Microsoft has given us no reason to believe the Surface Duo will be any good

Surface Duo
Surface Duo (Image credit: Microsoft)

Surface Duo

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

If you stay in your Android lane and don't pay too close attention to what Microsoft is up to, you probably forgot the company's first Android, the Surface Duo, is set to debut soon. That's probably because it was announced over nine months ago, with a yet-to-be-determined launch date in late 2020, and there hasn't exactly been much fanfare outside of Microsoft circles.

The lack of anticipation and excitement around the Surface Duo will probably work out in Microsoft's favor, though, because there is very little reason to believe it will actually be a good product. It's incredibly hard to make a great Android phone, or tablet, or whatever Microsoft wants to call the Duo. Nonetheless, it's going to compete with high-end phones and be judged as such, and Microsoft doesn't have a track record of making good phones or knowing what consumers expect when they spend $1000+ on one.

From what we know now, Microsoft will have the advantage of launching something that looks new and exciting, and that's it. And as we've seen time and time again in the Android world, it's not enough to just have a cool form factor — you must get the basics right, or none of the rest matters. And so far, I'm nowhere near convinced that it has gotten those basics right, or has the proper foundation to launch a successful mobile product.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

It was a considerable surprise to me to hear that up to this point, Microsoft has been using a third-party software development company to work on the Android operating system build that will be running the Surface Duo. Given that this is its first Android device, the fact that it worked with an outside company to get up and running isn't that surprising. And that it's now bringing all of those employees in-house to work on Android devices at Microsoft is a big vote of confidence in the Duo's future — and the future of other Android-powered Surfaces.

Zac Bowden points out the immediate benefits: "With the OS team in-house, Microsoft itself will handle post-launch software updates for Surface Duo that will add new features and experiences over time. This same team will also handle Android OS work for Surface Duo V2, which I'm told is now in early development."

But to take until now, mere months (or possibly just weeks) before putting the Surface Duo up for sale, to make this move seems odd. Knowing that until just now, the entire development of Android on the Surface Duo wasn't being done in-house at Microsoft leads me back down the path of being concerned about just how good this thing will be. It takes a whole lot more time than that to properly adapt a brand new build of Android to a product like the Surface Duo.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Microsoft has given us a good idea of what apps look like on the dual-screen Surface Duo, and it looks good. The company has clearly put a lot of thought into what app experiences should be like when you have two large displays connected by a hinge; how the apps flow between the two and make use of space. And Microsoft has something like 60 apps in Google Play (opens in new tab). But there's a lot more to the experience of using a phone, or tablet, or whatever Microsoft wants to call the Surface Duo, than designing a handful of apps. You have to customize an entirely new operating system.

Microsoft is facing a really steep learning curve for trying to figure out all of the little quirks, issues, and fine-tuning of Android that companies like Samsung, Motorola, LG, and OnePlus (among a dozen others) have spent years perfecting. Not to mention the invaluable consumer feedback and market experience they've all received. And with all of those years of experience, and dozens of products behind them, even these companies struggle at times.

There's a steep learning curve for making Android run properly, and with the features we expect.

Extending my worry about this launch is the long lead time making the spec sheet outdated. The latest information we have, from May, points to a Snapdragon 855, 6GB of RAM, 64GB base (256GB optional) storage, a very basic 11MP camera, and just a 3460mAh battery. Of course, the Surface Duo's hardware, from what we've seen, looks amazing — and the dual 5.6-inch displays with a unique hinge will steal the spotlight from the specs if everything works as well as hoped. But, ultimately, this is going to be a late-2020 device with specs that wouldn't have been the top of the line in late 2019. For a device expected to have a flagship Android price, that's going to be a tough hurdle to overcome — in the Android world, if you want to charge top dollar, you need to deliver on specs. Just ask Google's Pixel team.

What are the top parts of the smartphone experience today? In some ranking, it's performance, software features, battery life, and camera. These are the areas that take the most time and expertise to perfect, and Microsoft is launching into a market in 2020 where the expectations are extremely high — again, especially if the price is in the four-figure range as rumored.

The Surface Duo barely has the specs to be competitive, and the software still has to make the most of them.

With a Snapdragon 855 and 6GB of RAM, it ostensibly has enough horsepower ... but is its software going to be properly optimized to take advantage of it? Who knows? And I have serious questions about whether a 3460mAh battery — nearly identical to 2018's Pixel 3 XL — can deliver anything approaching full-day battery life when there are two 5.6-inch 400 PPI displays to run. That's not to mention the less-efficient Snapdragon 855 and questionable software optimization, all of which can make an already subpar battery worse.

The first camera sample from the Duo, frankly, looks terrible if you know what modern Android cameras offer. With a single 1.12-micron 11MP sensor behind an f/2.0 lens, I'm not at all surprised. And once again, without years of expertise in making camera software, it's basically impossible for Microsoft to come out of the gate with a great camera on the Surface Duo, no matter the hardware. But much like the overall specs conversation, the camera quality needs to be acceptable at least — because no matter what Microsoft says, users will compare the Duo to high-end smartphones, and the competition has incredible cameras. It's something everyone demands.

When you're an early adopter, you'll put up with a lot — but that logic can only go so far before people give up.

These are all reasons why I argued months ago that Microsoft should've made a "normal" Android phone before attempting something as ambitious as the Surface Duo. Microsoft's hardware division is filled with highly skilled engineers and has produced excellent products in the Surface line — but stepping into a new category, with a new operating system and a new form factor, is an entirely different ballgame. I'm afraid Microsoft will be distracted by making the "Duo" part happen, and leave all of the core parts of the smartphone experience behind — to its detriment.

I can get behind the thought process that when you're an early adopter of new technology, there is a price you pay in terms of giving up the "nice-to-have" features you'd otherwise get. The Surface Duo will be unique and very intriguing, and just like with foldable phones there will be a lot of people who are willing to give up on some parts of the experience to get that new form factor. But that logic only extends so far before people won't put up with it anymore. The Surface Duo's hardware can be innovative, and the form factor can be incredible. Still, if it has outdated specs, lousy battery life, a horrible camera, and a basic build of Android with few of the features we've come to expect, the product won't have a leg to stand on.

Andrew Martonik
  • I assume this is an Android Central article published to Windows Central because it is a Microsoft device. Definitely feels like a perspective of an Android device writer.
  • Absolutely, he is a writer in Android Central, and he published this article on both sites.
  • I published this editorial across both Windows Central and Android Central so both audiences could see. I think it's worth seeing the PoV of someone who's used to the Android world looking at the Surface Duo from the "outside."
  • This makes sense to me. It's nice to see another perspective. I'm an Android user only because there is no Windows Phone. I do get your points, and agree outside of those who have been asking for a MS phone, I don't think this will pull a lot of people out of their phone manufacturers of choice.
  • I think this is the thing. For this to work we kind of need busness to adopt the surface phone they have the surface. This will be harder though as most people have a personal phone they use for business not the other way round.
  • @ Andrew Martonik
    Do you think we aren't used to the Android world by now? I mean, it's not that damn complicated.. I've been using a Note9 for 2 years, and besides having all the wonderful apps... It's basically the same a Windows Phone in concept. iOS is much different though, but coming from Windows Phone to Android there's only 3 differences:
    1. There's apps
    2. There's more features, and options
    3. Android is a wreck compared to Windows Phone (but that has improved in recent versions) I think we can all agree that SDV2 will be a major improvement.. But, your editorial seems kind of like you have something against Microsoft, and that you're just another Android shill who's scared to think outside the box. Either way I'm not afraid to consider your opinions because they are mostly valid for now. 👌🏽👌🏽👌🏽
  • The main problem with THIS kind of device is it built BY MICROSOFT. Your note 9 was built by SAMSUNG. you should ask where are Windows Mobile technology? Where is Microsoft Band? Where are Microsoft retail Stores by now? This is a software company NOT a Hardware company. Sunnier or latter they will DUMP this new Surface-duo-android-device because lack of sales.
  • Who cares, my WP got longer security updates than most android phones anyway. MS store was only interesting for a few americans that live close to one.
  • Why did you need security updates on WP? You needed real updates that never came.
  • What you mean? I could do anything on my WP I wanted/expected of it (till 2020 of course).
  • Your expectations were extremely low then. WM10 was a train wreck, it needed a ton of work.
  • My expectations were high concerning the camera, OS ui (I prefer the square icons of WP to the round ones from Android, I miss click a lot in Android now). But less concerning software I mostly needed whatsapp and a good notetaking app aside from the standard apps (both were there till 2020). The software was buggy but I learned that when I restarted the phone every ~2 weeks the issues were mostly solved. The only real dissapointing for me was the weak battery life but it was just good enough to last a full day.
  • How ridiculous that could be! You reminded me of the fanboys who used to justify Windows Phone 7 failure for the release of Windows Phone 8, and Windows Phone 8 failure for the release of Windows 10 Mobile, and so on.. What SD2? Any failure of Surface Duo 1 in terms of sales (expected), will automatically mean no Surface Duo 2.
  • A little inaccurate to say "it is Microsoft". Remember when the Surface RT flopped and it lost $1.2 billion? Well I guess it looked like Panos Panay had his way with things and Windows Phone was a Ballmer-era product that wasn't under Panos until it was on life support and Satya never believed in Windows Phone anyway. Now Panos has a greater role in the company and it makes me wonder if he'll be heading for Rajesh's position next. Other than the high possibility this device will launch with a some significant issues out of the gate because of the issues other early adopters get with Surface products, I'm pretty optimistic there will be at least some reasons where the Surface Duo stands out.
  • Times change.. Stop living in the past, move forward, and stop panicking.
  • Are you saying that because he has concerns over a Microsoft product he must be an Android fan? Yes this is a Windows web site but out in the marketplace, the Surface Duo isn't going to get a free ride - it's got to be competitive. A dedicated fan base that buys anything from Microsoft isn't going to be enough.
  • Sorry but can confirm it will be poor
  • The author of this article may not be aware, but every large tech company today, be it Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Intel, AMD etc. are actually made up of acquired smaller specialist companies that are gradually integrated into the parent company. Check the history of Google docs as a simple example. There is nothing like a purely native tech company that builds everything from scratch in-house, that's a big joke. That Microsoft started with Movial for the Duo is a non-issue. This is how it is done. You acquire the external talent you need, else you'll never get anything done. And this goes for ALL tech companies. It's only because we are now in the information age that everything is publicly known.
    As for the Duo, let the device actually launch before declaring its fate. I'm personally not interested in MS making yet another regular Android phone. What's the point? I could just get a Samsung or something. This is the way to go for Microsoft in the Android game, bring something fresh, different. It doesn't have to be more of the same, simply because there are far superior alternatives in the 'standard' game.
  • I was going to write something similar, but you put this very well. Thank you.
  • Same. All these people say they want Microsoft to make a regular phone first so they can rip it to shreds that it doesn't offer anything new over the other phones. But if they offer something new, they want to rip it to shreds because of other phones. I don't know if the Duo will be good. but at least it has me interested in finding out instead of buying the same phone each 2 years with updated specs. Phones are like laptops now. Microsoft disrupted that with the surface line up to begin with to give a new form factor and then came out with a regular laptop. If Duo gets some success i bet there will be a regular phone sometime after V2
  • Excellent response, Sir. They haven't made a Windows Mobile Phone in like 3 years, but AS Soon as MS decides to make a phone, the Android Fan ase gets reflexively over-defensive, and starts writing hit pieces? Let the Baby be born first, before you call it Ugly. If they nail the hinge, they are ahead of everyone, including Samsung, in folding tech, and as a 3.5 year, Note 8, and MS Launcher User, I'm looking forward to the new form-factor, and a new set of mobile computing experiences, this aims to offer.
  • Big Surface fan here and I agree with everything in the article. They only way this devoce makes sense is if it is priced at $399.99.
  • The device doesn't have to be just another Android. That to me is the more pointless approach. Like seriously, why wait for another Android phone? Why not just get a Samsung, or a Pixel or OnePlus or something? I find this approach Microsoft is taking to be more interesting at the very least. I would not have even given it a thought if it was just a 'regular' Android phone.
  • I think they should sell this at a flagship killer price. They need to be back in the mobile game and since they are competing with Android they should do so by low cost and good quality to steal the market. In the PC space they have to protect their OEM partners so they can't sell at low price points. With Android they should be very aggressive, especially with the weak specs they are bringing on V1.
  • There is no other decent (incl OS skin & software) 2 screen phone even priced near 400 bucks so your comment makes no sense at all.
  • Maybe I was a bit rude with my comment, just later on realized that you perhaps meant a (not yet existing) single screen Surface phone for 400 bucks. That could make sense but why do it? It would essentially just be another Android phone with perhaps only longer security updates (considering Surface Duo OS would also bring not as much benefits to a single screen device contrary to a dual screen device).
  • Just like with the Surface line in general, I don't think this is about selling to the masses.. It's about creating a new category of device and then eventually setting the standard for that category.. And like with the original Surface, I don't think they'll truly get it right until the version 3 product.. That being said, I'm excited for the product and plan on being an early adopter.. 👍🏼
  • Exactly, that's the goal here.
  • Your argument applies to the new form factor and breaking ground in that area. But it doesn't apply to making a bad product, poorly executing on that new form factor. As I say at the end of the piece, people will put up with a lot to try something new, but only to a point — if it's a bad execution, it doesn't matter.
  • How is it a 'bad product' when it's not yet even in your hands? Or 'poorly executed' for that matter? How do you conclude this without even using the device?
  • I said "if it's a bad execution" ... if. And it's reasonable to ask that question, for the reasons listed above — MSFT has no track record of making good mobile products, the leaked specs look bad, and it's hard to launch a competitive Android device in 2020.
  • MS has made some good phones, at the time of WP8/8.1 app support was not that big of a problem and WP was ahead in quite a bit of handy features (like glance screen). Most WP phones even offered noticeably longer security updates than Android phones.
    Also where you go wrong is that you compare this to single screen android phones, it should only (or mostly) be compared to phones like galaxy fold (which is very expensive).
  • There was not a single good WP8 device. They were all giant, heavy, plastic bricks with poor specs and half baked software. Hindsight is 20/20, we now know they weren't competitive.
  • Android competitors of the Lumia 640/xl were also plastic. Heck I dropped my lumia's so many times and they still worked, much better made than most same tier Android phones at the time.
  • The 1520 was an absolute monster! There's no way I agree that all wp 8.x devices were bad. I had the "unicorn" version too
  • Yeah awesome device, what I really like about the 1520 and also the 950XL is that they have broader screens than newer phones too, which makes than more practical I think and easier to type on.
  • I am quite sure the 640 was a Windows 8.1 device and was decent for the price ($40!). Plastic was fine at the time it 8.0 but huge plastic bricks like the 920 were a joke on the shelf next to the GS3. The 1520 was the only 8.0 device that was even remotely decent, but still suffered from being bulky and heavy.
  • Andrew.. How is it poorly executed? Do you have the device? Are you saying the device is poorly executed because it's missing 5G, wireless charging, and NFC? Do you think version 1 is Duo's only chance? I don't think you know enough about this device to be writing an article about it.
  • Again, I said "if" the execution is poor. Nobody knows much about it. We're all speculating based on what we know so far from leaks, and what I know from nearly a decade following the Android world. And based on that information, the deck is stacked against the Duo being a good device. And no it's not because it's missing 5G or wireless charging. It's for all of the reasons I wrote in the article: the specs are weak, the battery is small, the camera is going to be bad, and Microsoft is building its first Android device.
  • A Snapdragon 855 SoC is not 'weak specs' by any measure. Maybe for you 'tech reviewers' it is, but an 855 is actually really good. Camera may not be top Pixel, iPhone 11 or Galaxy quality, but calling it 'bad' (and only speculating at that - 'going to be bad'), come on! Are you writing articles for real users? Maybe you don't know how many people out there are still using phones from 3 to 5 years ago and older, and are perfectly satisfied with them. And finally, 'Microsoft is building it's first Android device' - therefore it's going to be 'bad'?
  • The 865+ was just announced. The 855 is now three processors behind (855+, 865, 865+). That is is a big deal in the competitive Android world, it is going to look bad on a spec sheet and will need to be priced accordingly.
  • Only the step to 865 is noticeable, the other are refreshes.
  • Why is a SD 855 a weak spec? It is a fast phone cpu as far as I know, especially if it will be cheap compared to eg a Fold.
  • Every device is a good device nowadays. Tbh, it's been that way for a while. Even the oems know and that's why they market uniqueness and exclusive features rather than "this phone can do x, just like the other phone but we're cheaper" like they used to. We're well beyond that. It's about the completeness of the overall experience. And that can't be seen on a spec sheet. Outside of enthusiasts and tech reviewers, people only care about that completeness and that's what EVERYONE needs to understand. Oems, partners, reviewers, and enthusiasts.
  • Yeah I agree the overall experience is very important, what I do notice however is that regular people nowadays also watch youtube reviews just to see how the device is rated. And usually these reviewers are the ones that make such a fuss about minimal cpu differences or screen dpi etc in phones.
  • This isn't a phone for phone fanboys. Sink or swim, the device will be judged as a productivity device, not a toy for tech writers covering the most mass-market, consumer-oriented tech product in history (Android), particularly one that hasn't meaningfully evolved in years save for folding phones. Besides, Android is the single most boring product in the consumer tech world -- and you're looking for excitement? I get that this doesn't have the wow factor for the average tech writer. But who cares? It doesn't mean the device will be a success, but it also gives me zero information on how it will actually perform in the market.
  • People have really high standards for devices they're expected to carry with them all day every day. Even if it's a "productivity" or "enterprise" device, if the Surface Duo is expected to take the place of your phone, it's gonna have to be good at phone things. Aka it's going to have to have good performance, good battery life and at least a usable camera.
  • I don't know if enterprise customers have "high standards" in the same way consumers or independents do. For enterprise customers, it will be about deploy-ability, security, maintainability, and productivity over state-of-the-art technology. Also, I don't think the Surface Duo is meant to take the place of your phone. I think Panos Panay purposely downplayed the phone aspects when he debuted the device last October. This device is meant to be like a duo-screen tablet with Microsoft's suite of software, LTE connectivity, and access to the Google Play store. Phone calls are like an afterthought for this device.
  • There's zero chance that Microsoft only sees the Duo as an enterprise product.
  • I'm sure they don't ONLY see this as an enterprise product, but it seems like that might be where it has the best chance of adoption. If you look at the emphasis MS has placed on TEAMS recently, with software updates, new features and even dedicated hardware, imagine this thing with some good TEAMS implementations. Think about having TEAMS collaboration features up on one pane, will being able to access applications, documents and resources on the other, without having to drag out your laptop. Go look at that "Cortana coming to TEAMS" video* and imagine that guy having a Duo in his hands. Maybe a Duo could also serve as one of those TEAMS display devices, but one you can take with you. *
  • Why not? The dual screen feature makes most sense for taking notes when on the other screen your using Teams or such. And while it does not have build in pen it does support ntrig pens as far as I know (though most people will just swipe I think).
  • Again, the majority of your own polls respondents thought the camera sample looked good, the overwhelming majority thought it looked okay or good... Only a tiny minority thought it looked bad.
  • Says who? People reviewing phones on YouTube? "Aka it's going to have to have good performance, good battery life and at least a usable camera." That doesn't describe the product you've never touched before? Come on.
  • I don't think Panos and the rest of the Surface division want us to think of this as a phone at all. It is a productivity device with a consistent LTE connection that just HAPPENS to be able to make phone calls. I could see the device going to enterprises, just like how the Surface Pro is primarily sold to enterprises.
  • LTE is a negative in our now 5g world. It is frustrating when my phone drops to LTE.
  • The author of this article brings up a lot of valid and justified points of concerns that will definitely be echoed by many others. However to paint a broad brush over the product stating MSFT has provided absolutely nothing to suggest this device will be good is simply positioning yourself completely on one end of the spectrum. Why isn't this device being advertised on more Android centric communication channels? Because it's a SURFACE device and that namesake by itself should warrant a certain acknowledgment of consumer satisfaction and high level functionality. This device will be sold in the Surface section of stores, not and Android section I would assume. While this will be MSFT's first attempt at running any device with an OS other than their own, the fact that their software is running on Android devices provides a familiarity that should reflect well on this device. Most consumers are using phones that are and average of two years old anyway so saying something is outdated is more of a formality. In the end it will depend on what price tag MSFT decides to attach to this device. I expect the second generation to be introduced the following year. They're not expecting this device to instantly change people minds, but rather look in that direction. I put my money on Surface to do that since they have experience in doing that very thing.
  • Personally, I think the very idea of the Duo is just dumb. It solves no problem, and is more likely to have many problems of its own.
  • Technology innovation isn't about solving a problem, and if you look at technology advancements that way only, innovation is dead. The iPhone, which is the most known smartphone today, solved absolutely zero problems when it was released. It technically did less than any smartphone that was already in the market, yet here we are today.
  • The first version of Apple Watch was an even better example. I don't think even Apple was sure what problems the Apple Watch was meant to solve when they released version 1. Once the product was in customers' hands, then Apple was able to pivot the Watch toward fitness. This is why companies use Agile approaches and release Minimally Viable Products (MVP). The first version of the Surface Duo will basically be an MVP.
  • Good point about Apple Watch. That thing has taken some time to get its identity. Health (not so much fitness) has been that, to their credit. As a fan of Watch, i've been saying it was until Watch v4 did Apple get it right.
  • The iPhone solved the biggest problem with smartphones, input and interface! Are you serious?! The input and UX were breakthroughs, it was an immediate hit and changed computing as we know it. You are just trying to rewrite history since Microsoft lost.
  • "And that it's now bringing all of those employees in-house to work on Android devices at Microsoft is a big vote of confidence in the Duo's future — and the future of other Android-powered Surfaces." Did you run this by the Nokia employees that were brought in-house?
  • hah! very true. But I very specifically did not bring up Nokia or Windows Phone here because I feel that isn't really important to what's happening in Microsoft today. I really feel Microsoft has for the most part moved on beyond the structure and people that led to Nokia and WP's failures.
  • Beam / Mixer employees then?
  • Absorbing smaller specialist companies is normal in ALL tech giants. Some work out, some don't. This is a non-issue. In fact, I'll argue that big tech companies are nothing but a fusion of previous smaller tech companies. And I say this from previously working in two tech giants. They are all made up of absorbed specialists.
  • Exactly! And I would argue that the Beam/Mixer and Nokia failures were due to previous Microsoft management that is no longer at the company.
  • Exactly my thoughts. Just last I commented on the Windows Central Youtube video on this device: "I still don't understand the thought process behind this product. I'm a huge Microsoft fan and have used their Windows Phones/ Mobile 10 on almost all their Lumia devices, and I still can't see how this will compete against even devices like the dual screen LG Velvet or v60, let alone Galaxy Folds and Huawei Mate X.. It has a tiny battery, huge upper and lower bezels, a mid-range-at-best camera setup with its thin design, an OS that doesn't separate itself from any other Android device since people just care about apps, a not-so-cheap price I'm guessing, a folding mechanism that doesn't look sturdy, and a separating line/bezel that breaks the continuity of the display.
    I simply don't see how this will justify its R&D and effort that Microsoft needed to build it. If it is to flex and display their dual-screen software prowess, the basic features are already being done on Android, and Microsoft just bought Movial since they're not even doing the software themselves. If it is meant to define a category for other major OEMs, it's already well defined at this point, and they're way behind Samsung and Lenovo on the design and hardware. Also I don't see how this will help Windows on Arm or their effort in mobile in any way either (Surface phone dreaming..) if that's their goal anyway.
    Someone please help me understand what Microsoft is thinking here.. I'm keeping an open mind"
  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't MS still own all the patents and tech from the Lumia cameras? So it is surprising they are throwing in such a bad camera. More unforgivable is the lack of NFC and wireless charging. I also I think the author is right, this needs to gain some traction for regular users, or it will suffer the same fate as WP. This NEED to have some mass market appeal, otherwise it will be dead quite soon.
  • Yep, and the image Andrew commented on in his "the sky is falling" panicky editorial is not at full resolution, and everyone knows this. 🙄🙄🙄.. He really should've sat down and had an interview with Windows Central editors before posting such a speculating, miss informative, account.
  • No matter what patents Microsoft has, a single 1.12-micron 11MP sensor with f/2.0 lens isn't going to compete with the state of the Android industry. It's impossible. Patents aren't a replacement for years of experience making cameras on smartphones — something Microsoft doesn't have. And the whole point of this editorial is that I bring my expertise and PoV from the Android world, not to interview the Windows Central editors for their PoV.
  • Stop panicking.. Version 1 is not the only chance for Surface Duo. Just because version 1 doesn't have the most state of the art specifications doesn't mean it's the end of the world. Two things can happen. 1 Microsoft improves greatly with SDV2, and moves forward with a viable device. 2 MS doesn't give version 2 the competitive attention that it needs, and the device fails in the market. We (Including you) don't know how this device will ultimately play out in the market, so there is no reason to panic about version one, or really even be that concerned about how successful it is. It's not going to be a nail in the coffin for SD. One day we will be sitting at SDV3, and nobody will ever remember this pointless article.. Or not. The point is that you do not know what the fate of SD is yet, but you irresponsibly paint a bleak vision of it's future based on the first example. You need to calm down, and stop your unnecessary panicking. SMDH 🙄 Did you do this same panicking with the Galaxy Fold? Are you biased? 🤔 Because, the first version of that device was horrible. Either way, Samsung is moving forward with a much improved version 2. At this point that's all that matters, and nothing is going to stop them from making progress.. Microsoft is no different.
  • This device isn't comparable to the Galaxy Fold. The only thing special about the Duo is how thin it is. The Fold was the first iteration of a groundbreaking new technology, not a rehash of old technology. Incomparable.
  • Some of that is design tradeoffs. To get this thing to what MS thinks is a reasonable thickness when folded, each half has to be pretty thin on its own. That limits the depth the camera can take up. Being a part of the Surface line, that compels it to have a metal shell, titanium, aluminum. That pretty much precludes wireless charging. Maybe not good tradeoffs, but you have a vision and that drives some decisions.
  • We don't know if the camera is bad yet, the teasers do not give enough info. Wait for the released product reviews.
  • This article misses the entire idea of the Duo.
    It's NOT a phone, it's NOT a PC, it's something new, just like the Surface was when it debuted.
    Remember, MS is not a hardware company, they are a Software/SaaS company that just so happens to make some hardware to point the way for their partners and OEMs. Even their Xbox exists only to sell their Sofware (Games) and SaaS (Xbox Live.)
    Duo is an attempt to bridge the gap between the highly portable PC (Surface) and SmartPhones.
    Will it succeed? Who knows. It all depends on the execution, but to try to kill it in the crib before it even ships bordering on click-bait articles.
    It's all going to come down to the functionality of the software and what services MS bundles with it.
    I think that the Duo is a "bridge product", something to hold over the customer until they get Windows 10X out the door. Their problem is, Intel is SO far behind on the power/watt issue that they have to keep waiting and waiting for them to do something that will allow 10x to really shine.
    Android is a bridge to that for Microsoft, but if they wait much longer they will be left behind. they absolutely must get their native ARM64 out the door or be stuck in 2nd gear on ARM hardware if Intel fumbles it again.
  • If Win10X was the endgame, why bring the 3rd Party Android dev team in-house?
  • It is certainly a phone.
  • I appreciate the perspective of an Android writer, especially because it couldn't be more relevant. Just thinking aloud - If Zac mentions the Duo V2 is in development, and it's also running Android, why doesn't MS just wait to release that version with superior specs? It's not like they're trying to save a mobile platform at this point, so there is no rush to get yet another Android product to market in its current form. I'd gladly wait a year for a device that was more stable, fleshed out, and had better specs.
  • Who says you can't just wait a year or whatever for a version 2? That's your choice. It's not like MS releasing V1 is going to matter much anyways. Not many people will know about it, and it's not going to be bad, rather not the most entirely exciting device in every aspect. Little harm will be done. Ya'll need to stop panicking.
  • I recommend you google "MVP" or "Minimum Viable Product."
  • If you don't release V1 you will have no idea what is wrong with it to base V2 off of. There are certainly things they already know they want to do, some of which is just technology advancements, so V2 is in development. A lot of what needs to change though will be discovered through feedback.
  • I want the Duo V1 warts and all because I want something different. I used to chase the latest and greatest in specs until I realized that we've gotten to a point where even the lowest specs today match my needs. I web surf, send text messages, use rss feeds, and apps like Instagram and Twitter, and that's pretty much it. I take maybe a dozen or so pictures in a year, so not looking for a great option there either. What I do use my phone for A LOT is finding Entertainment news articles and sending them to my friends. So being able to have one screen open with a news feed and another with my text messaging app is what I've been waiting for. I have a few use cases like that, so this device has my name written all over it. I would love it if Microsoft offered a nice trade-in deal for V2 for anyone that got the V1.
  • I don't think Microsoft ever intended to make this device a "generic phone". For better or worse they have made some intentional key decisions while designing this thing. They made it 4.8 mm thin which limits possibility of accommodating good camera sensor, rules out large battery size & possibly reason for not able to provide nfc. They also decided to pick 4:3 screen aspect ratio which is odd & extinct in smartphone world where every smartphone company has ditched 16:9 for 22:9 or similar narrow displays. For neo none of this problems matter but duo will be judged as smartphone because that's the closest thing it resembles. Although I love the idea of surface duo & optimistic about it's future, but I am in minority because none of the ommited features matters to me. but I can't say same thing about average smartphone users. even if surface duo impress them with its design & usecase, the lack of key features will turn users away from it. If Microsoft really wants this new category of device to penetrate the market then this device must have to be better than current smart phones in every possible way. Because as windows phone has taught the lesson that Just being different & unique is not enough to please consumer.
  • Windows phone failed because of the missing apps. Nothing to do with specs, uniqueness or performance.
    The bulk of Android phones sold annually are actually mid-rangers to low end. Forget that tech reviewers only cover the flagships. How many people do you think actually pay $1000 for cellphones?? Have you taken a look at Samsung's portfolio of phones? Heck, even Apple is interested in the piece of the mid-range market because that is where the bulk of sales are.
    Duo does not have to be at the top of the flagship pile at all. I'd argue even that features like NFC are probably far more important than having the latest and greatest soc, camera or 5G.
  • App gap was big reason but I would say that unique & unfamiliar user interface also contributed in failure of windows phone. Agree about processor, ram etc. surface duo has enough specs that are better than all midrange Android phones & marginally slower than top flagships. but camera quality is hugely influential in choosing between smartphones. Phones with Multiple camera sensors & higher megapixel count are new normal in midrange & low end segment. My point is surface duo has to be proper phone first if it want to replace current user's smartphones. which means with compromised camera , lack of NFC etc. It's a hard sell.
  • Again, the bulk of smartphone mid-ranger sales swamp flagship sales. Check Samsung and Huawei's portfolio. Most people are good with 'average' cameras that you find in today's mid-rangers. It's the tech reviewers that make this top cameras or fail argument. Same with SoC specs. Can't blame them because they pretty much review flagship phones for a living and are partially disconnected from real world users. Most people can't be bothered so far it's decent, which is the case with practically all good phones today. Most pics anyways end up on Instagram or twitter or whatever social platform where you can hardly distinguish excellent from good. It's just weird to declare the Duo's fate based on hardware specs (which are good, not flagship, but good), while entirely disregarding what it actually brings to the table.
  • App gap had zero to do with WP7 failure. There was no gap in 2010, WP even had Netflix before Android. The issue was totally on Microsoft not putting effort into WP. Gates confirmed it, they were more worried about the antri-trust lawsuits than making a competitive mobile OS. The app gap in the later versions was just a symptom of Microsoft's lack of effort. There was no catching up after WP7 failed.
  • For a device with no release date, no hands-on impressions, no in-depth previews, no developer interviews, no price, and very few products to compare it to, this article seems massively premature. I imagine it's only on WC because the author thought he wrote something profound when in reality this entire article can be summed up by saying, "I don't know. And I don't have any information. But I'm going to be pessimistic anyway!" I'm not saying every article needs to be sunshine and roses but this article is lacking in tangible evidence. Simply calling out the lack of NFC, 855 chipset, and one bad camera sample isn't enough to justify the author's overall negativity.
  • I love the "the camera sucks" comment when your own poll shows people in the majority think it looks good. Of course the qualifier after it basically dismisses that by saying the public doesn't know good.
  • It's a poll of people on Windows Central. My immediate response to seeing that camera sample, as someone who's been using dozens of Androids a year, was "wow that's horrible." But my impression isn't based on that 1 image. It's based on the camera hardware leaks, which look bottom of the barrel, and the fact that cameras require an incredible amount of imaging software expertise that Microsoft hasn't shown that it has.
  • It's just weird that your entire article is based on 'ifs' and a whole lot of speculation, yet it is written with the tone of a review of a product in-hand. You talk of imaging software expertise - do you know who is handling this internally? Do you know if they are licensing external algorithms from external companies? How do you conclude all this?
  • What makes you think they don't have imaging software expertise? That was really what set Nokia's cameras apart back in the day, not just the cameras themselves. A Lumia 1020 can still hold its own against some flagships today as far as picture quality goes, and certainly against mid tier Android. I don't know how much of that they retained, but they certainly had it, and it likely has applications in things like HoloLens, so maybe hasn't languished.
  • No it can't. It was mediocre when it launched and totally outgunned today.
  • Uh, Microsoft has a metric ton of imaging software expertise. MSR has done a tremendous amount of work in that field, some of it foundational to approaches that are now mainstream:
  • So WC users have never used a camera? They all own android/iOS devices, and probably higher end ones at that. It is weak argument no matter how you slice it.
  • It's been well discussed that this is a Mk1 product. It's going to have shortcomings. And the author acknowledges this towards the end. However, the entire premise of the column is that it falls short in camera, battery, processor, etc. and will have shortcomings compared to other Android devices out there. It seems that the entire point made is nullified by the last few paragraph. However, if we get to the point where we're getting close to the release of Mk2 and these points still hold (last year processor, small battery, hiccups in the OS), then there's a valid argument as the Mk1 argument goes out the window. It takes a few gens for things to hit their stride. While we all have theories about this device, we still don't know exactly who's going to put money down to buy it or how they're going to use it. The people that do buy, their feedback is going to be helpful in determining what to focus on for Mk2. Microsoft is big on customer feedback. They have a UserVoice for pretty much every product. Microsoft could have tried buttoning up the shortcomings of the device, but that would have taken longer before they could get that user feedback on what to focus on for Mk2. It's a risk-reward approach. They risk reputation if they release a sub-par Mk1 product. However, they're rewarded with earlier customer feedback on how to improve the device for Mk2 and eventually Mk3.
  • As per usual, crap on a product you have never seen, used, or had in the wild. From a use standpoint I can see a lot of uses for this device in my daily routine. In addition, the "barely acceptable specs" is blatant "I need shines toy" mentality. I will be coming from a Note9, this will be faster (not that my Note9 feels hampered in performance). The OS emulator seems to be coming along fine so I think the author making hay over nothing.
  • I can think of ways I can use this product for my job, especially with Teams and OneNote. This is more of a tablet than a phone for me.
  • Then why didn't you buy the Axon M?
  • Probably because it doesn't have the fit and finish of Duo
  • Fit and finish is more important than productivity? The Axon M was nice hardware too!
  • A lot of this article sounds like early op-eds about Surface. Or more recent ones about TB on surface. The tech writers are really bad at productivity class products. Go review the next Note iteration and fawn about it.
  • I can appreciate the concerns and quite frankly, it's why I will likely stay with the Note line Samsung offers. I want to believe that the Surface Duo will be something great, but as I thought about it more and more, I'm concerned that MS will dump the effort sooner than later if things don't go as planned and not refine the features offered on the Duo. I was a diehard Windows Phone user. But, without the things that made Windows phone great and unique, it's just another android with Dual screen and Microsoft Launcher. I can still use Microsoft services on my Note 8 and will likely upgrade to the Note S20 plus or Ultra.
  • Nice review from an Android expert. After many Microsoft-Phone-Lumia failures is good an Android-Only point of view. I was an early Windows mobile HP Ipaq-6315 adopter back them in 2004 but also had many Windows phones in more than a decade. After, the Self-dead of windows mobile platform I am not longer willing to spent more money or guts on Windows devices. even if they were nice Surface or Android devices. NOT ANYMORE fiascos .
  • I have to agree, the first problem with this device is that Microsoft started with Android. I have been using android phones now for a few years and only because there is nothing else. I don't want to go apple so ended up with android. I configured my phone to the way I like it the most but no matter how much I customize it to my liking it never feels right to me. I am in a relationship with android but I am not in love with it.
  • As a scarred Windows Phone user, I agree with this article. Unless MS can convince developers other than their own to support this device, isn't it already dead? I think the Duo is a great idea, especially for business users that hop from meeting to meeting and don't want to carry a laptop, but I don't think that small niche' is a big enough market to make a decent profit.
  • It's an Android. There's no app-gap which killed WP/WM.
  • This is Android, developers are already there.
  • I hope MS shocks everyone by being the first brand to market with the upcoming Snapdragon 865+ but that's likely wishful thinking. The 3460 mah battery is disappointing. Is MS sitting on a stockpile of unused Lumia 1520 batteries from 2012 it's trying to get rid of?
  • The Duo is extremely thin; a Galaxy s20 is less than 2mm thinner than the Duo while folded. There are no phones on the market that are close to as thin as an open Duo. All the other foldables and dual screens are significantly thicker. So there's probably not enough room to put anything bigger. That's definitely the limiting factor with the camera too. Those good cameras all have bumps on phones that are nearly twice as thick to begin with.
  • SD 855 is not a bad soc at all and we don't know yet what MS will price this.
  • SD855 is a few versions behind now.
  • Only the step to 865 is somewhat noticeable, the others are minimal.
  • I am still not going to pay a premium for old hardware.
  • MS just closed their retail store locations, so I can't say this device is inspiring confidence in regard to their history with consumer products that have been hit or miss and more a miss when it comes to phones. Abandoning Windows Phone still stings a bit. This will be harder to do on an android platform, but MS seems to usually find a way.
  • Dunno about that, the latest surface products seem pretty reliable to me. Hardware wise my Lumia phones were reliable too, it was more that (wp 10 at least) was buggy sometimes.
  • Surface products are primarily NOT consumer products. They are mostly bought and used by organizations, depending on the model. I don't think closing retail store locations will impact Surface products much.
  • Are they? Do you have data to show that Surface is primarily bought by organizations?
  • Who's mans is this? 🤦🏽‍♂️🤦🏽‍♂️
  • Is no one using the Launcher? Hardware is nothing, we know they can make it, whatever but they're a software company. Their apps are doing pretty well, are those failing? The Launcher is in a good spot, what are we even talking about here, why don't we just storm their headquarters, dismantle the entire business and your won't have to worry about them anymore, then you can focus your rage on other companies like Facebook... Idk. 🙄
  • Launcher is great, best one I have had on my Note 9. If the Duo software experience can be extrapolated from the MS Android apps, it will be good IMO.
  • I'm similarly sceptical about the duo. I think the talk of it being an enterprise device is overblown, in the sense that, and as being speculated that this will be a rather expensive device, enterprise isn't going to cough up the sort of cash for them unless there's a real value proposition. I for one, am not buying it, I just don't see value in any flagship priced mobile devices anymore.
  • 1. We don't know much this product will cost.
    2. Enterprises (especially the Fortune 500) can afford to cough up the cash, especially for their upper-level employees.
  • The statement about bringing developers in-house will probably turn out to the the public false of the usual behind-the-scenes battling about what department of Microsoft should be in charge of a phone project. We will hear about that about 6 months after the device has been cancelled. I think the big problem with all these ambitious Microsoft hardware projects is that no one really seems to have their Microsoft career on the line if they fail, everyone just "transitions to a new role at Microsoft". As long as they can keep building Azure revenue and sell a billion Windows 10 licenses, who cares at Microsoft if something like this or watches or phones or tablets or headphones or earbuds all vanish without a trace in the market- you just write it off and the quarterly statements keep showing profits at the corporate level.
  • I'm excited about the Duo, sounds great and the Andriod OS solves a lot of issues around apps. More Microsoft apps would be great though. However, I am worried about the camera, one love from all of my Microsoft/Nokia phones was the camera and all the photo/video editing software they packed into the device. With prices that high I would expect a good camera. Photos/Videos are important nowadays from writing articles, to reviews, to communications and more.
  • I am somewhat perplexed by this article. I would be hard pressed to find anyone on the planet that thinks Microsoft didn’t pull off one of the greatest screw ups in tech history with respect to mobile phones. The Microsoft Kin, for me, is the penultimate example of how Mr. Ballmar’s Microsoft not only failed to get phone basics right but exacerbated this problem by building a product that would have been marginally sensible prior to the iPhone roll out. In a post iPhone marketplace, it was a near criminal waste of corporate resources. If one views Microsoft as locked into this place in time and skips over the intervening decade this article’s premise, that Microsoft should spend the next decade doing me too products so they can get the basics right, makes sense. I contend that the Surface Duo is the latest expression of a company, that over same decade, has built up a significant hardware business, and has demonstrated that it thinks carefully about what to build, especially in the $1000+ price point arena. Other than the Surface Go and a few low specification Surface Pros their hardware exceeds that price point. Microsoft is simply not the Bumbling Ballmar Boys anymore. As for the concern that Microsoft is apparently failing once again for hiring a third party to write the Android code for the Surface Duo overlooks that this is a Microsoft project, managed by Microsoft, specified by Microsoft, and is targeted at Microsoft hardware. The point here is Microsoft didn’t just throw this over the fence and told the outside team to toss it back over the fence when they eventually felt it was done. The Surface duo is a strategic product for Microsoft; I assert the hands on expertise applied to this project was and is massive and that Microsoft hiring the outside team is a clear signal that the project was a win. The hiring was a double down moment that is not looking at the Kin but at the next decade. The folding / dual screen mobile market is just getting started and provides a significant moment of disruption where Microsoft has a real shot at doing just that. Pumping out me too single screen slabs works for companies like OnePlus because that is what they do best: build solid devices at a cut rate price. Microsoft is much more than that with decades of business and software chops across every aspect of computing. Following a backward looking prescriptive would have resulted in Microsoft building a new version of the Kin; a product built for the last innovation wave. Without a doubt the Surface Duo is a huge bet by Microsoft and very well, even very likely, will end up having some real moments; Samsung and their Fold phone comes to mind as a prime example of what can go haywire. Stuff happens. Unlike the Fold, which was obviously rushed to market, the Surface Duo has done none of that. This leads to the baffling argument that Microsoft is doomed to failure because they are bringing a device to market that lacks cutting edge silicon inside. Seriously? The Surface Duo is exactly the device Microsoft should be bringing to market and represents a huge bet by the company. Like the Surface Pro X, the two devices are aimed at where computing will be five to ten years from now instead of five or ten years ago. I expect the first version will have some rough spots, again stuff happens. However, if they stick with this device, and it sure seems they intend too, with rumors a version 2 already floating around, that the Surface Duo had a XYZ CPU instead of XYZ+1 will be long forgotten. Now if they could only make the Kin disappear permanently; I am not holding my breath.