Unboxing the Surface Duo: Hands-on with Microsoft's ambitious new phone
Whether you have plans to buy it or merely watch the hype unfold over the internet, the Surface Duo is undoubtedly one of the most interesting phones to be released in 2020. That it's coming so early in the year — it was originally slated for closer to Christmas — is one of the few gifts this otherwise terrible year has given us.
Most typical smartphone users are just growing used to the idea that foldables are real, that they're not as fallible as originally thought, and that, inevitably, they will be mainstream. Microsoft's take on the foldable avoids the foibles of flexible displays and breakable plastic overlays, relying instead on two distinct OLED screens and a sturdy, infinitely adjustable hinge that forms the, well, backbone of the Duo itself.
Surface Duo FAQ: Everything you need to know about Microsoft's dual-screen Surface
While it's too early for me to show you the phone's software, I was lucky enough to be among the first people in the world to unbox the Surface Duo this week, and I'm going to walk you through that process now.
The reviewer's kit is a deliberate play on the Duo's extensible nature, unspooling horizontally to reveal a vertical flap inside that, underneath, houses the Surface Duo retail box as well as a pair of Surface Earbuds in a new Graphite color (opens in new tab) that should be available on September 10, the same day as the Duo itself.
The box also houses a printed and embossed card from Panos Panay, Microsoft's Chief Product Officer, who says, "I hope you love using Surface Duo as much as we loved creating it." It's a nice touch.
Inside the Surface Duo's box, opened with a quick pull-tab, is the phone itself, an 18W USB-C charger, a USB C-to-USB C cable, and a bumper case that adheres to the edges of the ultra-thin Surface Duo. I don't see myself using the bumper — it makes an already-wide phone even wider — but it's great to have it included given that the unconventional design of the phone will limit third-party accessory options.
And then there's the phone itself. Panay described it more than once as a smaller Surface, not necessarily an Android phone, and looking at it I can totally understand where he's coming from. This is the first phone I can remember using that doesn't have a rear camera. Aside from the Microsoft logo on the front there are no other embellishments.
The buttons, all adorned on the phone's right-screen edge when closed, are clicky and easy to identify. The capacitive fingerprint sensor is in a comfortable position for the thumb when the phone is open on either side. The USB-C port is unfortunately not centered.
When the Duo is open, it absolutely feels like you're holding a tablet, albeit an ultrathin one. The hinge holds securely even when you're holding only one side. It's easy to place the phone down in a laptop-like orientation, and it's even easier to tent it to watch video content. Yes, the bezels above and below the two displays are large.
I can't say whether they are distracting while in use, but they do provide ample space to grasp the Duo anywhere on the open chassis without covering the display, which I'm sure is the point.
The phone closes with a soft, satisfying metallic thud, and it goes back to being an unassuming book-like thing that resembles nothing else on the market today.
You'll have to wait a bit longer for a full review, but I hope this has been at least somewhat useful in understanding what the Duo looks like, how it feels, and what you can look forward to if you choose to buy one. I'll be hanging around in the comments to answer any questions you have, or hit me up on Twitter if you'd prefer.
Two screens are better than one
Microsoft delves into the future of foldables with an ambitious dual-screen device, featuring two ultra-thin 5.6-inch AMOLED displays bound by a 360-degree hinge. This pocketable inking-enabled Android smartphone marks the latest in the Surface lineup, geared for mobile productivity.
Microsoft Surface Duo
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Looks like Rubino has some decisions to make; windows phone central is back? It's crazy how long I've frequent this site. Well before I became a member and commented
"I hope the reviews are live before I can play with it myself knowing that will be the 28th aka < 2 days from now!" 😂 🤣 okay Karen .. And your welcomed to verify ANY of this info.
Previews are cool. Early impressions are acceptable. But reviews?! Nope!!
I even value after the buzz type reviews a bit more than 1st reviews in some cases.
I hope I did not show too much anxiousness.
For example, imagine testing the local playback of video claim to verify its validity. You would have to do it at least twice. That 30 hours of JUST THAT particular battery TEST with the 28th being so close. Let alone real world usage test. Camera samples, videos and photos, cellular tests in different area (urban vs suburbs), app usage (spanning and account sync). All of this in less than 2 days?? Karen is hoping for the rise and set of the sun around their liken. An absolute outlandish ask.
* If you choose to leave it unfolded all the time how does the glass fare? Does it scratch?
* What is that camera like when you use it for basic family photography?
* Does the battery strain under those dual screens and all that multitasking?
* How irritating/not-irritating is it to carry a pen around with you in a separate pocket all the time?
* Or if you choose not to carry the pen separately, how irritating is it to not have it with you that one time you especially want to use it?
* Do you really find the app-pairs all that useful?
* If so, what specific app-pairs seem to work well together? And why?
* Do the dual screen office apps really make you that more productive?
* How often do you really use Your Phone with Duo?
* Do you miss having wireless charging if you had it before?
* Do you miss not able to make tap purchases if you were able to do that before?
* Are non-Microsoft Android developers besides Amazon Kindle choosing to take advantage of dual screen capabilities?
* Did anybody who bought this end up losing their job later on, due to Covid, and regret having plunked down $1400 + $300 worth of accessories for a splurge device? I'm as interested as anyone in this device, even though I really wanted a Win10x device. Mostly because of Panos' sales job though. He made me really believe I could get so much more done on my phone if it had an extra screen! Sales job or no though, I'm not about to plunk down $1700 (1400 + accessories) until the honeymoon period has wore off and we have some answers to valid questions. And I don't see that happening for about 3 to 6 months.
Here's what you could do... Wait 2 weeks after the 10th and purchase. If anything happens on black Friday, you'll be within the 60 days return period and you can just contact customer support. IIRC, there has been a time where new surface devices were in some kind of black Friday promotion before so that's what I am hoping will repeat. The two possible options are, they discount the duo itself or bundle in some extra products for the same price. Your guess is as good as anyone's. I do believe they'll still have the trade in program as this isn't the first time it's been around. But the trade in program is in partnership with a 3rd party so I don't know if ms has much say so about the value of owned devices. It might depend on what's happening in the phone space in Nov. This year has been unpredictable and there's been delays in the mobile space so prices may hold well.
The only reason why I didn't preorder is that I've never had much luck with preorders from MSFT and usually received them days after launch date.
So, I'll get it in person on the 10th.
Years anticipated, only days away.