Microsoft fails to deliver Android 11 for Surface Duo before the end of 2021

Surface Duo Hero 2020
Surface Duo Hero 2020 (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Back in September, Microsoft confirmed to media that it was working on bringing Android 11 to Surface Duo V1 customers before the end of 2021. That news came after the company had already said it planned to ship Android 11 for Surface Duo 1 in the summer of 2021. Unfortunately, as 2022 begins, Microsoft still hasn't delivered this crucial update.

This has left a sour taste in a lot of Duo users mouths, and rightly so. Microsoft for whatever reason has somehow managed to trip up at every hurdle when it comes to supporting the Surface Duo so far. Keep in mind that Surface Duo V1 hasn't received ANY bug fixes since July, likely because resources were shifted over to finalizing the Android 11 update instead.

Leaving Surface Duo V1 without bug fixes for half a year is frankly unacceptable given the state that the OS is in with Android 10. Surface Duo launched in an incredibly buggy state, and while Microsoft did begin fixing bugs and issues throughout the first half of 2021, the Duo is still in too buggy of a state to be considered acceptable, making the pause on bug fixes in the summer frankly mind boggling.

That's why we've been holding out hope for the Android 11 release, as it's understood that the Android 11 update has lots of fixes and enhancements that will bring the Duo 1 up to par with the Surface Duo 2 in regard to stability and features (where appropriate.) So Android 11 not shipping in 2021 on Duo V1 has left Duo customers without any real improvements since the device launched 15 months ago.

I've said this before, but Microsoft is the problem with Surface Duo. If the Surface Duo was a Samsung, Google, or Apple product, you can bet that those companies would have done everything in their power to fix up the product within the first few months of it being on the market. They would have been responsive about issues, and would've kept its customers assured that improvements and fixes were on the way.

Surface Duo 2020

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Meanwhile, here in the Microsoft world, I had to reach out to Microsoft to get an update on whether Android 11 would still be arriving before the end of 2021, and the company took a literal week to respond, coming back without comment, which was rather useless. It's a joke, it's unacceptable, and I can't believe Microsoft has the audacity to act like this given its terrible track record with phones in general.

Microsoft should have taken my reaching out for comment as an opportunity to be transparent with customers and confirm that the update wouldn't be arriving before the end of 2021, and then provide a new ETA or possibly even a short explanation as to why it would be late. That would have been good enough. Delays happen, just let us know beforehand so we're not left disappointed.

I love Surface Duo as a concept. I love the hardware, I love the uniqueness of the form factor, and I truly believe dual-screen is a viable option for enhancing productivity on a mobile device. But Microsoft keeps making it harder and harder to recommend this product to people. I don't know how Microsoft thinks it's going to turn Surface Duo into a growth product if it keeps treating its existing customers like this.

Microsoft is going to be the sole reason this product ultimately fails if it doesn't start taking Surface Duo more seriously. Surface Duo 2 launched in a much better state, which hopefully means that a Surface Duo 3 will be even better out of the gate whenever that launches. But now Microsoft needs to prove to its existing customers that it's going to properly support Duo V1 and V2 with new features, bug fixes, and improvements on a regular basis throughout 2022.

Luckily, the wait for Android 11 on Duo 1 is almost over. My sources say the Android 11 update for Surface Duo is in fact done and should begin rolling out once the update has been certified by Google and AT&T. Hopefully that will happen in the next couple of weeks.

Additionally, my sources say work on bringing the next major Android release to Duo has already begun. I hear Microsoft has decided to skip Android 12 and jump straight to Android 12L for Duo instead. This is actually really good news, as 12L has a number of improvements that will benefit the Duo form factor in significant ways. I'm yet to hear when 12L will drop for Surface Duo 1/2, but I do know the company wants to get it out much faster than it did Android 11.

I'm holding out hope that 2022 is going to be a better year for Duo users than 2021 was. I hope to see more updates, more new features, and more bug fixes on a regular basis. I think it's the least Microsoft can do for its customers.

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