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The Surface Duo 2's 'glance bar' feature needs to do more

Surface Duo 2 Glancebar
Surface Duo 2 Glancebar (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

One of the stand-out new features on Microsoft's Surface Duo 2 is its clever "glance bar" that exists along the spine when the device is closed. It provides heads-up information when you're not using the device, which on paper is total no-brainer for a device like this. Unfortunately, the feature is basically useless for almost all the types of info you'd want displayed there.

I've been using Surface Duo 2 since it came out, and it's been fantastic. I love everything about this product, including the glance bar. But I just wish it would show me "more." In regard to notifications, right now the glance bar only shows you missed calls and SMS messages. It doesn't show anything else from your notifications shade. No WhatsApp, no Slack, no Outlook, nothing.

This really limits how useful the glance bar can be, because I don't SMS anyone, and people rarely call me in the year 2021. All of my communication happens thought instant messaging services like Telegram, WhatsApp, Slack, and Twitter. It's not happening through SMS. If I'm making or receiving a phone call, it's most likely through Slack or Skype. Not my Phone app.

I wish you could set the glance bar to show missed notifications for other apps. It'd also be great if you could set it so when a notification comes in, the contents of that message briefly run down the spine like a news ticker, so you can get an idea of what the notification is about in addition to which app it's coming from. So far, glance bar doesn't do this, but it would be infinitely more useful if it did.

In its current implementation, I have to open my device every time a notification comes in that isn't a phone call or SMS. And in the rare scenario where I do get an SMS, I still have to open it because the glance bar wasn't able to provide a brief ticker style message to inform me of what the notification was about.

Surface Duo 2 Glancebar

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

I also briefly want to touch on its other features. The glance bar can also show you your battery and volume levels, but only in some scenarios. For the battery, it only shows your battery level when you plug in or unplug. And you can't check on charging progress as it's plugged in, as tapping the lock button only shows the notifications, not the battery percentage. Kind of annoying.

The volume level feature is likely bugged, as I can only get it to show up sometimes. It's supposed to only display when you have audio playing, and sometimes it does, but sometimes it doesn't as well. I'd love options to be able to configure when the battery when tapping the power button. I always want to see battery level when I initiate glance if it's plugged in before seeing my missed notifications, for example. I'd also love to be able to set it so the volume level always displays when I tap the volume rocker, regardless of if audio is playing.

As an aside, the Peek Mode feature that first shipped on Duo 1 is still here on Duo 2, but it no longer shows the app icons that you've missed notifications from. Duo 1 does this on Android 10, but it seems the feature has been removed on Android 11. Hopefully Microsoft brings this back in a future update, as I found it incredibly useful being able to see which apps you're missing notifications from without opening the device fully.

Overall, the glance bar shows incredible promise, but its implementation right now is too basic to be useful for me, and I imagine most people. It needs to be able to show notifications from third party apps. Features like running messages down the spine and whatnot are advanced features that could come later. But at the very least, it needs to be able to show me apps like WhatsApp, Slack, Twitter, and Outlook.

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

36 Comments
  • Weird & mostly useless feature that should be scrapped from Duo 3 if it's in pipeline. They should have just provided horizontal display strip at the bottom of the device just like galaxy z flip 3. Cover display on z flip looks cool don't why Microsoft is adamant on dumbing down surface duo by not providing it. In duo 2 the camera bump has already ruined perfect design of duo 1 so cover display wouldn't do much damage to it's aesthetics. In fact I believe it will add personalized touch to every surface duo 2 because it can show always on info like your name or your favorite quote , time and date, app icons with notification badges , ability to pick up or reject calls, music controls etc useful features. If they provide earpiece outside with cover display then duo users no longer need to open up their device every time while attending calls or users no longer need to keep surface duo at 360 degree position in pocket just to perform basic phone functionalities.
  • Scrapped?? Hell, no. Improved? Hell, yes.
  • Not worth it imo because content is displayed vertically and that too in curved position in small space. It's better to spend resources on actual external display like galaxy z flip 3 that can actually improve duo's usability.
  • I've said it from the first iteration: The windows logo should be 4 screen that show notification: First screen the number of notifications,
    Second screen the app
    Third screen sender
    Forth screen the first part of the the text. There it is. Solved the issue without ruining the perfect design. Right now you lose part of the text on spanned apps because of the curved screens, and gain nothing from the glance bar. So please Microsoft reach out to me if you need any other help 😁
  • That this is even a request/complaint strikes me as strange. Why Microsoft didn't make the glance bar an always-on display confuses me. If it functioned the same way AODs do on other devices, but with the galnce bar's dimensions in mind, it would be totally fine. My G8 shows me a clock, battery level, and app notifications at all times. If I plug it in, the battery icon changes to indicate it's charging. Microsoft should have made the glance bar mimic that. As always though, the complete lack of communication and past inaction by Microsoft makes this another "I wish they would, but assume they won't" problem. Will they make it better? They haven't really made anything else better on the Duo or Duo 2 with updates thus far. We've had over a year now and the software advancement borders on non-existent. I can only assume the frustratingly restrictive experience is all we will get until Microsoft proves otherwise, and that sucks. I've been sitting on ordering a Duo for over a week now, but I keep seeing these kinds of things that remind me why I haven't ordered it yet. I've been REALLY close a few times, but every attempt to order the thing has a stop in unpleasant news stories about how paying $1,500 brings about bizarre restrictions and frustrations. I wish Microsoft would just commit more than one intern to Duo development to show that they'll do what they say and "meet us where we are" when we buy their products.
  • Yeah, I've found it strange I don't get Outlook notifications there but, I DO get Teams notification on the Glance Bar. :-)
  • Yeah, Teams notifications definitely appear there.
  • The fact that Outlook isn't even supported on day one is really odd and that's a first party app. But yeah, the Glance Bar is really being rushed, since 2nd display for notification or even always on display on some Android devices always seems to support any apps that push notifications, but somehow Microsoft implementation is more opt-in, thus we have to way for Microsoft to add support on it instead of just "reading" Android notification system. Then user will just have an option to disable some apps to now allow on Glace Bar as user choose.
  • This sucks, but in Microsoft's defense, other similar features in phones in the past were also limited from the get-go and didn't get much take-up among developers. I'm thinking specifically about the at-a-glance features in LG (RIP) and Samsung phones, especially when used with those OEM flippy cases with windows. They were always extremely limited. A cool gimmick but not much else.
  • I like the idea and functionality of the glance bar. What I notice that when you span like say a webpage, there are texts you cannot see because it goes into the glance bar area. Yes this problem was kinda there on the 1st one but the 2nd one was much more noticeable, and makes it harder to read content even more. With the 1st one I can use it as a tablet spanned and there is just a big seam in the middle but the seam does not consume the content. The glance bar does. There should be a setting where you can turn off the glance bar when spanned.
  • With respect to differences with Duo 1, this is incorrect. The lost space between screens has been reduced, not increased. There is less of a gap with Duo 2 than with Duo 1.
  • "With the 1st one I can use it as a tablet spanned and there is just a big seam in the middle but the seam does not consume the content." Duo 1 absolutely loses content in the gap. 84 pixels worth in fact. DUO 2 supposedly cuts that to 66. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dual-screen/android/surface-duo-dimensions
  • I am not a developer, but how could this idea be done, adding more app notices, etc. to the Glance bar? It's Microsoft obviously opening it up, right? But also the app, say WhatsApp, etc., tying into the Duo functionality, right? Or can Microsoft "make" WhatsApp notifications show up on the glance screen without the WhatsApp developers at Facebook, er Meta, doing anything? If the WhatsApp developer needs to do something, I'm won't hold my breath for such a niche product like Duo, which for the record, I happen to really, really like, Duo that is. Teams, Skype, or Microsoft properties and services? Sure. Whatcha think? (I don't know want to hope for things that are unlikely to happen, though I take the writers point, it would be cool if it could)
  • Glance bar? or bars? too small, top and bottom. I need reading glasses. Flater Samsung, use the front to display notifications. At this point I'd love to swap Duo 2 for Fold 3.
  • The Fold and Flip 3 are great for checking notifications without opening your phone...
  • You can get glance bar notifications for messages in other apps, as long as its one you can set as default SMS app. I use messenger as my default sms app and get notifications on the glance bar for all chats in messenger now.
  • I use a watch with my first gen Duo so the glance bar is not a requirement for me... I would replace it with a notification LED just like Blackberry's used to have, that's all that's required... Make the LED colour customisable so you would know if you had a missed call or just a notification...
  • I don't think people realize how these development teams work. I assure you that supporting Microsofts proprietary Glance Bar is the lowest possible item on any developers backlog.
  • Exactly correct. Because there are only a few thousand (at best) Duo 2 users out there. Meanwhile, there are a couple billion Samsung and Google phones to support. Not to mention iPhones. It all comes down to something that should be very familiar to Microsoft phone users. I used to be one, so I learned this lesson. If you want developer support, then you need to buy a mainstream phone. This is like being a Linux user and wondering why Office, Photoshop and iTunes are not available. 🙄
  • MS could simply make the Glance bar show a user-selected subset of what appears in the notification area at the top of the screen. No need for developer support at all. Of course developers are not going to expend effort to support the Glance bar and they shouldn't have to.
  • That was my thought exactly. Microsoft Launcher can show a badge with a number of new notifications for any app so there's no reason that this Glance bar couldn't do the same. They could provide a toggle for each app in the same way that they do for notifications already.
  • It's really odd indeed. Microsoft really only needs to do in theory is to just access the whole Android notification system and any app notification will show on Glance Bar, notification icons are already provided by the app anyways. Thing is, pretty much any always-on display I know that was implemented on Android devices are basically just mirroring system notifications. I don't get it why Microsoft instead gone with opt-in approach, like nobody asked for that kind of implementation. Only I can see why is because Glance Bar seems really rushed. Idk, Microsoft is really inconsistent on how they really develop for Android. On one hand, they really make Android work for dual display devices with gestures, something originally Android is not native for. Then on the other hand, Microsoft still can't get the basics on Android software right or outright missing.
  • I was curious why they didn’t just mirror the notification bar. Makes no sense.
  • Or pit the device in "phone" mode... Outside display solved... Literally the reason they don't put an extra pointless screen on the other side... They already have one..
  • Exactly....glad someone else gets this simple concept 😊 Not sure why this is so hard for people to grasp. It's no different than the typical slab phone at that point and you have full screen for Notifications...just like a slab. Worried about scratching screen? Put a screen protector on just like a slab 😊
  • That's obvious solution but duo 2 unlike duo 1 doesn't close flat in single screen mode which makes it thicker due to gap created by camera bump. Also if we look at from Microsoft's point of view for the betterment of dual screen formfactor they want surface duo users to spend most of their time in dual screen mode not in single screen mode like any other smartphone. So a small external display will only benefit dual screen usage because user will less likely to keep their device in single screen mode if small external display serves basic features like caller info & ability to pick up or reject calls, badge notifications, time and date etc.
  • Sorry, I tried to reply and hit report; please disregard it. As for your comment yes, keep the device open could be an alternative, not one I personally would like. Besides MS is the one which created "Side view" and it would be so much cleaner and professional; MS itself has always shown the device in "phone" mode only to perform some specific action and not as a way to carry it around. Anyway we will have to wait for the next iteration to see if something will change.
  • As someone who would like to see wireless charging added to the Duo, I have to point out that you would not be able to charge the device wirelessly in that configuration. Of course, there is no wireless charging in the Duo 2 and, given that keeping it thin is a given, there may never be in later iterations either.
  • Been using the Duo2 for a month. I can tell you the glance bar is useless. The lack of wifi calling also bad. The interactivity with "Hey Google"...is terrible...clunky and forces you to use Google apps or at least share your data with Google, in many cases, making it clunkier than an Iphone. It is still about 1 to 1/2 CM to wide for smaller hands. The two good things.... 2 screens are awesome, and I find note taking with a pen & one note ideal.
  • Totally agree. The Glance bar is useless for me - except when plugging in to see power (but even that is not great since not way to see when full consistently). I use a smart watch for notifications. That being said, if you want a notification display then perhaps replace the Pen Cover with an e-ink screen cover that gives you real notifications. Move the Pen Cover to back (so when magnetically attached the pen and camera bump are on the same side). Maybe? As for Google Assistant...it works so inconsistent on Duo. Sometimes it makes calls...sometimes it doesn't (even when changing DPI to non-tablet settings). Still some buggy software with screens and gestures. But I still love the darn thing. Keep refining.
  • I don’t get it… most people have a smart watch that gives them notifications without taking their phones out. Far more useful than a “glance bar” or am I missing something?
  • Exactly, I never check my phone to see new notifications, I just check my watch and decide if I need to use the phone or not.
  • Not everyone have, or want, a smartwatch; why should a smartphone not be self-sufficient?
  • I think, any secondary display should just use Wear OS to ensure support and usability. Any other proprietary UI is limited in some way.
  • Isn't the entire issue sidestepped if you just buy a Smartwatch?
  • Many Duo owners would like a notification screen on Win logo panel (I like e-ink for this as it saves power and would integrate into white/black design). But we also want Pen Cover move to back to go with the camera bump...and we want Qi added. For all these competing requirements it may be that Glance bar stays...Pen Cover moved to back so pen and camera bump on same side...and Qi added via "pen cover" type panel to front.