see how much effort Microsoft puts into updates for the Duo 2 over the next year and if it looks like they are improving the experience and actually getting Android OS updates out to the Duo I'll absolutely consider it again. I'd also love to see Microsoft open up notifications on the spine to all Android apps so it can give me at a glance updates beyond MS apps. I do wish that Microsoft skipped the camera bump and just put a flush back mounted camera so it can fold back flat. It isn't a deal break for me and I know Microsoft had to deliver a more flagship grade camera for the price of the phone. Of course, if you put a skin on the Duo 1 it would fold back flat anyways so the point is probably a bit moot.
  • love my Duo, but this is over the top on drama. Glad he "got his life back"
  • Would still prefer Surface Neo
  • Agreed. That would be the ultimate on-the-go productivity device.