Original Microsoft Surface Duo is finally getting its Android 11 [Update]

Surface Duo 2020
Surface Duo 2020 (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • The Android 11 update is out for Surface Duo.
  • The update is 2.38GB in size and is available now.
  • The update brings auto app-spanning, a new Photos app, UI changes, and bug fixes.
  • The AT&T-branded model is also now getting Android 11 as of Feb 1.

Update 5PM ET 2/1/2022: The AT&T version of Surface Duo is now getting Android 11 as well.

Despite promises of regular updates, the original Surface Duo hasn't seen much in the way of substantial fixes or improvements. The last update to even reference stability was back in June, as since then, the company has only pushed out monthly security patches.

But now, after a very long wait, Android 11 is here for Surface Duo. Android 11 was actually released back in September, which doesn't sound too bad, except that it was September 2020. Android is now up to version 12, which various OEMs are slowly pushing to devices.

The update brings Surface Duo more on par, software-wise, with Surface Duo 2, which launched with Android 11.

The Android 11 update brings various UI changes, like a wider notification shade, updated Launcher widgets, new volume and brightness controls, improved app folers, and a refreshed Settings layout. The update also adds new features like auto app-spanning for user-selected apps, a new Photos app (based on OneDrive), and more support for a Surface Pen, which can now be used in Outlook or to markup photos.

Users can also now launch OneNote using the Surface Pen's top button, just like Surface Duo 2 after its recent December update.

Additionally, other stability, gestures, and touch improvements come with a new OS and firmware for the Surface Duo, which hopefully improves the overall performance and user experience.

Here's the official changelog from Microsoft:

  • Upgrades the Android operating system to Android 11.
  • Addresses scenarios outlined in the Android Security Bulletin—January 2022.
  • Enabled launching of OneNote when clicking the top button on Surface Slim Pen 2. It requires Surface Slim Pen 2 to be paired with Surface Duo.
  • Enabled in Surface Duo features, in Settings, to choose preference for answering phone calls when folded.
  • Enabled in Surface Duo features, in Settings, to choose specific apps to automatically span across both screens when you open them.
  • Optimized Quick Settings and notification width for portrait and landscape orientations.
  • Adjust media volume directly from Quick Settings in any device mode.
  • Use thumb mode in Microsoft SwiftKey now with all device modes and application states.
  • Updated app drawer and folder design with improved drag-and-drop support.
  • Refreshed Microsoft feed design with updated cards and new Microsoft Start widgets for News and Weather.
  • Photos by OneDrive: New dual-screen enhanced experience for viewing and editing photos in the OneDrive app.
  • Xbox Game Pass: Discovery and play games from the cloud with an on-screen controller. Some devices, accessories, and software sold separately. Additional fees and/or subscriptions required for some apps and features.
  • Send feedback to Microsoft by opening Settings, then tap About, then tap Give feedback to Microsoft.

To grab the update yourself, use these steps:

  1. Connect to a Wi-Fi network.
  2. Select Settings on your Surface Duo's home screen.
  3. Select System.
  4. Select System Update.
  5. Select Check for update.
  6. Select Restart now.

The update is rolling out now for unlocked models of the Surface Duo. The update for the AT&T handset usually arrives a couple of weeks later. As of 5PM ET on February 1, 2022, the AT&T variant is also now getting Android 11.

Of course, while Android 11 is a welcomed upgrade for those who took financial risks to buy Surface Duo, all eyes are now on Android 12L, which is better optimized for the Duo's dual-screen experience. While that OS brings improved features like a dual-screen notification shade, its real value is in the official APIs for app developers to target foldables like Surface Duo 1 and Surface Duo 2.

Sources familiar with Microsoft's plans note that the company is tinkering with internal beta builds of Android 12L, but there is no official release target yet set. It's also not clear if that version will come to Surface Duo 1, although Microsoft promised three years of OS updates for both Surface Duos.

Android 12L is not expected to launch publicly until sometime in the first half of 2022.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the 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 watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. 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.