Tip: Surface Duo plus any modern smartwatch gets you NFC tap-to-pay

Surface Duo Smartwatch
Surface Duo Smartwatch (Image credit: Windows Central / Microsoft)

Microsoft's Surface Duo shortcomings have been known for almost a year now. No Qi wireless charging, no IP68 rating, and no NFC understandably are deal killers for some. But at least for NFC tap-to-pay there is a simple solution and you may already have one: a smartwatch.

In what may seem obvious, anyone grabbing a Surface Duo and who has a modern wearable gets NFC tap-to-pay as part of the feature set. A simple flick of the wrist makes buying transit fare, homeware at Target, or fast food effortless.

All these Android-supported wearables and tap-to-pay services work on Surface Duo, giving users plenty of options:

Each has its advantages depending on your bank card and preferred style. Google Pay and Samsung Pay are both immensely popular, while Fitbit Pay and Garmin Pay less so. With Fitbit, wearables like the $100 Inspire 2 are an excellent option for fitness tracking that also delivers secure mobile contactless payments.

And if you hate wearing things on your wrist, or already have a regular watch, you can get NFC-enabled rings like Token or McLEAR now with contactless payment support too.

While you should not need to buy a wearable to make Surface Duo a better device, modern smartwatches are popular even with regular smartphones. Whether helping to triage calls, notifications, monitoring health, tracking sleep, and enabling NFC payments, there are plenty of reasons to consider getting one in 2020.

If you're already using a newer Fitbit, or have been eying the just-released Galaxy Watch 3, you've already solved the contactless payment issue with Surface Duo. And let's be honest, using a wearable for contactless payments is more natural than pulling out your phone anyway.

Microsoft Surface Duo


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.

  • Garmin Vivoactive 3 here. Garmin Pay works just fine. I just rarely use it.
  • The Vivoactive 3 is a fantastic smartwatch. When I started out looking for watch that wasn't too expensive, had reasonable styling, nice usability features like NFC and smart phone connectivity, and a solid set up fitness features without getting too far into being a full sports watch. The feature that cannot be overlooked is the quality and richness of the tracking software on the web. I am a casual runner, a 5K multiple times a week, and between the tracking software and the watch features (heart rate, GPS, pace, and all that stuff) I have been nothing but happy with the Vivoactive 3 for 2 years now. The Vivoactive 4 is out and it adds music. If you need a solid device, you can pick up an Vivoactive 3 for under a $150.00 right now. As for using a watch to fill for the missing NFC on the Surface Duo. Yep, it gets it done and is a good solution. When I first got the watch I was like, who would ever want to get text messages and email on a watch? Um, me I found out in short order. My best guess is most people in the market for a Surface Duo most likely already have a rich set up computer hardware including a watch. If you are already using NFC, having a watch that does that too is perfect those times when you don't have a phone with you or if your device lacks the feature.
  • Fair play, that's a neat solution for those that need NFC (and need a Duo! 😉). Hadn't thought of that.
  • Very nice.. Very nice workaround indeed... Although, for those that don't already have a smartwatch now we're talking about even more money. 🤷🏽‍♂️
  • Definitely true, although I think smart watches and/or Fitbits are quite mainstream these days. A lot of people already have 'em, especially Fitbits. Not much different than how Apple fans often buy an iPhone and Watch together.
  • I agree.. I need to get one myself, regardless of Duo.
  • Question.. Do you have a test unit now, or are you waiting for September when the units ship?
  • I will have one soon.
  • Never thought about this but a great workaround. What's the band you have on the Versa on the first picture?
  • "What's the band you have on the Versa on the first picture?"
    Fintie Bands nylon strap. $8 on Amazon.
  • This was my exact reaction. This does provide a solid work-around. I don't have a smartwatch. So far, that's been because I like my traditional watch. But the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 is starting to look like a real watch. I could see switching to that. The main thing I can't get my head around is charging it daily. I take my watch off once every few years to have the battery replaced (which is a hassle -- has to be done by a watch repair shop). For those of you who use a smartwatch, how do you deal with having to charge it roughly daily? Is it just something you get used to, like charging a phone?
  • "The main thing I can't get my head around is charging it daily."
    Apple Watch is a day and half device these days for charging. Galaxy Watches can go 2 to 4 days, so it's not really a daily thing anymore.
    "For those of you who use a smartwatch, how do you deal with having to charge it roughly daily?"
    Easiest thing? Charge it when in the shower and getting ready. That 20 minutes is enough to keep you going without concern. Also, don't use always-on-display feature as that does drain the battery quickly. Raise to wake is the way to go.
  • Garmin has watches that go for a month
  • I've found that I abuse my Galaxy Watch and still get 2 days on a charge. I sleep with it, workout with it daily, use it for payments, get just about every notification on it, brightness turned up, screen time-out high, wifi on auto, lte on auto. It's really a beast. The only time I see noticeable drop in life is when I go for a run with gps and spotify going, which I do once a week. I charge in the evening when I'm on the couch with my phone next to me.
  • I will be honest, it is not just NFC for payments, but also for quick pairing of bluetooth. I use a Samsung phone, so it is the MST too which works everywhere that NFC fails. I also have a Galaxy Watch as well so I could get some utility with an NFC-less phone with less pain as this article suggests, but in this modern world, why should we have to make such a simple compromise on a flagship priced device from a line (Surface) that is meant to be "aspirational". I don't think anyone aspires to be so handicapped.
  • Because that's how technology evolves and gets better. You can have a dual screen device that has every high spec and feature and it'll probably look like and weigh as much as a brick. For something this thin AND dual/folding screen as a first generation device, you're most certainly going to have to have compromises. It'll get better as newer generations come out and they improve on the design and as technology gets even smaller and more efficient.
  • My new phone doesn't support NFC, ergo I'm handicapped. Wow. Lol. I have NFC, Qi on my S8+ and S20+, but couldn't care less cuz I never use them and I'd rather try a new aspirational product. Eh, to each his/her own...
  • Same case as me. I don't even know what NFC can or can't do, never used it.
  • Sounds like the old people at my work who don't know basic computer skills.
  • I more tech than any of you and don't use NFC for payments ever. I just don't find it taxing, exhausting, or strenuous to pull out my wallet for 20 seconds. But I get it, the generation after me are pretty soft.
  • Ha. They are soft. They are. That said, I love paying by NFC at vending machines at work -- I don't need to carry my wallet (and that's one of the places I feel safe not having my wallet on me). Also, at self-checkout, when hands are full with the stuff to checkout, I still tend to have my phone out (to read the shopping list), but no free hand to grab a wallet. It can be handy and avoid some awkward gyrations trying to get my wallet and then remove a card with one hand, to instead just waive the phone near the card reader. I must admit though, a watch would be even easier.
  • Oh def, I'm in the minority here and not using NFC. It's immensely convenient and a smarter way to do transactions. That said, I'd rather have NFC in a ring or Fitbit than my phone. I already don't struggle to pull my wallet out, I'm not sure how pulling my phone out is a significant reduction in effort 😂
  • One of the forgotten advantages of mobile payments, and one of my main reasons for using them, is the tokenization of your card number. When there is an all time high for data breaches and fraud, not giving merchants your actual card information is a valuable tool in preventing issues. That's why I personally use it when I can.
  • That's a good point.
  • That's because you seem to think NFC is only about payments, it's about public transport, rewards cards, and accessory connectivity (this one is less important though). With NFC I don't even NEED a wallet. Just because your world view is narrow doesn't mean everyone's is, I'd rather not carry around a wallet with ten different cards in it, I'd much rather just have one phone. I have a fitness band also, but that's for fitness, and I use it for that, don't need to upgrade it to something with more functionality that is just going to drain the battery more.
  • "I have a fitness band also, but that's for fitness, and I use it for that, don't need to upgrade it to something with more functionality that is just going to drain the battery more."
    What evidence is there that NFC drains the battery more on a wearable? That's not accurate.
    "That's because you seem to think NFC is only about payments"
    NFC is more important if you live in an urban environment vs the suburbs. I don't need NFC for my car. Nearly 70 percent of Americans live in suburban or rural area, with 30 percent in cities/urban, that's why many feel NFC is NBD.
    "rewards cards"
    I admit, that's a first. All rewards cards here are barcodes and/or phone numbers, not NFC around here.
    "With NFC I don't even NEED a wallet."
    I still need one for ID/license, insurance card, and extra bank card because many places don't use contactless payments around me.
    "Just because your world view is narrow doesn't mean everyone's is"
    TBF, this article is only about NFC payments, not other functions. America is a big place. We just got "pin and chip" mandated a few years ago. "75% of U.S. stores are accepting EMV cards in March 2019.'' Contactless payments is behind that. NFC on Duo would make it a better phone, no argument there. But for many, it's also not some killer feature. Both views can be correct.
  • I agree, I've had NFC for a long time on several phones and devices, never use it, nor do I ever see a situation where I'd want to - it's not being a luddite, just I don't buy Costa coffee or other such things, when I do shop it's just as easy to get my card out of my wallet. As for Qi, too slow compared to USB C, so wouldn't miss that. Would love to have 2 large screens, but not sure I could justify the money, but if my employer was looking to replace my 3 year old phone, I'd definitely have one.
  • Qi charging isn't about speed (you're absolutely right that it's slow compared to a cable), it's about convenience and visibility of the phone screen, instead of leaving the phone in your pocket or out and discharging. I have a Qi charger in most rooms in my house, in my car, and on my desk at work. No cables. Phone sits facing me on the charger wherever I am for easier access and visibility than being hidden in my pocket or lying flat somewhere plugged in where I can't see the screen. My phone is always visible and fully charged.
  • No cables with your chargers, what do they use magic ;-). Maybe my charger is rubbish, but it uses a micro usb cable that plugs into a usb power supply, pretty much identical to using my usb c cable, only the phone is fully charged in a couple of hours with the cable and you can still take calls whilst charging. Definitely think I'd miss that, despite the convenience of Qi, using a cable my phone faces me just the same. I'm not about to spend a fortune furnishing every room with a Qi charger. So long as there's USB C fast charging at 15W or more, I'd be more than happy.
  • I only charge wirelessly while I am driving. Pulling over to plug in a phone is rather inconvenient.
  • Question for the group : is there a wearable that let's you use passes in Android pay? Wanting to use for my public transport pass. I don't think there is, but wanted to check.
  • NO, there is not well not in Australia, you might have to buy a nice old school wallet lol like me!
  • I only used tap to pay a few times and find my watch more convenient than my phone. For starters, my watch is already out. That's pretty much it lol. No need to pull out my phone when I can just move my wrist slightly closer.
  • Great piece Daniel--nice workaround for NFC payments. I have a Duo on order, but my issue is I'm diabetic and use the NFC to connect with my Libre Freestyle sensor. Do you have a workaround for scanning these popular glucose monitoring sensors? Many thanks!
  • My trusty Garmin Fenix 5X Pro, will do the job most of the time, when I want to use nfc, but for other things like Public Transportation, and royalty cards that are stored within the Google pay application, well that is why ill have to be taking a Old School wallet, lol so its one step forward, one step back, holding a wallet is the new reading a newspaper! lol.!
  • 1400 $ and now even more money out of your pocket for basic functionality...
  • As I asked others: Do you really think that those people are seriously considering and can afford Surface Duo (without financial ruin) don't already own a smartwatch, or, at the least, are not in the market for one? Because one could argue that since grandmas, kids, and Susan in the office all already own Fitbits there's a good chance people commenting on an article about a new whizbang tech gizmo may already own one too. It's 2020. It's not like smartwatches and fitness trackers are some exotic good. Just a thought.
  • Been saying this from the beginning. Not to say having it in Duo would be a bad thing
  • "$1,500 phone doesn't have features from 5 years ago? Spend $400 on a second device!" Personally, the NFC omission doesn't matter to me, since I've never used the feature. However, this "solution" seems a bit ridiculous. I get you have to play the cards you're dealt, but it still sucks that this is on the table for tap-to-pay users.
  • I don't think people who can actually afford Duo and who are actually going to buy it are put off by owning a smartwatch or fitness wearable. I get people who can't afford the former may cringe at the latter, but they're really talking about spending money they don't even have. Do you really think that those people are seriously considering and can afford Surface Duo don't already own a smartwatch, or, at the least, are not in the market for one? Are you suggesting that the very tech-enthusiast audience commenting daily on websites about a new phone that's coming out, don't already have a wearable? I find this hard to believe. There are half dozen other reasons to own a wearable regardless of Duo and NFC. For instance, notifications, sleep tracking, health/heart tracking, exercise, clock, take phone calls, reminders, and yes, mobile payments. Everyone knows this because wearable are huge sellers even for those with just a regular smartphone. I mean, dude, it's 2020. Who doesn't own a Fitbit these days?
  • Samsung Gear Sport here. Another workaround would be to just get a case that has an integrated card slot, I'm sure there will be one released for the Duo, so you can basically use your phone to tap lol.
  • As this may be a solution for tap & pay. It is not for tap & print, tap & listen etc...
  • "As this may be a solution for tap & pay."
    Yes, that is the title.
    "It is not for tap & print, tap & listen etc..."
    Life is a struggle in the first world. Thoughts and prayers.
  • What I'm curious about is what the 11MP sensor for the camera can produce.
    I'm still rocking my L950 with 20MP and love the pictures it makes. L950 could even withstand the competition with 32MP and 48MP phone cameras (AllAboutWindowsPhone). So a lot can be achieved by means of good software...
  • Huawei GT2e. Nice item.
  • Versa 2 here. I use it now and then (like at the gas station) but honestly not that often. These days I feel like online orders own me. :/
  • Thus defeating the purpose of having the "one device".....this is just another among the many examples of shortsightedness and waste that Microsoft has become known for.
  • for me NFC isnt a big deal and i have a Samsung watch and barely use the NFC. the time i use it are when im in hurry or my wallet is in my car, sometimes im too lazy to reach into my pocket. IMO for those who needs NFC on their phone must have their phone glued to their hands, you have to unlock your phone, search for your pay app, select the card if you have multiple and then tap (correct me if i missed or added a step). on my watch its maybe 2-3 taps, if not for the watch with a phone that cost between 1400-1500 i would rather reach for my wallet then reach for my phone and accidentally drop it(unless u have a kung fu grip). but then again to each her/his own
  • I've been on iOS for some time, but briefly used my old Nokia 5 while it was in service. From my experience, if you have a fingerprint scanner, it's as simple as unlocking your phone and tapping it. You don't need to open any other app unless you want to use a card different to your default one. Often what I think people find is that taking the phone out of the pocket and pressing the fingerprint scanner all happen in one motion.
  • As a Samsung phone owner (s8, s9, s10+ and s20), your simple explanation doesn't hold up in the real world. The in screen fingerprint reader is awful and completely unreliable. I only have a success rate of like 60%. And zero% if my finger got wet at all. For Samsung pay, you unlock the screen then you either manually load the Samsung pay app or you swipe up from the bottom of the screen to load the app. Then you hit pay, then you type in a pin and then you can pay. Now, you can load Samsung pay from a locked screen but at some point you still have to do fingerprint and pin to pay. With the galaxy watch you still have to hold down the side button to load Samsung pay, then type in pin and then pay.
  • Excellent workaround, I can't fault that at all. I saw someone say that this isn't an everyday phone, and to be honest that's the only way I can redeem this right now. NFC especially is something that would be an absolute dealbreaker for me. But the poor battery life, lack of 5G and wireless charging, especially for the price, are really questionable things to have or leave out in the Duo. We can only hope the next one is better.
  • NFC was something I said to myself also, if the Duo did not have it, ill pass on this first generation, and hope Microsoft adds it on the second gen, but I have changed my mind, as I have a Garmin Fenix that can do those quick tap to go payments, and will just carry a nice wallet, to store my public transport card, and a few other cards I need, on the daily, the 5G is something that is really only a advantage to my understanding with streaming games on Xcloud, or Netflix etc or downloading huge files super fast, as it is very good for latency, home 5G Internet for those people who cannot get fast internet any other way, is another good use for it also 4G LTE is more than adequate in my humble opinion, on a smartphone device, the 5G Networks are not ready yet anyway for the masses, and by the time they are Microsoft would have hopefully released a Duo with 5G.
  • I've loved Samsung Pay on my Galaxy S8, S9, S10+ and S20. However, I'm confused. I can use Samsung Pay on a non-Samsung phone? I do have a Galaxy Watch but I've always used my phone to pay. Can I use the Galaxy Watch and Samsung Pay on the Surface Duo? Anyway, I can't wait to get the Surface Duo! I preordered the 256GB model.
  • okay, i read a little bit more. So quick primer to other new people. I've owned the S8, S9, S10+ and S20. Samsung Pay on the Samsung phone supports both MST and NFC. MST is what makes Samsung Pay better than Google Pay. MST is magnetic secure transmission and works on practically every machine that can take a credit card swipe. Even old credit card machines can work with Samsung Pay because of MST. You'll shock a POS attendant who thinks their old equipment can't handle smartphone payments when you make a smartphone payment with your Samsung phone. NFC is newer tech but NFC requires the retailer upgrade their credit card machines to the newer machines that support NFC. That is becoming more reality as Apple Pay and Google Pay require NFC to work. However, we still live in a retail world where there are a lot of old credit card machines. MST is only supported in Samsung Phones. My Galaxy Watch only does NFC. So now the big differentiator from Google Pay goes away because with that watch, I have to hope the retailer has a new NFC-capable credit card machine. Now, if the machine is labeled Apple Pay or Google Pay compatible, it will work with my NFC Galaxy Watch. But at this point, then I might as well go with Google pay.
  • Excellent, thank you. Is MST less secure?
  • MST is secure. If you have a Samsung phone, MST is one of the good features. That said, I am adapting to having only NFC and I am using Samsung Pay with my Surface Duo.
  • Have a Versa 2 now but would *really* like a Withings wearable (with 25 days of battery life!) - just waiting for it to offer NFC :) . Amazing tech at unbelievably low prices.