Surface Trio? Microsoft patents possible triple-screen smartphone design

Ms Patent Three Screens Surface Trio
Ms Patent Three Screens Surface Trio (Image credit: USPTO / Windows Central)

Surface Duo 2020

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • A new Microsoft patent shows a triple-screen device.
  • The patent was filed back in June 2020 but just became available publicly.
  • The design could possibly solve one of the biggest complaints about Surface Duo.

Update 10 PM ET 12/27: Added more context regarding the hinges and how the device folds.

When Microsoft announced its dual-screened Surface Duo, the running joke was that the company should make a Surface Uno next — a revolutionary smartphone with a single display. The humor went in the other direction, too, with people remarking it could do a triple-screened handheld and call it Surface Trio.

It turns out, Microsoft was thinking the same thing.

A new patent was posted on December 23, 2021 (filed on June 23, 2020), and spotted by Patently Apple, shows Microsoft has ideas on how a triple-screen smartphone (presumably) could work.

While the patent is quite long and technical, there is a single drawing (seen below) associated with the idea to illustrate the concept.

The device (1400) features three displays (1402, 1404, and 1408), all connected by two hinge areas (1406 and 1410).

So, basically, just Surface Duo's design plus an extra display.

What makes the concept interesting is since this is a hinged device, it can collapse in on itself to again become a single-screen form factor, e.g., with display 1408 facing outward all the time when "closed."

A closer look

Analsyis of why a 'Surface Trio' could work

Let me connect the dots for you on why this design could be significant.

One of the constant debates about Surface Duo right now is the "need" for an external display. While you can reverse-fold Surface Duo to expose both displays all the time, like a standard phone, most people will close it when not in use, leaving no screens exposed. That also limits what you can see, and it is one reason I argued Microsoft should do a wearable to help alleviate that limitation.

With Surface Duo 2, Microsoft introduced the Glance Bar to help with notifications and more info when Surface Duo is closed. However, it's still not ideal for many who want more glanceable (and interactive) information.

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

With this new patent, this device folds down into a single screen device with display 1408 constantly exposed. It effectively becomes just a single-screen phone and solves the need for an external display, and you get a full, uncorrupted screen to use as you would.

However, you can now unfold this device to reveal a triple screen device, which sounds a bit weird to hold and use. But there is a good reason to think that you could leave displays 1404 and 1408 folded back-to-back, leaving just display 1402 and 1404 (with 1408 behind it) exposed.

This configuration would effectively create a dual-screen experience again.

It's all a bit reminiscent of the tri-fold tablet seen in the HBO show Westworld:

Westworld Tablet Fold

Source: HBO (Image credit: Source: HBO)

Indeed, looking more closely at the image, section 1402 seems thicker than both 1404 and 1408. In fact, it looks twice as thick. That would make sense since most of the "guts," including the battery and camera, could be in section 1402, while the other displays (1404 and 1408) could be thinner with only a few components and wiring.

When folded back-to-back, both 1404 and 1408 would, ideally, equal the thickness of 1402, giving balance to the device.

It's also worth noting that these hinges appear to be unidirectional and not bidirectional like the current Surface Duo and Surface Duo 2. Since they do not need to "reverse fold" with this design, there should be no gap between the displays, and instead, it would be one continuous screen with the glass edges meeting each other.

From the patent itself:

The first and third display panels 1402, 1408 may pivot in any suitable pivot range relative to the second display panel 1404, via the first and second hinges 1406, 1410. As one example, the first and third display panels 1402, 1408 may pivot such that the multi-panel display device 1400 lies flat with the first and third display panels positioned adjacent the second display panel 1404. As another example, the first and third display panels 1402, 1408 may pivot, such that the three display panels are stacked on top of each other in order to reduce an overall form factor of the multi-panel display device 1400.

Of course, the big question is how (and what) a triple screen experience would be like were one to leave it lying flat as the patent describes. I presume that display 1402 could be just all keyboards with the other two functioning as screens, but it's not entirely clear as things get weird at this level.

Either way, Microsoft is still engaging in the idea of multi-display devices, which include smartphones and laptops, either of which could potentially benefit from this design.

However, whether Microsoft brings such a concept to the market remains to be seen. Like many tech companies, Microsoft files for many patents, with only a few ever turning into actual products.

Finally, while three screens seem odd, Samsung is rumored to be headed in the same direction.

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.

  • bleached - Just to save you the time from replying to all enthusiastic comments: It'll be DOA and canceled within a year if it happens at all, no one wants 3 screens, Samsung has a better option in the works with a single foldable screen that makes this idea moot, MS isn't committed to mobile so why bother supporting a new form factor, and Apple could do it already if they wanted. Did I miss anything?
  • I was going to say Duo is awkward enough to use, this would be a nightmare.
  • The Duo is not awkward to use, far from it... Easier to type on than your boring iphone...
  • Super awkward. It is wide, making single hand use age really hard and when you have it unfolded, you need to use both hands as it isn’t flat and solid. There is a reason all the reviews are so bad and it was MKBHD’s worse phone of the year. The form factor just doesn’t work, especially when folding screens are viable. There is no reason for Microsoft to continue pursuing this failed form factor.
  • How long did you use one and why should we take your word over that of the people who own one?
  • No one but fanboys own them. The form factor is just awkward, that is why all the previous attempts at it have given up almost immediately. Look at the reviews, none are really positive. Even the review here is fairly harsh, and any review from a non-Microsoft site is quite negative. The biggest indication is the lack of copycat devices and the failure of every previous attempt. This form factor has been attainable for the last decade and no one has made it work. Even Samsung didn’t try it!
  • When Surface RT came out it didn't immediately spark copycats. But Microsoft refined the experience and now we have Apple copying the Surface with their iPad Pro. Perhaps the Duo will not gain steam, perhaps it will. Only time will tell. But just because someone on the internet with a popular channel doesn't like it, that doesn't mean it can't succeed. MKBHD never saw the use cases as he admits I. His review. As a Duo owner I'm very happy to have a pocketable wide-screen device that can also multi-task when needed. Mostly I use the Duo single screen but I much prefer the screen size over regular phones as a work device. If it wasn't for the glitchy typing experience (something is wrong with touch response) then I'd be recommending Duo to everyone who wants to be productive. So as an Duo owner I see a lot of potential in this design.
  • I might question the suggestion that the iPad Pro copies the Surface. The iPad debuted in April 2010, two years before the first Surface Tablet. Seems more like MS was trying to break into the iPad business. While the iPad remained true to its tablet roots for a long time, the Surface never shook being a laptop, trying to be a tablet. The iPad Pro seems a natural progression to more variable use cases as the hardware supported iPad OS being able to support more significant applications and use cases. It does however still maintain the tablet first legacy.
  • The Surface RT wasn’t the first in the slightest bit. There were plenty of other similar devices available. A tablet with a detachable keyboard wasn’t new at all. It isn’t just MKBHD, all the reviews of the Duo were harsh. The form factor just doesn’t work. Dual screens are awkward enough and making them that wide just makes it worse.
  • Yeah, the Windows XP tablet was one of the first devices, which apple copied with their iPad.. oops "innovated" : )
  • bich, Samsung isn't everything in this galaxy(not trying to pun at all) but anyways fok off, get a life, I'm not a massive fan of Windows 11 either but you don't see me hellbent on trolling about here. and you're wrong, Samsung tried it, its just that they didnt market it to the public, out of fear of losing on their investment for a formfactor that doesn't commonly exist, What Microsoft does is, try to run on formfactors that don't exist, a risk that they can afford, that says things about what Microsoft can and is willing to do. the display folding technology has much more to go, the best display folding technology for me would be like something that can be curled up with ease, the way I see it, Microsoft pushing on these goals or objectives is rather a roundabout way of trying to push for new display technologies that will help all kinds of formfactors come into existence not because of practicality but to push the limits of the existing technology.
  • You wouldn't know because you don't own one. You only parrot the garbage spewed by "reviews" because it resonates so much in that strange fantasy world you live in. Actual owners of the device are very happy with the form factor, size and use cases (which happen to be evolving on a daily basis).
    People like you denegrate the Duo for things like missed swipes but iPhone gets a free pass for the same issue and so does Samsung.
    Why do you have so much difficulty comprehending the fact some people prefer multi-screen over single wide-screen? Or that some prefer 3:2 over 16:9? Your ignorance and arrogance are astounding.
  • As the article mentions, the two current most "awkward" things for some people are potentially solved here: needing to open it to do anything and the gap when spanning an app. Neither is a showstopper for me but I'll take solutions for both. It did take a few days to generally get comfortable with Duo 2, specifically gestures, touch, and typing, but I was fine within a week and it's even better after the December update. What else is awkward and potentially an even worse "nightmare" if they go to 3 screens, keeping in mind the assumption multi-screen/foldable support will be native to future versions of Android?
  • The awkward part is the way you hold and use the device. It requires two hands at all times, even when in single screen mode as it is so wide.
  • Ok, but that's the same for pretty much every flagship phone nowadays. Other than for calls, I rarely see anyone using his/her phone one-handed, especially the Pro/Max/Ultra models. They're all too tall and unwieldy for most to comfortably scroll and type one-handed. If I remember correctly, that's one of the reasons Steve Jobs resisted doing a larger iPhone. He thought one-handed use was essential. Clearly, others at Apple thought differently. If you mean to simply hold while viewing a video, then yeah, it's easier to do on a slab phone but it's definitely not awkward on the Duo, in single screen mode or opened and held one-handed like a book.
  • Every single modern phone is a skinny aspect ratio. Every single one.
  • @bleached - apparently you're not used to needing 2 hands for anything, unlike some of us 😜
  • On the go, it is very awkward to use (for me). The lack of an external display & software that still needs work only exacerbates this (again, for me).
  • @spicypadthai - lmfao... u beat me to telling Bleached to just go away with his annoying b.s.
  • Lol, now we're straight posting anticipating the naysayer replies from Bleached? This is hilarious.
  • bleached - Just to save you the time from replying to all enthusiastic comments: insert all of the device's you own as a moot point to prove how much you don't dislike Microsoft and how you've been here on WC for a decade. Did I miss anything?
  • Yeah, I don’t think I have mentioned my devices much. The only Microsoft product I use these days is a gaming computer and work laptop because there aren’t any other options for such devices.
  • That begs the question, why are you here?
    Troll?, Share your hatred for any work with MSFT in it? and good old fashion heartburn and irritation?
    Did I have you covered.
  • What does it matter, but I have been following Microsoft for decades now. That is slowing down though and the Duo is the only thing they have that is still somewhat interesting. Why are you still following Microsoft? Do they really have any products you care about?
  • @bleached You're a celebrity around here it seems. Multiple people were talking about you before you had even posted a comment. Looks like you have a fan club. 🤣
  • They hate that I am always right. We are even hearing now that the Duo 3 was “postponed” (aka canceled) until 2023!
  • You're never right but you're certainly full of it.
  • You're literally never right.
  • Whenever I see "bleached" I realize to take everything they say with a bottle full of it, cause thats all its worth. opinions full of assumptions with next to no facts whatsoever, with a heavy dose of parroting opinions of people on the internet. a common sheeple syndrome if one were to note.
  • Innocent until proven guilty bish!, postponed doesn't mean cancelled, come back by end of 2023 before gloating around you nasty trash eating goat : D , now why don't you run along to your momma stuck in goat simulator.
  • Seems more like stalking than following.
  • I don't see the logic behind this. It basically doubles down on what makes the Duo niche, meaning it will be a top hand an insanely small audience. A lot of potential users pass on the Duo because of the price. What's an extra hinge and screen mean here, $2,000 to start? $2,500? Just putting a display on one side of the Duo would alleviate the single-screen concerns in a much more rational manner. Even that is overkill for what many of us want, but it's more practicable. It would add less cost than a double-folding device. Just something (not necessarily a full, touch display) to let people see notifications without squinting or looking from a weird angle and grabbing the Duo would suffice.
  • "I don't see the logic behind this. It basically doubles down on what makes the Duo niche, meaning it will be a top hand an insanely small audience."
    Presuming they want to do this it doesn't mean it has to replace Surface Duo, but, instead, could be a 'Pro' version or higher-end SKU. A more affordable Surface Duo just needs to be polycarb (instead of glass) on the outside, reduced camera, go to a budget CPU, and don't have curved displays. That's easy to solve, but there's no point to do it UNTIL the OS and ecosystem (apps) are there to push it more mainstream. This stuff needs time to bake. Make Surface Duo 2 $800 right now does that solve its problems? Nope. We're still about 2 years before foldables becoming mainstream. Some of you seem to confuse what Surface is for. It's not about mass selling. It's about trying new form factors to push the industry in a certain direction. It's an investment by Microsoft. Research, if you will, by actually selling devices. Surface is niche. Pretty much always will be. We won't ever talk about MS being one of the top 5 PC makers for this reason. But its influence on the industry punches above its weight.
  • ###It's about trying new form factors to push the industry in a certain direction."""
    What direction is MS pushing Google towards, with Duo and trio?
  • "What direction is MS pushing Google towards, with Duo and trio?"
    Widespread adoption of one form factor helps reinforce the idea for other categories like PC. You're going to see foldable PCs in 2022 (Project Horseshoe Bend) in cooperation between Intel, Microsoft, and ... Samsung. This is a coordinated industry effort and if you don't see that you need to take a step back and just look at the trends. Moreover, Microsoft is pushing Android on PCs now (via emulation layer). What happens when Android apps, which right now are "single-screen", blow up to be larger apps that span horizontally to fit these new Android devices? They begin to look like normal apps on Windows, expanding the app platform while also letting Windows become more mobile.
  • They aren’t pushing anything. The form factor isn’t going to catch-on, just like it hasn’t with all the previous attempts at dual screens.
  • bleached, time to up your trolling game. You can do it! This one was practically made for you!
  • @Andrew G1, Mister Burns, spicypadthai Lol at you all. @bleached living rent free in your head. It reminds me an embarrassing Clint Eastwood talking to a chair pretending Obama was sitting on it.
  • Lol
    look at me living rent free in your head
  • @Mister Burns You three were talking about him before he posted a comment. Why don't you start a @bleached fan club.
    If you're lucky he may even give you some signed merch.
  • I read a comment and responded just like you did for me. If what you said applies for me, then it also applies to you. I know nobody mentioned you at all when you wrote that. My comment was inspired which makes you MORE guilty of what you claim than I lol I can see it's pretty tight in here living rent free. Not a lot of space and not a lot going on 😂🤣
  • This has gone too far.
  • @fdruid You're correct, it has. Imagine how insecure these Duo fans are when one solitary person can cause them to have a meltdown like we have witnessed here. It really is quite sad.
  • Please, get over yourself. For the first comment, I thought it would be funny to preempt the inevitable troll comments from someone who says the same negative things in every Duo article and who I and many here have gone back and forth with. It was hardly a "meltdown" and your fixation on it is odd.
  • We living rent free in their head lol. Like NOONE mentioned them at all
  • duo fans? like why, anyways not my kind of device, I'm not a fan of android on bigger displays(its just trash on widescreen), i don't wanna waste my time on nonsense but I do have to say, that bleached is having some serious issues, and the rest of the trolls just gotta jump in that moment, like moths to a flame, so I don't think folks here who come for these products having to explain themselves anymore than an iPhone user in an apple forum : ) so I'd have to politely tell you to, fok off m8.
  • Microsoft can’t get the software right on two screens, how in the $&@& will they ever do three?
  • Based on experience of you using the device or agitation from your mind?
  • 😂🤣Is he getting you warmed up
  • Any review will tell you how buggy the device is.
  • It's not actually that buggy. Certainly not buggy enough to say it's a terrible experience. Most of the reviews have been from reviewers not understanding the gestures or purpose of the device. Yes, it can be an awkward device, when you are use to simply pulling out your phone and doing whatever. But, you can and do get use to it. The fact that I have to use both hands hasn't made the experience worse, just different. The biggest issue I've had are with some apps that are not necessarily formated for the device and may not behave properly. Since the December update, the few issues I've had with touch has been greatly improved. The one main issue I had initially was not realizing that answering a Duo call, while the screen was locked requires you to minimize the app to unlock the device. The learning curve for this device can be frustrating for some. Again, when you've spent years doing something a certain way, anything else will always seem awkward and pointless to some.
  • You explain exactly the issue with the Duo. Smartphones have been nearly perfected the last decade. Dual screens have come and gone. Folding screens are starting to catch on because they don’t have the issues you describe. They just make sense. You open it up and you know what you get, it works. How often do you pick up your phone and need to heavily multitask? Those are the only times the Duo even begins to make sense, all the rest of the time the form factor is only a disadvantage. When Microsoft first showed this device I was optimistic, and felt that the success of the device was dependent on how well it could be used as a single screen. The original was so thin and seemed like it would work really well, be almost identical to using a normal phone with a second screen for the rare times you really need it. It failed. There is a reason every other phone uses a tall and skinny form factor. They work best as they are easy to fit in a pocket, easy to use one handed, and are great for playing video in landscape. For Microsoft to make this device viable, they need to do a few simple things. It needs a normal aspect ratio for each screen, 18:9 or whatever. It needs to fold totally flat, like the original, so you can just keep it fully open 99% of the time and use it just like every other phone. That should be the normal orientation for the device and it should be imperceptible from a single screen device. They need to make it cheap. The Google Pixel is $599 with very nice hardware. A $400 premium, which even that is too much, would make the duo $999. That is more than reasonable to add a hinge and second screen, they really could do it for $899. At that point it really doesn’t have any disadvantages compared to everything else, and the second screen is easily accessible when needed. It becomes an easy argument to make, just the lack of case options and the added weight from the second screen being the only real world issue.
  • Serious question here. If MS is: 1) Fine with targeting a specific type of user who wants dual screens for business/personal/whatever reasons and 2) Fine with modest sales b/c this type of user isn't the mainstream "consumer" targeted by Apple/Samsung/everyone else, then what's the problem? How does it affect you personally if Duo and maybe something with 3 screens exist alongside foldables? It's not necessarily a zero-sum game.
  • 1. Microsoft isn’t fine with low sales. Don’t be silly. Duo 1 sold less than 50k units. ******* embarrassing. That isn’t sustainable. I will take a Fold 3 for business 100% of the time. It does dual apps just as well as Duo, and will even do 3 apps as well as a single large app. Folding screens are better for business and anyone saying different is deluded. How does it affect me personally if Roczen or Tomac win the 2022 AMA Supercross series? That is a dumb question. Tech companies are no different than sports teams these days.
  • Sorry that your expertitis is really bad right now. Maybe step away from the internet for a bit and watch some Supercross.
  • Is it April 1st? Why not 4 screens? Surface quattro anyone?
  • What problem does that solve?
  • It allows you to protect the additional 3rd screen by closing the 4th over it, of course. Having said that with the addition of each additional screen, these are going to be pretty thick. Honestly, it would make more sense to add a larger glance screen, for calls, texts etc on the exterior to enable better use when closed. If only Microsoft had a digital voice assistant to use in this posture.
  • "Honestly, it would make more sense to add a larger glance screen, for calls, texts etc on the exterior..."
    But you're now back to an always-exposed display, which you just argued against. And since when did that become a problem for smartphones when 99% are designed this way? Are you suggesting that the iPhone 13's always-exposed display is a design flaw that, after 13 gens, needs to be solved?
    "these are going to be pretty thick."
    Not necessarily. Duo's second display right now is "thick" (ahem, 5.5mm; original Duo is just 4.8mm) because it has a battery in it and other hardware. What if it's just a display and some wiring? Plus, let's be clear: The new OPPO foldable is 16mm thick. Same with Samsung Galaxy Fold 3. That's 5mm thicker than Surface Duo 2 and everyone is gushing over the OPPO/Fold 3. But 16mm isn't too thick for those devices, whereas this theoretical device is 🤷‍♂️ We either need consistency or perspective here.
  • Yes, you would have an exposed display in the larger glance screen scenario. Your comment highlights that either format is not perfect, tradeoffs in both scenarios. Personally the 3 screen scenario is just so superfluous. Why not 4, 5 or 6 screens? Where is the benefit to another screen, what does the workflow look like and what is the cost trade off? "Not necessarily. Duo's second display right now is "thick" (ahem, 5.5mm; original Duo is just 4.8mm) because it has a battery in it and other hardware. What if it's just a display and some wiring?" In this scenario your battery life suffers, no? Another full size screen will draw more power. Also, just because other companies are going in this direction doesn't mean it makes sense or is beneficial in any way.
  • "Personally the 3 screen scenario is just so superfluous. Why not 4, 5 or 6 screens? Where is the benefit to another screen, what does the workflow look like and what is the cost trade off?"
    That's for marketing to decide. Let's not get ahead of ourselves here: This is a patent, not a product. None of us have to defend it. I merely trying to explain what I think is the reasoning behind the concept and why it could work. Second, the concept, as illustrated in the Westworld comment/GIF, appears to be this: A full tri-screen tablet when extended A dual-screen device when folded once A single-screen phone by default It solves the problem of an external display, while also adding the ability to become a full-sized tablet experience. You haven't given one reason for 4, 5, or 6 screens besides "more" and "why not." So, I'll ask again, what problem does adding 4,5, or 6 screens solve besides you just being cheeky?
  • The increasing number of screens is to increase the maximum size when used in a tablet mode, while the increasing number of folds allow it to get back down to an in pocket single screen device. But at what cost to price and thickness. There is no right and wrong to the solution, just whether it has any benefit and what are the tradeoffs that come with the design, primarily cost and thickness. "Let's not get ahead of ourselves here: This is a patent, not a product." And it is at this stage in development that I am sure, these very conversations are taking place. Will anyone buy this when it is listed for sale at 1999? Warning, the price is total conjecture but given that a duo is in the 1500 range it is not completely out in left field.
  • Duo has no tablet mode, it is a dual or in this case, triple screen. Much different experience than a tablet. You can’t really run a single app well like a tablet, the only reason to unfold these devices is to run multiple screens.
  • Except if they are single-direction hinges and if engineered correctly, there won't be a gap between screens. The seams will be barely noticeable, if at all, while in tablet mode and probably no worse than the current Fold 3 crease.
  • That is a pipe dream. Samsung would have released such a device years ago.
  • You're omniscient yet you toil in comments of WC articles focusing on devices you hope fail from a company you hate.
  • Honestly, if that were true (that it could be like the crease of a foldable screen) someone would have done it by now.
  • Very cool idea, and I'm all in on Microsoft's surface mobile ambitions. I finally got to unbox my Duo 2 on Christmas day and have not put it down. Heck, I haven't encountered a single bug. Not one. It's damn near perfect. I still think an external display would make some sense, but now that I'm getting used to just bending it all the way back when I need to use it as a "regular" phone, the lack of an external display has rapidly become a non-issue. Ditto for the camera bump. I moaned extensively when I first saw the design, but almost out of the box you realise that it's actually well engineered and doesn't get it the way. Sure, a flatter duo that could fold entirely back would be nice, but I'll sacrifice that for a half decent camera. One early thought on this patent...a third panel would make the device far too thick and heavy. Hopefully, for now, the surface mobile team are laser focused on making the duo the best possible device it can be, without too many distractions on other form factors. Personally, I can't wait to see how the Duo 3 shapes up.
  • Interesting, I wonder if they still go with 3 seperate displays or just 1 folding display to form 3 folds. One thing for sure this is going to be pretty thick device, but maybe just bit thicker than Galaxy Fold3. Considering that Surface Duo 1 is pretty thin to begin with. They can still house large camera since one side will be always expose anyways. Though if they go with folding display, considering our current tech and techniques, it can be even thicker since it needs to accomodate the folding mechanism, especially if we have to eliminate the crease as much as possible. If 3 seperate display, it will be easier to make it thin, but that means 3 seperate displays which will be a new challenge for apps to span. We can section the app into two display since most apps can be designed with 2 column UI. Mail for example can have navigation and email list on the left and mail content on the right. 3 is possible but can be a stretch to some type of apps to span into 3 if ever. But this will be an interesting UX exploration.
  • "Interesting, I wonder if they still go with 3 seperate displays or just 1 folding display to form 3 folds."
    I should have addressed this, but it looks these are single-direction hinges. That means no "gap" as the glass can just come together.
  • This is basically the Westworld tablet form factor. Though presumably a real device would have more of a gap when unfolded.
  • I should have put this in the article (and I will soon), but I don't think there are gaps because these hinges can be single-direction and not bidirectional.
  • There will be a gap. That's like the reason why they went dual screens in the first place. No technical ability to do a fold.
  • "There will be a gap."
    You're not following. There is a gap right now because the displays on Duo/Duo 2 must reverse fold. If Microsoft did not want Duo to reverse fold, a standard bar hinge (like on a door) could bring the two panels closers together. I don't see why reverse folding on this new design is necessary, ergo a different hinge design, as the device merely needs to expand and collapse. Regardless, it is accurate to say that, barring technological limitations, Microsoft's goal is to limit or minimize any gap as much as possible. Hence why there are curved displays on Surface Duo 2.
    "That's like the reason why they went dual screens in the first place."
    No, they want dual panels because the software (and our brains) compartmentalize better when areas are fixed (vs. software). Narrowing that gap is not antithetical to this concept, which, again, is why MS narrowed the gap on Surface Duo 2 with curved displays. It's also the exact reason why desktop displays have gotten narrower bezels. Not only does it look better, but when you stack them, it is more seamless and visually appealing. Finally, there is no reason to think that this concept (were it to even come to market) would necessarily replace Surface Duo. It could simply be a more expensive, higher-end version for those who want more akin to a 14-inch laptop or buying a 16-inch model. It comes down to user preference.
  • If it was possible to make a two screens come together without a gap, why did Microsoft release Duo instead? Why hasn’t Samsung had such a device for years?
  • "If it was possible to make a two screens come together without a gap, why did Microsoft release Duo instead? "
    You really need to follow more closely. Surface Duo didn't need to reverse fold. It could have just opened and laid flat. Such a design would allow for the displays to be closer together since the hinge could be on the outside. But, Microsoft wanted the reverse-fold posture for a single-screen experience, so it needed reversible hinges, which are larger and more complicated. Just read the patent:
    "...display panels may be connected via a hinge and identical display drivers may be connected to both display panels on the same side of the multi-panel display device. Such a configuration facilitates design flexibility that enables the multi-panel display device to have edge-to-edge display panels with a small form factor."
    Enables the multi-panel display device to have edge-to-edge display panels with a small form factor. With this design, it's not clear that you need reversible hinges due to how it folds up. Regardless, as hinge tech improves (and shrinks) these problems can get solved. This patent is for a device that may not exist for another 2 years, at least.
  • You still have a single screen experience with a 180 degree hinge, you just make it so the screens are always on the outside. I doubt they can actually make it seamless though. I am sure there is at least a small crack and gap between the displays.
  • "brain campartimentalize better separate areas"
    Yes. However my comment is still correct.
    There are other ways to achieve that. For one, you can have two screens joined with a single digitizer outer layer.
    The current Mercedes cars have multiple screens that look like one giant display.
    The seem is visible only when the displays light up.
  • Dear Microsoft, Please update the software on my Surface Duo 1 first. I would like to have a smooth and flawless experience. Once I see how you support your existing customers on older devices, then I will consider your newer designs with as many screens as you want to put on them. Thank you, A concerned user
  • In the last Windows Central Podcast, Dan and Zac talked about MS having sent this to Google a while ago, but Google hasn't approved it yet. Apparently Google needs to approve it as an Android upgrade.
  • When has Google ever had to approve an Android update? That doesn’t make sense. Imagine how long it would take if Google had to approve every Android phone update!
  • Folding screen for the inner two panels, separate screen for the outer screen?
  • Just make an Android tablet
  • It's already an Android device with additional app support.
  • This is pocketable
  • The New Courier/Neo to wait for....hmmm?
  • OR just give the next Surface Duo (or Trio) a cover screen like the Galaxy Fold phones. Heaps of wasted real estate the could be better used as a phone screen instead of relying on a thin strip on the ‘spine’ for messaging AND more convenient to take photos with.
  • "OR just give the next Surface Duo (or Trio) a cover screen like the Galaxy Fold phones."
    Samsung is going down the same road with triple screens as I detail at the end of the article. There's even an embedded video of what it would look like.
  • In that case the 3rd screen /front would be useless if you use it unfolded while still adding most of the disadvantages anyway.
  • Wow, screen 2&3 the same thickness as screen one would be nuts... If they can keep it similar in thickness to the surface duo! Maybe the duo2 but I haven't held that one yet. Hard to imagine how I wouldn't snap it if the panels were any thinner than the duo1. If anything Microsoft has the aptitude these days to figure it out!
  • Ugh... Bring back the "Surface Uno" and the universe will have balance again.
  • But what would be the point? Why not just buy an other Android phone and install MS launcher on it?
    I can only imagine if the screen area is wide enough it would be different enough and/or if it supports the surface pen (but the latter is not all that useful if you lose half of the screen area of the Surface Duo).
  • I like this idea. It could have smaller bezels, maybe front camera behind the screen. And when unfolded to be 16:9 aspect ratio. If only they put Windows on it...
  • I don't need an external screen, my watch handles notifications and my Duo is designed to be used like an open book with both screens visible... For my use case the Duo is perfect... Still can't believe how thin it is... Admire Microsoft's attempts to innovate... Can't think of any company that has driven innovation the way they have...
  • I was thinking about surface tri when duo 2 was launched
  • When fully expanded if screen 2 and 3 operate as a single screen whilst using OneNote then I am sold. Otherwise I can't conceive any benefit for my use case for three screens, I am happy enough with the Duo 2.
  • So, this would give us a single screen posture, a dual screen posture and a triple screen posture.
    With the right two screens having unidirectional hinges and potentially no gaps, you could watch a movie on two screens while keeping your email or calendar open on the third screen.
    You could span a slideshow in a Teams meeting over two screens and the chat on the third...
    While it will be quite a lift on the software side to make all this work seamlessly, it surely would mean a whole new level of productivity.
    Main screen might also be thick enough to house wireless charging and a good camera without much of a bump.
    I like it.
  • Galaxy Fold does all this today, and adds in a much larger single screen ability when needed. Have you really ever needed three screens on your phone? Really? Microsoft constantly wasting time.
  • Nah, it doesn't.
    The Fold is too narrow for me.
    Yeah, I would totally use 3 screens. I work on 3 screens on my PC, why not work on 3 screens on my phone?
  • I love the Duo and Duo 2 design. I'm not sure that I would care for a third screen though. I think I would find it awkward and unnecessary. But I'd love to be wrong. Some things are tough to gauge until you actually try them (like I thought I would hate the camera bump on Duo 2, but it's almost unnoticeable in actual use, more of an aesthetic burr than an actual issue).
  • I hear you. It will be some adjustment for many.
    I travel extensively and the Duo is my on the go work device. I've had several scenarios where a 3rd screen would come in handy, especially with teams presentations and note taking.
    Of course, im just one use case in an already niche sector, but I'd be a happy camper with 3 screens.
  • How is the landscape Fold too narrow? You’re making things up merely because of the logo on the back.
  • I've used both. The Duo screen size combined with the ratio is simply more conductive to get work done.
    On top of that, multitasking on the Duo simply works.
    Also, the narrow outside screen on the Fold is too narrow to really be productive.
    The Duo folded back beats the outside screen of the Fold any day in terms of productivity.
    The reason I stuck with the Duo is that it simply is more the more productive device.
    Now, how long have you used those devices to form an educated opinion?
  • An 8” screen with no line down the middle is more productive than one with a line. There is nothing the Duo does, that Fold doesn’t do better. Having a different gesture to open dual apps doesn’t make any difference when you get used to it. The only reason you like Duo is the logo on the back. That is why you didn’t pay any attention to the Kyocera Echo and didn’t immediately buy an Axon M. If the Fold had a Microsoft logo on the back, you would be saying the exact opposite.
  • I like the Duo better because I used both, the Fold and the Duo for over a month as daily driver and Stück with the Duo, because it simply does productivity better for me. Now, maybe if you actually used the devices you seem to thing you can judge, maybe there is a more substantial discussion to be had.
  • "An 8” screen with no line down the middle is more productive than one with a line.", you are missing the point that it is still only 1 large screen, while with the Duo you get 2 large screens (not as large but still large enough screen area which the Fold lacks if you split it for 2 apps).
    Also that Axon M was too thick. Not to mention the screens were only 5.2" 16:9 which results in 2 narrow & small screens, not so handy.
  • The fold aspect ratio when open is great for workflow but terrible for media consumption, a three screen device like this would be fantastic for media. You would actually have the screen of a tablet in your pocket. The only unfortunate part is that Microsoft insists on segmenting the screens just to be different.
  • Microsoft insists on segmenting the screens because they don’t have the technology for a folding screen yet.
  • I think the idea is here that most of the time you use the 3rd screen as outer screen, just in some cases you can use the 3rd screen if you still lack some screen area. Also if MS can shrink the inner bezels (like they did from Duo 1 to Duo 2), the segmented screens is less noticeable.
  • Could this really happen, or just another patent...what do Zac sources say? Cuz this looks interesting, if they can figure out the software
  • It's just a patent right now. No rumors of such a device. It took nearly 3-4 years for the Duo patents to become a product. That said, Samsung is already working on a similar concept and it seems likely we'll start to see similar designs in the next year or two, assuming technological advances allow the concept to work and mass production of such a device is feasible.
  • This is much better than just adding a screen to the outside. You get a screen when you need it on the outside and you get one more screen on the inside when using all 3. One question that I would still have is what do you do with the camera? Leave a bump on the back? Have the third screen start below the camera, with a camera housed in the screen? Or having the camera parts split between screens and only work when they are all closed?
  • Seems really interesting, i would love to give it a go. I want sure if I would like my duo, but really do and typing is easy. I just hopes it is IPX7 this time and includes NFC, and wireless charging. Can't wait to see Apple's version too. I have boycott Samsung since it stole the iphone design, so forget them. I hope all the hinges are bidirectional. Maybe they will put the cameras on the twice side.
  • Wow someone above is a real hater. Lol. I think you're in the wrong forum. You can't be so feisty about something you've never used just by reading other people's reviews. I literally thought you owned the thing. Anyway. I don't know about 3 screens. Seems a bit much. I wanted the Duo and Duo 2 but the only thing that held me back was the price and camera. I use my phone a lot for photography and try to avoid carrying around my dslr. I've played with one in the store but very minimal enough to give any actual thoughts.
  • this would be the worst idea ever. the duo already sucks to use. reviews are terrible and they all say Do Not Buy this phone. no matter what site you go to. MS needs to wake up and make a new Phone OS that uses android apps (since they can't seem to get anyone to make Native apps) just like they are doing with win 11 (that also sucks)
    MS was heading in a good direction for a while and then, as normal, boom, let's see how retarded we can go....
  • Clearly, you've not used the phone, as you're citing comments from others. The Duo 2 is the best smartphone for me that I've ever used, by a decent margin, with the Duo 1 coming the closest (held back mainly by its terrible camera). Other phones I own like Pixels and Galaxy phones are not even close. That's a credit to the hardware design (especially aspect ratio and dual screens) and multitasking features they've built into the OS. Does my experience translate to everyone? Of course not. But your "the duo already sucks to use" is flat out wrong. It's not for everyone, but for those who want a productivity device, it's great without peer.
  • Why weren’t you excited about the Kyocera Echo or Axon M? You get the same dual screen experience, what is the difference really? Slightly nicer hardware doesn’t make it any different in normal useage.
  • Hey I agree I really do like using the surface duo for my work (Im an educator.) I really like using this and feel I dont need to use a laptop.
  • What you're talking about is making a device for the masses. It's not for the masses and that's okay. I do agree with a couple of points you've made, however. I do believe Microsoft could have done better with the camera by adding one or two to the second screen and really focused on tweaking the camera software. I also agree that having a proper protection for the device is an issue. The pen cover is actually ideal, but falls short. Since the camera bump is there, they could have made a cover for the back that would cover the majority of the back. Additionally, they could have just made the cover, without pen support. It would be flat and offer pretty good protection for the device. The aspect ratio, it's great, in my opinion. As for how often I do heavy multi-tasking? I multi-tasking multiple times a day, with various tasks, even simple tasks that keep me from having to close or minimize an app I'm already in. So, multitasking is a thing, at least for me. I don't have a dedicated pen, as I don't really have a need for it, at this time. As for everything else you've mentioned, it's subjective and preference. Just because a device doesn't meet the needs of the masses, does not automatically equate to it not being good.
  • Bring it on.
  • I think first Microsoft should fix all the bugs in the duos before going into a different territory.
    Duo1 still has no android 11 to this day. Yes it is a lot better now then before.
    Duo2 still has some issues and may go over to this device if it does come out.
    Also I feel this device will be very hard to use as a mobile device. Duo works because it folds but this one will be very different
  • I just picked up the Duo 1 for $400. It beats the heck out of my retired Samsung S8. The Duo is a beautiful phone and I've only noted a few minor things but am still learning. I'm not sure of the need for 3 screens but also am wise enough to know I've been wrong before. The only way to evaluate this is to do a hands-on and for a period of time. Walking into BestBuy and saying it's terrible after touching it for 30 seconds is not an educated evaluation.
  • What about all the reviewers that hated it? What about it being MKBHD’s worst phone of the year? What about the tiny sales?
  • What about them? How many times have you watched a movie and realized, it was actually good, despite reviews. It's still perspective. The device isn't a bad device, from my experience. I like it a lot.
  • "It's still perspective." The perspective of tiny sales is pretty much a death knell for most retail products.
  • That does not necessarily make it a bad device, it just says something about its niche use case and/or high price. Its like saying the Samsung Fold line is bad when you compare it too the S-line.
  • "With this new patent, this device folds down into a single screen device with display 1408 constantly exposed. It effectively becomes just a single-screen phone and solves the need for an external display, and you get a full, uncorrupted screen to use as you would." Because no matter what some may proclaim, since we all don't live in the same bubble, some of us want a singular front screen to get updated information. The notion that's it's easy to open the phone to see or retrieve information is nonsense especially if you pay the MSRP for the current DUO. It makes no sense there isn't a front facing screen. Someone in MS universe sees this issue as well, because it's clear based on this patent. If only they could mimic OPPO's Find N then goodnight. You'd have a dream of a phone.
  • I dunno guys, I may need to hold out for the Quadro or maybe even the Quintiple