Surface Duo Launcher Refresh DecOriginal Surface Duo with updated Microsoft Launcher.Source: 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.

40uytkoNew App Drawer on Surface Duo (right) versus original (left).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.

Microsoft Launcher logo

Microsoft Launcher

This Android launcher has a clean design that works well with several Microsoft services, including Microsoft To Do and Microsoft 365. The latest update brings a couple of handy new features, several bug fixes, and some performance improvements.

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