Microsoft's Surface Duo 2 is a special device in more ways than one. Not only does it sit in a corner of the market all by itself, detached from even its closest competition — such as the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 — but it's also the successor to a product that, to this day, remains a bit of an enigma for a great many people.
The original Surface Duo saw an onslaught of fire sales throughout 2021. It was a device that commanded a $1,400 MSRP in late 2020 and, not more than one year later, saw itself being put on sale for under $400. It is a device line that Windows Central readers rally around and applaud the concept of (even if they aren't going to buy it themselves), as well as one that non-enthusiasts often don't even know exists.
So, when the Surface Duo 2 released, there were questions: Could it right the wrongs of the Duo 1? Could it differentiate itself in the market enough to make the dent its predecessor couldn't? Was there hope for a Duo revolution?
Now that the sequel device has been out for a few weeks, answers are starting to shape. Though, depending on who you ask, those answers won't be the same. Here's what experts thought about the Surface Duo 2's prospects.
Surface Duo 2: On the surface, there's potential
Surface Duo as a line, on a conceptual and execution level, has had no shortage of critics and skeptics. Specifically, many people see it as serving a niche that doesn't really exist, so long as there are alternatives such as the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 on the menu. We asked Mikako Kitagawa, Gartner Research Director, for her thoughts on whether the Duo 2 could stack up against the competition.
"It is less likely that Duo 2 will compete against Samsung Galaxy Z Fold," Kitagawa said. "The main buyer target of Duo 2 and Z Fold 3 is technology enthusiasts, but not average consumers. For enthusiasts, the folded screen of Z Fold is attractive as there are quite some engineering feats behind the product, but the Duo 2 just has two screens connected by hinges, which does not attract the enthusiasts."
Anshel Sag, Moor Insights & Strategy Principal Analyst, took an opposing stance to that claim, arguing that there was very much a reason to enjoy Microsoft's expensive Nintendo DS lookalike on its own terms.
"I think the Duo 2 does have a place in the market because it's a very different design and user experience from the Fold 3," he stated. "I have both devices and I like using them both for different reasons. I also find myself multi-tasking on the Duo 2 far more often than I do on the Fold simply because it's just easier to do."
When asked about the Duo 2's optics, Sag commented on a point that, for many, also remains one of the major pitfalls of the original Duo. "I think the Duo 2's biggest obstacles are long-term software support and initial launch software quality. The company has addressed most of my hardware concerns with the device, but it seems like the software isn't quite there yet."
Surface Duo 2: Nothing's guaranteed
It may be too early to tell whether Microsoft has remedied the long-term mistakes of Duo 1, but there's been enough time to at least get a vague idea of whether the Duo teams up in Redmond have ironed out the biggest kinks with their sequel device. When asked about whether the Duo 2 was adequately set up for a brighter future than its predecessor, Kitagawa outlined the big challenge still standing in the way of Microsoft's foldable.
"Adopting Android OS is the right direction instead of trying to get their own OS, but the challenge for Microsoft is to build the brand perception associated with a smartphone, which they don't have at the moment," she said. "For consumers, Microsoft is a brand for PCs, and adding brand perception will take a long time."
Microsoft ... smartphones ... something sounds familiar there. Almost like, oh, say, a Windows Phone, or some such concept. Imagine if Microsoft had a thing like that and let it fall to the wayside.
With that said, it's not impossible for Microsoft to double-down on Duo (like it already has) and make a serious, continued play for recognition in the sector it's had issues with. It's just going to be hard. But Microsoft is no stranger to throwing money at things until they work (check out the best Xbox Game Pass games, hint hint), so perhaps future software updates can amp up the Duo 2's reputation, or a Duo 3 can rewrite the rulebook from the ground up. Either way, the Duo isn't down and out yet, no matter what Samsung or the rest of the competition dare to duel it with.