Microsoft Launcher on Surface Duo really sucks
I'm getting tired of the disjointed, feature-poor launcher experience on Surface Duo 1 and 2.
It's been well over a year since the first Surface Duo hit the market, yet its built-in launcher experience still pales in comparison to the version of Microsoft Launcher you can get on other smartphones. Heck, it pales in comparison to Pixel and Samsung launchers too regarding fit and finish. For some reason, Microsoft has opted to leave the Microsoft Launcher on Surface Duo incredibly barebones, much to the disappointment of users.
This hasn't improved with Surface Duo 2, though Microsoft did update the UI with a minor design refresh, and that just recently rolled out to the Surface Duo 1. We still have no new features, no enhanced customization tweaks, and the launcher itself is just bad at integrating itself with the Surface Duo as its native default launcher experience. As someone with a keen eye for UX design, the Microsoft Launcher is doing a terrible job on Surface Duo in a lot of areas.
For example, on most smartphones these days, the launcher and the gesture system go hand-in-hand. They complement each other. If you swipe up to go home when in an app, that app usually zooms out and back into the icon in which you tapped to open it. That's not so on Surface Duo. The launcher acts like it's an entirely separate entity, with zero ties to the rest of the OS.
Additionally, for some inexplicable reason, the Microsoft Launcher on Surface Duo appears to unload itself when it's not on display. This makes it so the launcher "pops" back on screen when you swipe up to go home, creating a super disjointed experience. On Pixel or Samsung, the launcher is always running, and the integration with gestures makes going between app and home screen feel fluid and thought out. This is the kind of thing that's missing with Launcher on Surface Duo.
Admittedly, this issue is a little hard to spot if you're not looking for it, but it is there, and it's more noticable if you're using light theme for some reason. When light mode is enabled, the display will sometimes flash black when closing an app to go home when in single-screen mode. This happens because the Launcher has unloaded, and quickly needs to reload as you're swiping up. It's been a real pet peeve for me, and I really hope Microsoft fixes it soon.
Then there's the feature drought. On Surface Duo, Microsoft Launcher is a barebones launcher experience. It supports folders, an app drawer, and the Microsoft Launcher activity feed, and that's about it. This is a real shame, as the Microsoft Launcher on other smartphones is so much more in-depth, with hundreds of customization options to choose from such as custom icons, grid sizes, gestures, theming controls, and much, much more.
Why is the Microsoft Launcher on Surface Duo devices still missing out on these customization options, well over a year into its existence on the market? It's almost as if Microsoft is purposefully limiting the Microsoft Launcher experience on this form factor. If that's true, please stop. It's good to have rich customization options in your launcher experience.
Regardless of the feature drought, the issues with Microsoft Launcher not feeling integrated with the rest of the Surface Duo OS is a serious sticking point for me. The launcher unloads and reloads itself whenever you go into and out of an app, and it makes no effort to tie itself to gestures to create a more fluid experience. It's just a poor UX all around, and I wish Microsoft would fix it.
Better yet, I wish the Surface Duo team would dump Microsoft Launcher and go its own route. Surface should create a special Surface Duo launcher that's designed for the dual-screen form factor from the ground up. Integrate it deep with the gesture system and the rest of the OS, and allow it to feel like a component of the OS rather than a third-party launcher that isn't really integrated at all.
I will say I like the new Microsoft Launcher UI. It's clean and consistent with the rest of Microsoft's current design language. I also like the fluid dock that moves icons depending on what screen you're using, and the blur effects look great too. I just wish everything else I mentioned above would be addressed, then it would be great.
I love my Surface Duo 2, and I just want the OS to be perfect. I want the UX to feel polished and fluid, and I want the overall user experience to feel seamless as if it were all built by the same team. The disjointed experience between the Microsoft Launcher and the rest of the OS on Surface Duo is becoming extremely tiresome.
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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.
In the Duo 2 the, unquestionably needed, upgrade of the camera resulted in a scenario where now you can only use it with the device open.
While I personally still prefer a two screens solution the purported advantage of the Duo in a multitasking scenario is risible: the Oppo, as well as Windows itself, show that a software generated split screen is a perfectly satisfiable solution. Said that let us be clear: almost everything is a compromise, as such some could be a viable solution for some and a no go for others. I have the Duo and I can manage its, in my opinion of course, limitation; I could do the same with the technical solutions offered by the Duo 2 but what I cannot stand with, and the reason why I have not bought it, well not yet, is the MS "bipolar" handling of the project.
1) Android 11 we will probably get it 2022...
2) still OS issues and issues with how this phone registers touches.
I had L10 on my previous Note10+ and wasn't sure about trying it on my SD2, but it is awesome! I keep going back to MS Launcher to try it again, but it's just not as versatile as L10
See my Screenshot here: https://www.reddit.com/r/surfaceduo/comments/rbbw8e/configurable_launche...
Where with MS you have only basic functionality, on the Fold you have:
OneUI latest which works great and is stable
AND Full set of settings to customise your experience however you want
AND Labs that adds even more flexibility
AND GoodLock / NiceLock for even more flexibility.
oh ...and Dex right? very powerful
oh and they both cost the same for some reason.... I believe what is happening with the Duo is what happened with Huawei Mate X. They are nice concepts but in reality the design is so limiting and already surpassed by the foldables that have proved that they work. I say limited because of Duo's double folding you have no option on where to put the camera, so you have the bump and the phone is not folding back all the way now, or add a case to customise it (and protect), because of the thickness you can't have wireless charging or more options. It is what it is and it can't be improved too much. the notification bar was the max they could add as it seems and even that is not open for 3rd party. The only thing that Duo really excels is on how beautiful it is. We have excused every issue because especially Duo 1 was a purist's dream. If the design wasn't so great everyone would have dismissed it from day 1and called out MS for a crappy job. Imagine if Duo was not MS Surface but Oppo and they released this product with all the bugs, the barebone software etc. ....who would even buy it??? So coming back to the previous point, in the current state of things, it doesn't seem viable to keep Duo production going. Unless MS commits and makes hardware & software that frees up Duo to it's full potential and uniqueness...
Samsung is also so-so with the camera app, you do not really get full control over the camera unless you into Pro mode but that does not fully support the various lenses.
If there will be a Duo 3, I feel it will be mature enough but my real issue with the Duo-line is the price, it needs to be cheaper or there needs to be a lite version.
NB: Nice to see @bleached is still trolling us ;)
The bigger question for me is what was MSFT's intentions behind creating the launcher in the first place? I used to think it was to bridge what many people liked from the Windows Phone UI and combine it with the expansive application libraries of the other OS's. However most of my friends who never used Window Phones, or don't really operate in the Windows ecosystem like I do know that the launcher even exits or use it. You would think with the Duo 1 and 2 setting the launcher center stage as the dashboard hub of information if you will, they would look to bring a more engaging user experience. This leads me to the second part of the developer motivation/ software ownership part. MSFT doesn't own they software and to this date its hard to identify what type of ratio they have with Google when it comes to working with Android on the Duo. I remember the one commercial I saw regarding the Duo, I don't think they mentioned that it was an Android device, and in Best Buy it's only being sold with the other MSFT devices. It's almost like a device between to worlds with either one trying to truly embrace the other as much as they could. In order for the Duo to really shine in the way they MSFT wants it to in my opinion, they're going to have to look at making it in the same mold as the rest of the Surface family, it's going to have to run Windows or these issues will continue to surface (pun intended :)).