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Surface Duo postures: Every bend and fold you need to know

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

The Microsoft Surface Duo pioneers a new form factor for Android devices, defined by its dual displays and bound by a 360-degree hinge. The slimline design touts versatility, with the company hoping to deliver a new approach to mobile productivity. But the convergence of hardware and software remains crucial to that promise, enabling a variety of scenarios, which Microsoft describes as "postures."

Postures on Surface Duo relate to both the physical hardware positioning and the on-screen experience. It launches alongside six predefined postures, adapting to how the user poses, orients, and operates the device.

Surface Duo provides a glimpse into how Microsoft is approaching foldables creatively, augmenting the Android operating system with in-house tweaks. The result looks to contextually respond to your workflow, adapting content for the twin-screen setup. Below is every Microsoft Surface Duo posture and how it works.

Book Mode: Double the apps at once

Surface Duo Book Mode

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

One of the best showcases for Microsoft Surface Duo's dual-screen form factor is "Book Mode," assuming a book-like posture, with adjacent portrait screens. The setup evokes an experience akin to a traditional paperback, ideal for reading, scrolling, and consuming content across the twin displays.

It's the natural posture after opening the device, ideal for experiencing two separate apps side-by-side. It also supports apps optimized for its dual-screen "spanning" feature, with content and menus contextually spread across. Third-party apps like Amazon Kindle also explore their own interpretation, emulating the layout of your favorite novels.

Best for: Using two apps simultaneously, reading, notes, and documents.

Compose Mode: Laptop in your pocket

Surface Duo Compose Mode

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Compose Mode means rotating the Surface Duo onto its side, using its virtual keyboard to get things done. The posture looks to deliver an ultra-portable laptop alternative, with a full-screen typing experience for added immersion. You enter this form by orienting the device, which pushes the app up top, with the keyboard docked below.

Extending the virtual keyboard to landscape triggers it to occupy the full 5.6-inch screen, suited for cranking out longer emails or working on documents. The device uses a dual-screen spin on Microsoft SwiftKey, which includes tweaks like a split keyboard for added ergonomics. It's the most robust typing experience available on Duo, akin to a mini PC.

Best for: Writing longer emails, documents, and general typing.

Dual Landscape Mode: Full screen experience

Surface Duo Pinterest

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Microsoft Surface Duo also allows for spanning one experience across both displays, delivering what the company describes as "Dual Landscape Mode." The feature lets apps bridge the full 8.1-inches of the screens when spanned, providing a space to view content on a larger scale.

Dual Landscape Mode works with various apps, ideal for viewing long webpages or endless scrolling feeds. Microsoft has shown off the mode with apps like Pinterest and Instagram, where a feed of visual content pops across the twin panels. Looking past the hinge may be a struggle for some, but leverages the entire screen real estate at its best.

Best for: Web pages, social media, and viewing other content.

Single Screen Mode: Back to basics

Surface Duo Single Screen Mode

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Microsoft's dual-screen design also includes a 360-degree hinge, allowing one to swing behind the other. Putting the displays back-to-back transforms the device into a usual single-screen phone, confining the experience to just one panel, and improving one-handed usability.

The single-screen mode may cut the Surface Duo's defining features but remains crucial to some interactions. Typing one-handed and taking a phone call is near-impossible when wrangling both screens, making this simple posture valuable in everyday usage.

The single-screen mode also plays a crucial role in the Surface Duo camera setup, limited to a single 11MP front-facing shooter. The more restricted configuration allows you to reorient its camera, overcoming the need for a rear sensor. The compromise comes from its ultra-thin design, with this handy trick ensuring flexibility for selfies or landscape shots.

Best for: Camera, phone calls, one-handed use.

Tent Mode: Hassle-free video calls and entertainment

Surface Duo Tent Mode

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

This aptly-named mode leverages the hinged design, allowing you to prop up the Surface Duo in a v-shaped posture. Tent Mode best suits hands-off experiences, angling the display without a separate stand for, or tight grip on, the device.

This works well for entertainment, accommodating video apps like YouTube or Netflix in landscape orientation, or cloud gaming like Project xCloud. Video conferencing apps like Microsoft Teams or Zoom also fit, positioning the front-facing camera to keep you in-frame. You can also use it to share content, pulling up documents for friends or clients in-person.

Best for: Video playback and conferencing.

Peek Mode: Check your notifications

Surface Duo Peek Mode

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

When the Surface Duo is locked and partially open, the device enters what Microsoft describes as "Peek Mode." The feature serves a thin vertical bar down the right-hand side of the display, rounding up the time, app notifications, and other key status icons at a glance. To activate, steadily open your device until the white-on-black preview appears.

Peek Mode integrates with Android to serve up system notifications without committing to fully opening the device. It's the company's solution to no outward-facing display, compiling events of interest into an easily consumable panel, instead. It might not be as convenient as an external display but provides the next best solution with the hardware.

Best for: Quickly viewing notifications and time.

Understanding the Surface Duo's postures provides a glimpse into best using its dual-screen setup. While it's only the foundations of the refreshed Android experience, Microsoft proposes some novel concepts with its modern mobile form factor. In the meantime, Surface Duo preorders are live via the Microsoft Store, starting at $1,399 in the U.S.

Microsoft Surface Duo

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Matt Brown
Matt Brown

Matt Brown is Windows Central's Senior Games Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.

36 Comments
  • To be fair, you left out two modes: 1. Failure Mode - this happens shortly after it actually ships
    2. Abandoned Mode - this happens shortly after Failure Mode - see Zune, Kin, Windows Phone, Surface RT etc.
  • Oh lord. Get over it.
  • Say it again
  • Once was enough. :)
  • I think you are confusing Surface products with those from isolated teams in the former, more siloed Microsoft (though I think MS could improve on that front, like ensuring Teams and all other apps are available in the Store, better gaming integration across the company, etc.). As Windows Central has pointed out multiple times, Surface RT was never abandoned. Work in Windows on Arm and Surface continued with MS currently selling the Surface Pro X.
  • For some a strange reason, I did not laugh. Probably because this type of line is just too dated.
  • This one's in Troll Mode. A real pretzel - hard to get out of it I guess.
  • "you left out two modes: Failure mode, abandoned mode" - @Central Analyst Compose, Dual Landscape, and Tent mode alone are worth the $1400 price tag. And while I'd give my pinky toe for this thing to come with Win10x and run apps from the Microsoft Store, instead of Android and the Play Store (say what you want but I have everything I need between MS Store and PWA apps), I still think this device will succeed. And from what I can glean anecdotally it's already doing well in pre-order. So you might as well just give up and accept assimilation. Resistance is futile. ;0) Microsoft's future is forevermore intertwined with Google. At this point I hope they re-think Neo as a larger Android version of Duo. Would make developer's lives easier. I also think a Surface branded Chromebook makes sense. Just as it did with Duo and Android, the Surface team could make the best Chromebook ever!
  • Android is designed to be abandoned by the hardware manufacturer. It won't be a big deal if Microsoft decides to drop support. Google will continue supporting it for several years. This isn't a Windows phone.
  • Mental break mode: when closed, your task oriented brain can rest up and can help maintain a healthy work-life balance. Cry mode: gracefully presenting the beautiful refractions of light off of the glass panels and engineers marvel as it sits on kiosks reminding you, while wanting, you can not afford it. Frisby mode: reserved for the high-end ballers who also befriends man's bestfriend in the form of a golden retriever.
  • Hi - question about peek mode. When I watched two of the live demos by the Microsoft group, I asked about what shows in peek mode. Both times they said only the date and time. I have seen concept videos that also show App notifications. This article also says App notifications. Which is the truth?
  • From what we've been told, including the MS Store listings, peek mode has time and date, alongside notifications and call previews.
  • Thanks for the reply. I could not believe the answer the first time, that is why I watched a second demo and they said the same thing. The Microsoft product page definitely says calls and app notifications. Cool!
  • I can check in and give confirmation once our embargo lifts - but it's well documented, so I'd assume that's the case! Otherwise Peek Mode is a little... pointless
  • Saw it yesterday in Best Buy. Wow. That hinge and hardware is amazing. Friend i was with that is an OG iPwn user was amazed. Said he hasn't seen hardware this nice in a long time and if he didn't know better would swear it came from Cupertino.
  • Played around with one at local Best Buy (Gurnee, IL) yesterday. Was told it was just placed on display. Nice h/w, hinge, etc. Good feel. Thin and fit in my pocket. My take away - I "really" don't need this but will keep an eye on how this evolves over time.
  • But ask yourself, What Would Picard Do?
  • Picard would buy it in a pinch, of course!
  • I wish there was an option for always on display. That would be great in tent posture for using as a nightstand alarm clock.
  • Great point. Do we know there isn't such an option? I use that on my current Samsung Galaxy and loved that on my old Lumia. I would miss that, like no Qi or wireless charging.
  • It uses Android. If that's not built-in, there are apps that will do that for you.
  • Yes, there are apps that can do similar, but it's a bit of a different experience than when it's built into the firmware. And i'm guessing no existing 3rd party apps were built with dual screen in mind.
  • Maybe a stupid question here but is there a mode where one screen is flat on a table and the other is tilted up like a movie screen? Lots of yogaing 2-in-1 laptops do this. Then again, they have a keyboard where the screen would be on Duo.
  • Does that add anything over the Compose Mode? Both have one panel on table as base and one panel up facing user. Is it that you want the screen closer to you than it would sit in Compose Mode (on the near side of the phone rather than the far side)?
  • Basically yeah. It would be perfect for airline trays, lying in bed, or even just holding it in you hand while watching video (think of putting you finger behind the hinge). I think the real alternative is tent mode.
  • I think it would work fine - it's not too different from Compose or Tent, just with the display facing downwards. If anything, I assume Microsoft wouldn't promote that as you're putting the display face-down, and could damage it.
  • "Work fine"? I mean, the software has to support it. It either does or it doesn't. Specifically, the second screen has to "turn off". Unless you know something that you can't tell us (embargo and all), I'm just going to assume the mode I'm suggesting is not supported.
  • Is there another mode? That might be "Both Screens Flats Mode," that is, "Book mode" when both screens are flat and aligned, and the screens are presenting one app or a web page spanned or spread over both screens., maybe a photo or a movie? It's a different animal. Right? (Book mode is when the hinge is bent and maybe the screens are not showing one app/web page spread over both screens.) And, I want to know if SwiftKey would bridge both screens in such a mode.
  • Mathematical interest question (if you don't like math, stop reading): two 4x3 displays unfold to a 4x6, which is a 3x2 aspect ratio. Two 3x2 screens would extend to a single 3x4 display. I don't think there are any other aspect ratios that would mirror each other like that. Am I wrong? I just wrote a little Excel model to test and couldn't find any others that have that remarkable symmetry, but I confess my method for looking was pretty simplistic, so I don't entirely trust my results.
  • I think it's true of any ratio a:2b (width:height of one panel, where the height is an even number). 2 x a:2b -> 2a:2b (that's two panels side-by-side) = a:b Now do 2 x b:a -> 2b:a Of course it doesn't need to be 2b (some even number). Doesn't need to be natural numbers at all! But I assume you mean ratios of natural numbers.
  • Just sat thru Microsoft's virtual workshop. I found out that peak mode doesn't support app notifications. I gotta say, peak mode is pretty useless if it doesn't support app notifications. All peak mode is telling you is date and time. I mean c'mon, our wrists are already telling us this! 🤦🏻‍♂️They gotta be coming out with an update to support this.
  • I just reread the previous comments. I apologise for the duplicate comment.
  • Peek mode! Love that. I'm also beginning to see possibilities toward better quality of life that could stem from closing the Duo, thus hiding your display and not having the device constantly demand attention. The little bit of extra effort to open it up may make people actually want to have an in-person conversation at the dinner table.
  • 'Compose Mode: Laptop in your pocket' A laptop it certainly won't be; not running Android...
  • I saw one in my local Best Buy today and was impressed with the build quality. Just order it and can't wait. After years of Windows Mobile and Windows Phone, I am hoping this is a much better MS experience than I am having with my Samsung S10+. As many times as I have been burned by Microsoft (Windows Phone, Band, Zune), I've been thoroughly happy with all my Surface products going back to the Surface Book 1. Let's see if the Surface team can keep the streak going. Wishful thinking - would have been nice to have this with Windows 10X. Only makes we wonder more if Windows 10X is ready for prime time.
  • finally saw it in the store, it is bigger than I thought it would be. Going to be weird going from a galaxy flip to this.