See the Microsoft Surface Duo's dual-screen Android OS in action

Surface Duo
Surface Duo (Image credit: Microsoft)

What you need to know

  • Surface Duo's SDK was released.
  • New video shows how it looks in action.
  • A render with the video makes it all come alive.

Earlier today, Microsoft surprised the tech community by releasing the SDK for the Android-based Surface Duo smartphone due later this year (don't worry, Surface Neo SDK is due in February).

Our senior Windows reporter Zac Bowden has been playing around with the SDK, which can be installed by anyone, and recorded a short video of the OS in action including the settings, running multiple apps, and the app switcher.

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While that video was great, Jonas Daehnert (aka @PhoneDesigner) grabbed that video and put it into a render of the Surface Duo, which made all the difference. Once combined, you can appreciate the animation, OS fluidity, and how dual-screens will interact together at this early stage (the SDK is expected to be updated in the following months).

Microsoft is still committed to a "holiday 2020" release for the Surface Duo and Surface Neo. Nevertheless, we hear some rumblings that the Duo's hardware may come earlier, possibly as developer devices.

Either way, we're getting much more excited for Surface Duo after seeing it in action. What about you?

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • Predicted cost??? I really like this, but I'm sure the price is going to be in the upper Surface range.
  • No idea, but I did hear dual-screen is cheaper than folding single screen, so there's that. $1,200 seems about right? Maybe they can hit $1K with less storage/RAM?
  • For that price, I dare Microsoft to share numbers of units sold for this particular device for 1 year. And please don't hit me with "but this is niche device for early adopters with money and not for general consumers" and the insanely stupid and irrelevant comparison with the medical equipment or rugged laptops, because we both know this is bs and everyone who has done any kind of business basically will confirm. Neo I want to have. This on the other side... ONLY if it ran 10X (that could also possibly bring value when you plug it to external monitors with mouse and keyboard). I already have an Android phone that works perfectly fine and still can't figure it out why would I need a second one glued with duct tape that brings only complexity to lifestyle? If it ran Windows 10X it could have brought any value for the given SECOND screen estate, but with Android... Literally 0 value. It's really simple - Android needs more screen (so foldables will be ideal), Windows needs more screenS (so duct taped screens ARE ideal now). 10+ years of habbits and observations have learned us that. It's not even matter of progress or innovation. It's something that these OSes are fundamentally built to demand. But I get why Microsoft went with Android here. I perfectly get it. It's not because the experience will make any sense (because it won't), it's a strategic move more than anything else. BTW is there a reason why WC's website became that **** with vertical scrolling articles and when you search for the comment section you can easily skip it and go to the next article below it? Who is your designer?
  • I don't agree... At least not on the niche part... No matter the product the high price tag makes it mechanically a niche product... Could be a paper weight it still be a niche product if it had a high price tag... Now your argument could hold... But what really makes a difference? I mean even 2 screen can behave like a single foldable one... And for having tried/seen foldable options I personally prefer the 2 screen version... I prefer to have a clear separation than that weird bump or seam created by the fold... I feel more confortable visually... And honestly the foldable forms factors so far are pretty bad imo... Of course it's a question of taste... But I agree Win10x is perfect for dual screen... But android is perfect for single foldable and dual behaving as one imo...
    Then again I don't expect MS to sell tones of it... Unless maybe it comes in a packaged bundle for businesses with other surface products or even for the public... We'll see... I see that more as a prototype to get a feel of things before moving deeper in the market if it gets the right traction... A lot like the first surface... That wasn't like it was all bright and shiny the first time around...
  • Or maybe if they leverage it with the Xbox brand and xCloud for remote play... It feels a lot like a 3ds form factor... Could be an angle that helps push products...
  • Because you don't have a need for a second screen, you seem incapable of realizing other people have different requirements, in my work, a second screen is a lot more useful than a single larger screen. I would find a use for this phone, but I certainly would tell anyone that they were wrong, if they didn't need it. The OS being Android is a huge benefit, because my phone also needs to run all the apps I need, if 10X came with them, then I'd happily use it. MS probably don't know whether dual screens is a good idea, hence letting us know about the product long before release, to give developers a chance to utilize the screens and produce a compelling reason to buy. Maybe it's MS putting a toe in the water to test the market.
  • If you really need the gap between screens, they could make a virtual bezel so you can pretend there is two screens. There is no functional difference either way. A single folding screen is far superior when the technology matures.
  • Disagree. For Windows in particular, two screens have always been and are better productivity option than one big (curved or not) display. This is without a doubt undoubtfully the case without any room for arguing here.
  • Sorry, but you're wrong.
  • Yeah, sorry, but I can't think of any reason why you would want two separate screens over one single display EXCEPT for positioning (like, for instance, a studio have a ultrawide monitor running Final Cut Pro, or Avid, or whatever, then a separate display for playback which might be in a position for more people to see it). And also the ability to adjust positioning, which obviously this can't do.
  • exactly positioning is a good point
  • That makes zero sense. Again, what does it matter it there is no gap in the screens? What Windows has proved to me is one large 4k display is better than two 1080P displays. Resolution matters more than the number of displays.
  • Wrong. two screens are movable on your desk. Noone said they should be stick to each other.
  • They will try to hit high single screen price but undercut single folders. I would say look at the upper end Samsung S20 or the Note version. They want people to look at that Samsung and say hmmm what about. They aren't pushing the same concept as the fold and need to embrace that.
  • Apt avenue to exploit Microsoft launcher
  • I want one! I put off my next phone upgrade/replacement to wait for this.
  • Im supper excited to pick up a Duo, hopefully Australia wont get shafted, for a launch sometime this year!.
  • Any idea if a decent Camera will be added. That compete with flagships
  • I'd temper expectations around the camera. At this point, we're just hoping for "decent".
  • The Neo and Duo have piqued my interest. My Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is getting long in the tooth, and, I'm deciding on whether to spring for a Galaxy S10, or, wait to see what Microsoft does with the Duo at the end of the year. I do have two concerns about the Duo. Typically, Android phones...such as ones offered by Samsung...receive one major OS upgrade along with various security patches. I'm hoping that Microsoft will be able to avoid the one and done syndrome. More importantly, with the Duo, will Microsoft...after sidestepping Verizon Wireless, Sprint and US Cellular by limiting the final set of Lumia phones to GSM networks....release versions of the Duo for those carriers? VZW's CDMA network is gone, so, the expensive certification is no longer a factor. 🤔
  • Even if it's the best most innovative tech, it will 100% fail if there are carrier exclusivities. Hopefully this time, because it's running a version of Android, the sales reps won't hide them with the likes of whatever Sanyo phone is out at the time.
  • Hopefully. It is a beautiful looking device and the fact that it runs Android should help with sales. The key factor is helping people to understand the practical uses, because this isn't the average consumer device. At least, yet. It will take app developers to fully embrace dual screen tech and come up with creative and innovative ways to use their apps. Additionally, the camera use scenarios are not going to be attractive to people who enjoy taking pictures and selfies on a regular basis. I'm not a huge picture taker and I would love to be able to multi-task on this device.
  • Every device needs to have a great camera in 2020 but we all know ms has to not create the perfect device or it'll break its tradition of being the 90% company. It'll need something to improve for v2 and I'm placing bets on the camera
  • Even if they're aren't exclusives, Microsoft can't fix carrier or sales rep bias for iPhone / galaxy. That's the hardest part, the sales people promote the phones they use and the actual carriers only advertise iPhone / galaxy on commercials and large banners on their web pages too. How do you fight that? Microsoft has plenty of commercials of their own in the past, but unfortunately society has been programed to believe that there's only two good phone makers in the world... IPhone / galaxy.
  • The reason the sales reps hid WP in the back of the store was because Microsoft was paying the LOWEST (in many cases, NONE) commission on phone sales.
    iPhone (historically) paid the HIGHEST commissions, so the reps (who almost all work solely on COMMISSION SALES) pushed the phone that would make them (and the Store) the most money, and have the lowest return rates (because every hot App launched first on the iPhone.)
    Also, the Carrier Stores (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, etc.) only push the phones they are being PAID to Per/Sale COMMISSION to push by the phone vendors. MS never did that so they had zero incentive to sell their phones.
    Apple paid for the advertising, store displays, print and radio ads, so the Carrier Stores pushed their sales (duh!)
    Add in the fact that the WP did not run ANY of the most popular Apps (because they would not pay the authors enough to port them to WP, and many had "exclusivity" contracts with iStore) and Google would not let MS put any native Google Apps on the WP (because MS insisted on using Bing for Search Defaults instead of Google) and you have a perfect storm of indifference for WP.
    Simple economics.
  • Don't forget that Windows Phone had a very high return rate as well.
  • I actually don't see ms selling this in carrier stores.
    Or at least v1
  • esim? I just saw an add from t mobile selling an esim subscription service for Data.
  • That or leave it up to the customer to provide the Sim.
  • This isn't going to be on all carriers, it might not even be on any carriers. It will probably be a direct from Microsoft thing.
  • Samsung phones receive 2 Major OS upgrades and three years of monthly security updates. Been this way for my last three Samsung phones. My S4 received two major OS updates. My wife's S7 received two major OS updates and three years of security updates. She finally changed phones in December, at that time the S7 was still receiving quarterly updates.
  • Windows with an Android bridge/emulator/container/module would be an instabuy. Android only? Never.
  • Are you still using a windows phone?
  • Year is 2020, Balmer is no longer the CEO. Modern Microsoft is an Enterprise Software Company. Nadella has made MS very profitable focusing on Enterprise services. He has stated that Windows is not the focus of Microsoft. The main goal for Microsoft is to have their services running on the top platforms. Not wasting billions of dollars to have 1-2% market share in devices.
  • I hope to see this on store shelves at the end of this year.
  • Oct 2016..."Damn you, Microsoft. You've just discontinued the Band 2 and I've wasted my time and money." Oct 2017..."Damn you, Microsoft. You've just killed Windows Mobile and I've wasted my time and money." Oct 2017..."Damn you, Microsoft. You've just killed Kinect and I've wasted my time and money." Dec 2017..."Damn you, Microsoft. You've just killed Groove and I've wasted my time and money." Dec 2017..."Damn you, Microsoft. You've just killed Continuum and I've wasted my time and money." Sometime in late 2020..."A folding phone and laptop...hmmm, intriguing. I'll take one of each, please." I need to be strong this time...wait a couple of years, don't be an early adopter...make sure MS are actually committed this time.
  • I understand your reservations, but this h has the popular cellular OS society chooses to beleive is best so in terms of familiarity and apps, it shouldn't be the same as the previous attempt which was to provide an alternative competing OS. I'll be an early adaptor despite hating having been forced to go back to Android due to carrier bias and developer bias as well.. It's like carriers and developed have the dame attitude blackberry had.... If it ain't broke dont fix it! Had blackberry focused on new innovation, the iPhone possibly would never taken the top spot because has they I ficus on new technology while in their hay day, their phone could've been the iPhone of today, but instead they acted like the leaders of the company formerly known as ENRON, keeping all the money for themselves by awarding the higher ups million dollar plus bonuses with no long term plan, just let's get it while the getting is good attitude.
  • I would think the duo has much less of a risk than neo. Google is probably smart to let ms take the reigns for standardizing functionalities and operations for dual screen android devices. Ms wasn't the first Android with dual screens and won't be the last. This will make all dual screens better.
    Neo on the other hand is the first of its kind, untested in the marketplace
  • Well, it's a good thing you never relied on Google for any applications with the way they kill off things, even apps that are still popular, on a whim.
    I would not touch Stadia with a ten-foot pole for that reason. I give it 2-3 years, and then BAM! it's gone, replaced by a less-capable, and higher-priced alternative, or dropped completely.
  • What popular apps have they killed off?
  • You forgot MS RT, Zune, Bob, etc... The year is 2020 and the focus of Microsoft is to have their enterprise services running on the main platforms in the industry.
  • Long list of dropped kit, will this be next, it'll put a lot of people off buying
  • I was an early adopter of the Galaxy Note line of phones and I can't say I regret it several generations later. A big phone with pen support is a great idea. This concept really does look great too. The UI seems intuitive and well suited for dual screens. We'll see how it goes though. I'd also like to get an idea of how well inking works. Also, unlike with the Note line (and the Surface Pro line), the copycats may be better than the original.
  • I too was an early note adopter. You, indeed, must have a great eye for lasting tech. Good day, sir
  • Like you I am a Note user (4, 8 & 10+). I like a lot of what I am seen on the Duo. I hope the final hardware is more refined that what I am currently seeing. Much smaller bezels, thinner and taller screens. Hopefully the latest CPU.
  • So IF the Duo is successful would a Solo be twice as successful or four times? A Surface Solo (single screen) with Pen running Microsoft skinned Android fully Windows integrated.
    Yes I'll buy it. I'm a bit more iffy on the dual screen stuff...
  • 'Solo' won't probably ever be a thing bc of 'neo'
  • Solo would truly be a Hans on device.
  • It would be a Blaster to use... but the Force...
  • Yes. I could definitely Leia round all day using such a device.
  • So, I wonder if I can install this on a ZTE Axon M and take it for a spin? They are <$200 on Amazon currently. You would miss some function from position sensors, etc. but overall I imagine it could be a great developer platform as the form factor is similar and the hardware relatively current.
  • I'm glad to see Microsoft working on getting this all out to developers. While I think the Duo has potential to be a great device even without apps that leverage the two screens, it's apps that make use of that that will make the device shine. Hopefully they keep dev support high as we near the launch and after.
  • Still waiting for a real Windows Surface (Andromeda) phone.
    Hope springs eternal!
  • What about me? Well, I'd be excited for the Surface Duo if...
    - it had smaller top and bottom bezels
    - they had figured out how to work around the center gap
    - they'd give it a top-notch camera
    - it ran Windows The above in reverse order of importance. As it is, I don't see the point of the device...
  • The transition animations are not fluid and very laggy and if they don't get them as snappy as iOS it will be very disappointing. I'm going to buy one regardless but what about a protective case?
  • If the hinge and fitment is as tight as it looks, cases might be impossible to fit, even screen protectors might interfere with the mechanism!
  • Seems fluid enough, although largely doing what you'd expect it to do, which I guess might be a compliment. Nothing really making me go "wow" just yet but I understand this is more about giving devs a platform to build with rather than attracting potential buyers.
  • Hhhmmm I didn't see nobody talk about the basics: how are we going to answer a call? How will we see the caller ID in a receiving call?
    I hope not have to open the phone to answer a call. I'm expecting a small screen on outside to do the basic stuff: notifications, answer call, calendar appointments,etc.
  • Orrrrrr. Just open the phone all the way and you've got two full screens to do your bidding, not just a tiny one.
  • Will get one at launch for sure.
  • Other than Outlook, I want to see apps that take use of both panels and I don't mean just expanding the size of the app; want to see the app interact with both screens as they did in Outlook, but more so in the demo we've seen for the Courier.