Microsoft pushes new Launcher update for Surface Duo with a refreshed design

Surface Duo Launcher Refresh Dec
Surface Duo Launcher Refresh Dec (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft Launcher is back to getting updates via the Google Play Store for Surface Duo and Surface Duo 2 owners.
  • Previously, Microsoft had pulled the updates likely due to a blocking bug, which has now been resolved.
  • Original Surface Duo owners now have a visual refresh that matches Surface Duo 2.

Back in late October, Microsoft paused updates for Surface Duo and Surface Duo 2's Launcher app via the Google Play Store. At the time, it was speculated that perhaps Launcher's builds were being forked for some special Surface Duo features, but later learned it was likely due to some internal software issue that needed to be resolved.

Starting last night, both Surface Duo and Surface Duo 2 are now back to getting their respective Launcher app updates via the Google Play Store (instead of monthly system updates). Additionally, the app now appears in search, whereas before, it did not while Microsoft resolved the ongoing issue.

Source: /u/We1etu1n (Image credit: Source: /u/We1etu1n)

Interestingly, Surface Duo's update is more of a big deal. It brings the slightly refreshed design found on Surface Duo 2 with Android 11, including updated Widgets in the Your Feed (Glance, News) sidebar and improved translucency. These updated designs more closely match Windows 11 with rounded corners and updated graphics. Likewise, the app drawer now matches Surface Duo 2's, with a new grab bar near the top.

Not much has changed for Surface Duo 2 owners, though presumably there are always minor tweaks going on with each update.

The Google Play Store updates should apply for regular versions and those enrolled in the Microsoft Launcher beta program. Here is the full changelog for the beta version, which brings the new UI changes described above:

  • Launcher's feed and overall design were updated.
  • The News feed experience was enhanced.
  • The toggle between work and personal apps was improved.
  • Additional filters are now available to improve searching.
  • Other known bugs were fixed, and improvements were made.

Microsoft is poised to distribute the Android 11 update for original Surface Duo owners, though it is cutting it down to the wire as it stated "by year's end" for the release. Indeed, updating Microsoft Launcher to match Surface Duo 2's look and feel is a necessary step in that process, so this may be a good sign that the update is imminent.

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.