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, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

  • Nice. I'll have to update when I get home.
  • Got it! I like the new look...
  • Mickey D's AND BK apps, nice
  • Kind of a weird flex but more power to him.
  • I wish they'd allow a way to totally shut off the "Your Feed" panel on the left. I don't use it at all, and it likes to recenter itself. The recentering makes it inconvenient for quickly accessing the Search bar. I would rather replace it with another home page of things I actually use in a layout that suits me.
  • "by year's end". Calendar year or fiscal year? ;)
  • Awesome!! Now, I'm ready for some SDV3 device leaks. What? Too early? 🤷🏾‍♂️
  • Last years model didn’t sell at all, and this year reviews have been even worse. Expect them to be canceled early next year. By spring it will be all over.
  • No. You might wish it to be so, but, no.
  • Not sure if you are a troll or just ignorant...
  • The way MS is handling the update process of Duo line is definitely not reassuring; adding to this the previous experiences does not help either...
  • Still better than Motorola and LG ever were.
  • He's way too much of both. Lol
  • Oh, I remember you saying Duo will be canceled by early 2022.. Don't worry Mr broken record, I got you. I won't forget. 👍🏾👍🏾👍🏾
  • So when you're inevitably prove wrong next year, what are you going to do?
  • He's been wrong about 100% of the things he said and yet he keeps trolling like a salty idiot.. What do you think he's gonna do? 🤔
  • You said that last year already...
  • Not showing up on mine yet. Hopefully in the next few days as we roll it out. I love my Surface Duo 2 - I am a month into it now and I am keeping this one.
  • It did not show up in the update list on my SDV1 either. I went to the App Store and searched for the app. Next to the "Open" option in the App store, there was an "Update" option. I used that to update my app. I like the new look and the expanded folders.
  • Showed up on mine but then the toushcreen died soon after. I'm starting to think the two are related...
  • If you have SDV2 you should already have these new "features"
  • I hope Microsoft can add gesture customization that's available in typical Microsoft Launcher. On my other phones I swipe down from anywhere on home screen to get notification so I don't need to reach. now it's Search, which I don't need.
  • Looks good on the OG Duo, now only if Android 11 would arrive 🤔, will the OG Duo get Android 11 this year? 😏