As an early adopter, I really don't care if Surface Duo's camera is bad. Here's why.

Surface Duo
Surface Duo (Image credit: Microsoft)

Inside Windows Central, we've been having internal debates about the forthcoming Surface Duo's camera. Many of us are betting on it not being great, based on history in the industry.

Late-starters to the smartphone market like Razer or Essential, despite earnest camera attempts, failed to impress potential buyers. The "new" Nokia (HMD Global) can't even recapture that old Lumia camera prowess. (On the other hand, Google proved you could do a lot with one camera and good computational AI.)

Related to this, I simply don't care if the upcoming Surface Duo's camera is not amazing. Why? That's the life of the early adopter.

Early adoption, and the sacrifice to move forward

Samsung 4K 65-inch

Source: Daniel Rubino/Windows CentralA 65-inch 4K TV used to cost $10,000 - literally. Now it's less than $300. (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central)

Technology, for most people, is supposed to be about win-win situations. You don't give up much to move forward. By the time you commit to the thing, the pricing is normalized, and the kinks are all worked out.

You buy it, it works, you don't think much about it, and civilization advances.

Take, for example, TVs. The first 65-inch 4K TV went on sale in 2014 for $10,000. Today? You can get one on Black Friday for $279.99.

Every piece of tech you have was flawed at first.

The first 8K TV (88-inch) went on sale in 2019 for $42,200. How many years from now will we be buying those for less than $300 – three, five?

The same goes for expensive electric cars, and at first, we had only a few destination recharge stations. That has all changed in 2020 as prices keep dropping, and there are now nearly 16,000 Tesla Super Chargers.

Back in 2005, right as the super-thin Motorola Razr was hitting mainstream success, I got a big, bulky Palm Treo 650. The Treo 650 weighed 179 grams — nearly twice that of the Razer v3 — and it had 100 percent worse battery life. It also didn't look so hot in a front pocket. Hello, belt holster!

Are these examples of products only purchased by early adopters who were dumb and bad with money? Maybe. But the more significant point is without them, those technologies don't move forward.

Surface Duo takes two steps forward, one step back

When it comes to the Surface Duo, the potential promise is clear: a new way to work while mobile.

The idea behind information management and having multiple displays is not lost on anyone who works in an office. For many years, I worked with three screens on my desktop because it made it easier to manage the Windows Central team (via Slack), work on my content (Word, web), and never miss social (Twitter, email).

Using three displays was so compelling, I hated working on laptops; I couldn't wrap my head around moving from three 27-inch displays to one 13-inch one.

I'll always defend and proselytize new tech. I'm not here to promote the status quo.

That's the promise of Surface Duo. It's not just a "cool" device. Having dual displays where we can have a Skype call on one side and a document or PowerPoint on the other is valuable. Being able to manage email with the list on one screen and open emails on the other is more efficient. The ability to flip the phone into landscape to type while having a full display on top brings back why, for years, we all loved slider smartphones.

And yeah, the older I get, the more I care about making stuff rather than consuming it. I don't listen to podcasts, read a lot of reviews, or watch what content others are making — I'm too busy trying to make own. I need hardware that facilitates that.

I've always been interested in technology that lets me do something new. (As a teenager with a pager back in '95, everyone thought I was a drug dealer.) But early on, all new technologies have had trade-offs.

The first cell phone was $4,000, had 30-minutes of talk time, and basically worked nowhere. The first iPhone? It didn't even have an app platform, let alone apps, by design.

In 2004, you were weird if you had a smartphone. In 2020, you're weird if you don't. Early adopters made that happen.

The original Surface was slow, ran too hot, had lousy battery life, and it wasn't a great tablet. Windows Phone had missing apps forever. The amazing new Surface Pro X can't run 64-bit apps. The Treo 650 had to be charged every day versus twice a week for the Razr, and PalmOS was notoriously crashtastic.

I stuck with those technologies not because I love agony, but because those devices let me do things other ones could not. A part of me advanced by using them. Because of that, I'll always defend and proselytize new tech.

An investment in the future

The Surface Duo is the first of a new category device. It's what a smartphone would look like if making phone calls wasn't the essential feature. There are a lot of unknowns including whether it will be any good. That's the fun part.

Yes, the camera is important to me. I'm a hobbyist photographer. I shoot with a Nikon Z6 with a cache of prime Nikkor glass. I, too, like to document the lives of cats and what I eat on Instagram.

But if using the Surface Duo gives me a new capability, lets me do my job more efficiently, and is just fun to use, I can give up that camera. That doesn't mean you have to, and that's OK.

Related: Microsoft's Surface Neo may be niche, but it's definitely not doomed to fail

In a perfect world, I wouldn't have to make a sacrifice. But I'm an early adopter; that's our albatross. All technology starts as two-steps forward, one step back. Every piece of tech you have was likely terrible at first. It didn't get better because no one bought it. That happened because a few people took the risk early on to help the rest move forward. You're welcome.

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.

  • I realize some reading this will be cynical in saying I'm just getting people ready for disappointment. To that, I'll just say not really. As I explained on Twitter my guess about the camera quality here is just based on history and reality, not from any inside info we have yet on the Duo's camera. For instance, we actually know nothing about it. Nothing. Not the amount of megapixels, pixel size, sensor size, if it's a custom sensor, lens science, computational algorithms, whether Google helped them. Etc. Those are all unknowns, There could be a chance that the Duo's camera is pretty good? Microsoft does make good camera for Surface, did some crazy stuff with imaging for Kinect and HoloLens, etc. But, back to reality, I think it is very unlikely the Duo's camera will rival iPhone, Huawei, Samsung, or Google Pixel. The question then becomes How good is good enough?, which is a personal opinion. The only question for me is whether the Surface Duo lets me do things I couldn't before. If yes, then a less than great camera could be acceptable for myself. If the Duo is bad as productivity or being useful then the camera is just another nail in it and it's back to the drawing board.
  • For me good enough will mean being able to take photos of documents taken while out in the field and be able to read them clearly.. that's usually my benchmark..
  • Quite the same for me.
  • Or taking a picture of a label inside a furnace in a closet with poor lighting. Or a picture of a bad piece of plumbing in a wall with lots of crap in the way. Productivity allows me or one of my employees to perform a task without us both in the same location talking about the problem.
  • As you say, "How good is good enough?". I haven't felt any phone I have owned since my Lumia Icon has taken bad photos. Some are better than others, and each gen of phone is better than the last, but if this can match my old Icon, I would be more than satisfied.
  • While I don't disagree with your point, let's face it--the camera isn't the biggest thing for a lot of people. It is for ME, which is why I early adopted all the Lumia phones -- particularly the 1020. Nobody makes an undisputable best camera these days. Each manufacturer has certain advantages, but nobody makes a device where virtually everyone looking at pictures and video from the camera, saying "nothing holds a candle to this device". And, as I posted earlier, if someone wants to adopt a new thing just so they can say they adopted the new thing or because it really adds a capability they felt was lacking in the current tech, fine. I've seen NO device bringing new capability that I've wanted, much less needed. In fact, virtually all the new ideas end up lacking features that ARE important to why should I buy them?
  • I loved my 1020. I was really waiting for an updated Lumia 1520 that had an updated version of the 1020s camera. Sadly it never came into being.
  • If it is worse than the camera on Lumia 950/950 XL, I won't upgrade from my trusty Lumia 950 XL.
  • To be fair, I'm sure it won't be a bad camera. Which is sort of my point. NOBODY makes a superb camera. They simply don't. They make good cameras, more or less. But not a single OEM is producing a smartphone with a camera that is so amazingly awesome at pictures and video that virtually nobody can dispute it. Sorry. So, for those who actually find something useful in the Duo---I absolutely don't---whatever camera comes on it is going to be fine for them.
  • I don't need a great camera. I do need a decent one. I'd take something similar to a mid-range phone. Nokia 7.1 is what I have now and it works well enough. I don't use my phones camera too much though.
  • Agreed, decent and not necessarily have to be great.
  • Well said Daniel!
  • Yeah, all new extreme tech requires trade-offs, but Microsoft better have an answer for what you’re getting in exchange for a less than perfect camera.
  • While I do understand the core message you're conveying, I still believe it doesn't entirely excuse Microsoft from at least TRYING to include a decent camera, since it is STILL a pretty important factor for people who are purchasing devices like the Duo (and not just to take pictures of their food). Some professionals use their smartphone cameras as an impromptu scanner to take pictures of documents, and having a decent lens/resolution would make the Duo a more compelling productivity option. In my opinion, it isn't really that high of a bar to meet. It just has to be "good enough". I wouldn't expect a first-gen Surface Duo to take pictures that make me go "ZOMG DA DETAILZZ!!" If it's at least as good as the cameras on the Surface Go, I will personally be a happy camper. People who want ultra-high detailed photography are better off getting a DSRL camera or something. So, I believe Microsoft can deliver a decent camera; they already have on my Surface Go, maybe they can pull it off on the Duo, too.
  • "I still believe it doesn't entirely excuse Microsoft from at least TRYING to include a decent camera"
    Not saying they shouldn't or even aren't trying. Razer and Essential tried very hard too, but try != successful either. Samsung, Apple, LG, Huawei all tried but none got the camera right on version 1, 2, or even 3 of their hardware. Samsung didn't get good until v6. OnePlus is still, at best, just OK by today's flagship standards and it's not for lack of trying (or investment).
  • Well, I have a bit more faith in Microsoft as a billion-dollar company with more talent and money than Razer, Essential, and OnePlus (not saying those three companies suck, but you gotta call a spade a spade) to give us something great. Just using a Surface device immediately reminds you of the talent/know-how the Microsoft hardware team possesses, and I am fairly confident that the camera can be at least as decent as even the cheapest Surface (Go). If they don't get it right, it won't be the end of the world, either. I would probably be too busy playing with the screens to even notice the camera quality, lol.
  • For me if the camera isn't at least as decent as the Lumia 950 XL then it's a non-starter for me. Having a decent camera in 2014 was an option. Having a decent camera in 2020 is a necessity. There's a reason why companies have been pushing for better and better front facing and rear cameras. People's lives are being shared through images and many apps rely on having a good camera. It would be unfortunate for Microsoft to give us the "apps we want" but skimp out on the camera we need. Fortunately I think Microsoft realizes this. Though I wouldn't be surprised if they came out with two versions, one with a low end selfie camera and one with a dual camera setup.
  • HOw many times have I used the camera on my Surface? How about never. I am sure MSFT has enough data to determine how often people use a camera on a smartphone. The answer is alot. But my big question is how will the camera work? Will the camera be on the outside or inside surface? If on the outside, it would be pretty awkward to have the Duo partially opened to take a picture. I imagine the camera will be on the inside of the Duo and you will have the fold the Surface Dup inside out to allow you to take a picture--just like we use the smartphone today. So two cameras at the top of each screen? I can hear the complaints now. Wow I hate the two notices on the top of both screens. I hate the huge bezel on the top and bottom of each screen, etc. Maybe with two cameras using hello you will have a much higher accuracy on face recognition.
  • OnePlus has an amazing standard Android smartphone to make up for their second tier camera; MS will have a wild card of an Android smartphone, that NEEDS a great camera to entice people to take a chance on the rest of the package. That is, if they plan on selling more than a few ten thousands...
  • I still prefer a good camera on my phone, then again, MS had great api camera app that justified the old lumia phones with Windows Phone 8. As long as they have great software running the camera, it will be fine.
  • A couple of things: 1. I'm hopeful that the partnership with Google will help out here. Perhaps, that relationship will bring Pixel like computational photography to the Duo. 2. If this is for creators, then I think a good camera is important. Most content these days has images, photo or video. Unless I'm making $$$, I don't like carrying around my Sony Alpha, so my fingers are crossed that Duo will be dream device, including at least a good, if not amazing, camera.
  • I, too, am an early adopter. You get some lemons, you waste some money, but your point is spot on in that the whole point of the excitement and of being an early adopter is being able to do what no one else can. If nobody adopted any product until it was perfect, everything would cost more and take longer to get to market due to years of testing and focus groups. Early adopters willingly submit ourselves through heck to work out bugs and ensure someday down the line you get a great product at a great price. The only question is not whether I will buy a Duo, but when.
  • The worst recent phone camera I had was on my HP Elite X3, that was probably it's weakest feature. If the camera on the Duo is as good or hopefully better than that camera, I am in providing my service provider will support the device. My HP Elite X3 died and my Galaxy S10+ has a better camera than my Elite X3 ever did, but the reality is I don't use the camera that often so it is a lower priority for me. I would be interested to know if Launcher 10 or Square Home launchers will work on the Duo? For me that is the thing I must have. Great article Daniel, I have spent money on things that turned out not great, Surface RT and some other tablet I purchased as a buy in with it's own OS that was never supported, it happens.
  • I mentioned in the other thread that basically so long as the camera can function in a business sense so scan documents and scan documents fast as well as stuff like translation and all that jazz, the rest of the camera can be passable. It's a pointless device (imo, before people lose their ****) from a consumer perspective so photos are a tertiary function.
  • I'm smiling as I'm reading this on my Galaxy Fold 👍🏾
  • Wouldn't buy this if it had the best camera in the world... I have loads of defunct poorly supported mobile and wearable MS products lying around... One bitten...
  • So how much scroogle and apple crap do you have laying around as well? That is what I thought.
  • What hardware have Google or Apple made that was killed off early in it's life cycle?
  • This is Android though and that is half the reason Microsoft went the Android route, a lot of people will remember the sad demise of windows phone, this is a freshish sort of start, and i don't see Android operating system going anywhere, any time soon, Android has the apps that we want and Microsoft will give is stellar apps of their own, for the Duo I'm personally cannot wait to pick up one this year 👍
  • Dual screens is intriguing, except I can already see two apps side by side on an iPad tablet... still if it solved the fact iPad side by side app trick doesn’t work with two ebooks at the same time I might be more intrigued . I always have the problem that the diagram that is being described on current page of ebook is on another page that needs to be open at the same time, so then you need to keep memorizing and flipping back and forth... then you want to toss your iPad out the window because it sucks too much....but, if you need to surf the web and read and read an problem iPad does that already... you don’t even need a dual screen... seems to me that was the selling point of window 8 commercial in 2012? Haha stupid Apple people windows 8 tablet can open to crappy windows 8 metro apps next to each other...makes me wonder why it matters to have duo screens... I guess because android is more crippled then iPad and windows 10?
  • Android supports dual apps multitasking since ages but on a single screen phones it is useless because screen real estate is way less than tablets. You can't fit ipad in your pocket but surface duo would fit in pocket at the same time provides tablet like dual screen multitasking experience.
  • What you are talking about is a function of the OS and the apps. There are some iOS apps that allow for multiple instances of the same app now. It must also allow for those multiple instances of the same app to open the same file, to do what you want. Windows doesn't always do that either. Open Word, open a doc, open a second copy of Word and try to open the same doc. This is an easier problem in browsers as the 'document' you are opening isn't really a single entity. You can open the same web site on Safari and edge, or two instances of Edge easily.
  • Working in QC for a company that makes makes high end hand made products I use an iPad everyday with a Windows client to interface with our job tracking software (one of those no frills utilitarian custom pieces of software that looks like something out of the MSDOS era). I really think this form factor would work better for my workflow but I also need at least a better than average camera on my phone to document various issues and processes. This device seems designed for Enterprise and there are many instances in which a good camera is required. That being said I don't think the duo will fall short of my needs.
  • This made me laugh:
    "(one of those no frills utilitarian custom pieces of software that looks like something out of the MSDOS era)" This describes much of the government provided software we use for disbursing student loans.
  • When Microsoft bought Nokia's phone division, I am pretty sure I remember that they acquired their camera technology and patents (as well as the team). In canceling Windows Phone, they stopped production and laid off staff, but they retained the technology. Even if they have not developed the camera hardware and software any further since, I will be quite satisfied if the Duo comes out with the same excellent 21 Mpx camera as on the 950xl. There's no excuse for doing less, and I still wish the camera on my Note 9 were as good.
  • I think you maybe right. The cameras on the Lumia and 950 were better than most and better for several generations of rivals.
  • Yes they were, surprisingly the new nokia can't seem to duplicate the same camera.
  • The "new Nokia" is a different company that just licenses the name, but Microsoft still has all the technology from the real Nokia phone division.
  • Fair article. For me, I don't take many pictures anyway, so the camera doesn't matter much. Would it be great if it was top-of-the-line? Sure. But as long as there IS a camera (so I can take pics when I have to, like of appliance serial numbers I need to send to warranty departments or minor items I text to my wife), I'll be fine.
  • That is my point. This is a device for businesses and busy people. Those people need things like Office Lens and Google Lens. So it should have a basic camera at least.
  • Surface duo is 4.8 mm thin that means Microsoft can't put as big camera sensor as current flagship phones which are normally 7 to 9 mm thin plus they also have camera humps. So it's foolish to expect blockbuster cameras like past lumia phones. But as shown in their patents about camera design for foldable phones they can split camera hardware in to both halves of surface duo that means they can provide some extra lenses & camera hardware that helps it to become good enough all rounder camera which might not capture as much details as latest flagships but it should be able to capture decent pics in all conditions specially low light & have all popular camera software tricks like current flagship phones. That said a mediocre camera can't be accepted at any cost.
  • Depends on price? As if its the same cost as a high end IPhone, Galaxy 20 or Note Microsoft could argue that to keep the price competitive they had to sacrifice the camera if they need to? but if its significantly dearer then people would expect a descent camera as well to justify the cost. My issue is more Android updates & length of Microsoft support.
  • It would make my morning news/info catch up way easier.
    Android Central on one screen and windows central on the other. News app on one and commodity prices app on the other. I wonder if they can make the YouTube app ahow a full screen video on one screen and comments on the other.
  • YouTube works same way as you described in available dual screen phones like zte axon m & lg g8x thinq.
  • That's great. Surface should end up the same.
  • I would imagine it would be a decent and at the very least, on par with the current Surface cameras. My point, I don't think we have to worry too much about it being a good camera and that will be just fine for many that have a use for a device like the Duo. I think the issue for many is whether or not it will have a rear facing camera. As I've stated in other posts, the only way to do this, would be to have a camera on both screens. If they could bump the pixels up to 12mp for both cameras and give it everything Dan said in his comment, it will certainly be good enough for a device like this, IMHO. The goal is to be a productivity device and not focus on things like competing with iPhone or Google Pixel in picture taking. The Duo will obviously not be the device for those whose focus is picture taking. With that said, having the best camera isn't a concern for me, with a device like this. I'm confident it will have a pretty good camera. As Dan mentioned, my focus will be on the new user experiences. Multi-tasking on my phone, without having to split an already small screen, would be great. Despite the screen size on my Note 8, multi-tasking is not enjoyable or truly useful. I think it's been mentioned and shown in their teaser video that it will be able to use the Surface pen, as well. I hope this will be the case. That would probably be the only thing that would make me hesitant to buy this device.
  • It needs at least a basic rear camera, for Office Lens and scanning apps. Businesses need that.
  • It can't have a rearfacing camera, without putting a screen on the outside of the device. If adding a third smaller screen isn't an option, then the only thing else to do is to put a camera on each screen. That would be a reasonable solution for a two screen folding device, like the Duo.
  • I don't get it. If the camera is facing you and you need a rear facing one, turn the device around. With two screens, front and back, you can view the camera on either or both. That's software. Now, if you need the rear facing view and the selfie view simultaneously, that's a different requirement.
  • No great camera, no upgrade for me.
  • Same here, camera is probably the thing I use and enjoy the most on my smartphone. Currently on P30 pro
  • Shared Camera
    For Heypple
    For Cookies
    For You
    For Office
    For nothing
  • Needs social buttons everywhere
  • Dear god I hope not
  • Cameras in Smartphones are overrated. Change my mind.
  • I have a Huawei mate 20 x and, basically, I bought it due to the screen size and, more importantly, the amazing camera. I'd love to buy the duo... but i won't if the camera isn't at 'least' as good as the one I have right now.
  • Camera's are as much about the software these days, as the hardware. Most camera's take decent pics in good lighting, and the nightshot is basically all software. Most phones get ports of gcam at some point, so even if the software is not as good, eventually it won't matter. However, I doubt it will have zoom, wide angle etc. So for photo hobbyists that might be a minor downer.
  • I'm in agreement with Daniel. The camera doesn't have to be so spectacular if the accompanying software is up to the task. For instance, my current and last Windows phone is an Acer Jade Primo and the camera is not Lumia-grade by any stretch yet when CamScanner still worked, it produced better PDFs than any of my Android or iPhones could. I have to take many jobsite photos on a daily basis and the camera on my HP x2 is barely serviceable while my Surface Pro was garbage. For this reason I also need to have an iPad handy if the pictures require more details than usual. Using my smartphone is not an option because making annotations on the fly are not what you would call easy. No, the Note 9 was not up to the task regardless of how good that camera is. For my productivity needs, the Duo would be an awesome alternative to a heavy-ass tablet/computer. If iOS would ever get around to making attachments an integral part of the email process they'd be incomparable but that's another story altogether.
  • "If iOS would ever get around to making attachments an integral part of the email process they'd be incomparable but that's another story altogether." Huh? Attachments are easy on my iPads. I am using Outlook.
  • Outlook is not an Apple product. I was referring to the baked-in client which is about as useless as t!ts on a bull. As for Outlook on iOS, you still can't use custom ringers for different accounts and the Calendar doesn't sync with the onboard calendar app. If those issues are acceptable to you then that's great.
  • The point is, this is not as iOS issue. Its an app issue. I use Outlook for my personal email account. The Apple Mail app is used for work emails (its a work phone). So the work emails and calendar do sync. All of my meetings are in the calendar. I don't need a calendar sync for personal emails, since no one emails me. We all use text messages (iMessage) for personal stuff.
  • I look back at the shots I took with my 920 and they still look good (a few are prints around my house). The camera on the Duo will be fine, just probably not a flagship. However, I am not paying a flagship price for the camera.
  • What I don't get is the "I wasted money on X." I had PPC through W10M and enjoyed all of them for years. I had a Band and used it well for a couple of years. After each of them I moved on. It is like people who had VCRs or DVD players lamenting their investments.
  • This article has me scratching my head. In the past, Daniel and others have consistently said that it's proper for MS to keep delaying the Surface Phone because it needs to be done right if it is to be successful. A camera is a pretty important part of a modern day smart phone. But now the message seems to be, "Don't worry too much if an important part isn't that great because, hey, that's life for early adopters." The message seems to be shifting.
  • I agree. MS has been working on this hardware for years, plus they have Lumia technology. At this point there isn't an excuse for a low end camera. It doesn't have to be the best out there, but certainly on par with the average cell phone of today.
  • Well, they have 4 year old Lumia technology. Not having a smartphone, and not many of the folks associated with the Lumia cameras anymore, that technology has stagnated. Others, Samsung, Google, have moved on. There are still some things my 1020 does better than some current cameras, but not many.
  • The message absolutely is shifting. Daniel can be a Microsoft apologist at times. This is one of those occasions; it's pre-emptive in the chance the camera is not great, but can be ignored if the camera is great.
    The camera needs to be excellent if the phone is carrying a cost premium. Nothing less is acceptable in 2020.
  • For me I'm looking forward to the multitasking with, I'm not big on taking photos on my phone but I hear everyone else's concern. I have a dual monitor setup at home, am always multitasking on it so the Duo & Neo appeal to me. I think MS should simply focus more on the inside camera because you can simply flip the phone and use the other screen for taking the photos & adjusting settings. The fact that ppl focus on the rear camera where I see millions of selfie pics on social media. I say focus on front facing camera add a flashlight and call it George, matter of fact put a camera on both screens. Done
  • The Duo not having a top of the range camera is no deal breaker for me. I prefer a device that allows me to be more productive for work. I don't really take many pictures.
  • I with you Daniel, I give zero f***s about a camera. I barely take pictures, and frankly it's the software that does 90% of the work on a phone, and that can improve with time. Give me the dual screen and some productive functionality, get me back to reading books and comics the way they are meant to be read again, make teams meeting calls while on the go interesting, make xcloud work without having to pack a controller. Thats what I'd dig
  • 1 step forward, 2 steps back. Yes, its a phone. Sort of. Actually its a tablet. An Android tablet. With a crappy camera.
  • I don't see why there seems to be a consensus on yeah, let's settle something with an average camera. We all know that this device will come at a premium. Microsoft clearly has the tech capability to put a good camera in this device but may be choosing not to. Sure, we are all happy to make certain sacrifices for tech advances. I think back to the typing experience on a Surface Pro 1 touch cover as an example of this. Or the app gap on you know every one of the 5 or so Windows Phones I purchased. But if the tech is there and there is no reason not to include a good quality camera then why not do it? If it means an extra $100 so be it. Lumias were known for their good cameras at the time, Surface devices on the other hand are below par. MS needs to get something good happening here and the phone crossover form-factor is where it is most important. I know that if it is anything less than the quality on my Galaxy S8+, I won't consider this device. The camera is an essential part of a smartphone for me, a reason that I was such an enthusiast with Lumias in the first place. I'm very excited for the Duo, and to finally be able to replace my phone with another MS product, but MS should know that a camera isn't a concession everyone is going to want to make.
  • Very well written Dan! You very much hit on all of the points of early adoption on the head. I have always been that person amongst family, friends, coworkers, etc who was the odd man out with regards to personal tech. I was the first person to have a cell phone, a Nokia with a flip over the keyboard (sorry I can never remember the model number), that was offered through my local Cellular One store for $300 on a 2 year contract back in 1999. This was definitely a home phone replacement as I had to have a long distance calling plan to call the next county over. I went on to have 4 traditional cell phones between 1999 and 2006. I went through periods of time where I couldn't afford to keep the phones activated and only used them as alarm clocks (I was even early to that!), so they would always stay at home if inactive. It was during this time period that I largely lost my interest in personal tech and become obsessed with computers, enterprise tech and networking. This is when I would open a Dell catalog and for the first time see a Pocket Pc, a Dell Axim. At that moment this became the new obsession. I sold my first pc, a tower of parts I got from a friend and had to learn to assemble. I used the proceeds to buy what would be the future. About 3 years later the Treo 700w arrived and I quickly jumped on that. At that point I managed to acquire a pair of over the ear bluetooth headphones from Motorola, a high capacity spare battery and an sd card. Those 3 items, along with the phone, I would tell people that this is the future. I had unlimited high speedish internet access, the biggest memory card I could afford loaded up with content. I never looked back. I would slowly add and remove computers and some personal tech back into my life, but the core of it when I walked out the door has always been 1 device that does it all. I could always remember my friends and family with the feature phone of the day having better sound or a better camera, or whatever it was, but I didn't care. Many of them were amazed at my "tiny computer" or how the early version of Microsoft Research software could read back my calendar appointments. There were of course the critics who would say "I have a PC at home, why would I need one in my pocket?" To this day I'm the "weird one who uses a pc phone" at work. Just recently I retired my Hp Elite x3 and went back the my roots by hacking my Lumia 950xl with Windows 10 Pro. This to me is almost the perfect device. I'm back the days of having to live on a charger and I will have to carry a couple of pre-charged spare batteries to make it through the day, but I wouldn't have it any other way!
  • I'm an early adopter for things that actually make sense to me. Sadly, where Microsoft is concerned I've more often than not been left hanging out to dry--the Surface Pro (so far) being the one exception. I used to build my own machines, grabbing up the new processor, new video card, etc., as soon as they came out. Eventually it made little sense to do that. Very little of what Microsoft and other companies are tossing out there as the next big thing do anything to excite me. I'm not going to adopt just for the sake of saying "hey, look at ME, I've got the latest thing and you don't". I don't CARE. If a new idea makes sense to me, I'm cool with early adoption. But I'm finding these days that what I really want out of tech is SO far ahead of what the overwhelming majority want, I'm not going to waste my time with interim garbage. Nothing about the Duo provides any value-added capability to me. Nothing. If it does for other people, well, goody for you.
  • I don't know about the Surface RT, but the original Surface Pro ran great (imagine running Starcraft II, at a playable framerate, at 1080p in 2013--because that's what you could do). Battery life could've been better, but heat really wasn't a problem compared to other Ultrabooks. Probably why they sold out in the UK that quickly. It doesn't mean the Surface Pro 3 wasn't a big leap forward--yes, technology got better in 3 years--but the original Surface Pro was excellent.
  • It's not like the battery in the RAZR could have been used to power the Palm Treo 650. There were no other batteries at the times that you could put into the Palm Treo 650 to give it comparable battery life to the RAZR. We do have magnificent cameras that Microsoft could use. The camera going into the Samsung S20 for example seems like it will be great. So Microsoft if they wanted to could have a fantastic camera because it's not something that hasn't been invented yet whereas powerful small batteries were not a thing yet for the Treo.
  • I get where you're coming from to a point. An early adopter is taking their chances to a certain extent. That's the same with a lot of things. I never want to but the a car the first year it comes out or the first year after a remodel. If I did do that anyway I would still expect the windshield wipers to work right off of the lot. For a smartphone a camera is as standard as windshield wipers are on a car so I would still expect it to work and on a premium model, as I'm sure the Duo will be, I would expect it to work pretty well. Perfectly? No. But marginally is too low a bar for a premium device.
  • This is a fantastic piece by Daniel! I could jump into the fray of the debate and explanative rebuttals, but I wanted to just comment on how much I admire the approach and execution here. Great job getting the point across!
  • Business won't care but this will hurt consumer sales. We're all used to a decent phone and decent camera in our pocket. It doesn't need to have multiple good lenses but it needs to have one! I'm really interested in this but I'd think twice if the camera was poor. The lenses on my S10 are a revelation.
  • Dan, I feel the same way you do in this article. However, though I can't wait for Neo and Duo to come out, I am going to wait a few months to see what kind of issues arise once it gets in the mass market. But I know I will be getting both. Both will work well for my line of work. I was so impressed when the demo's of both products at the October show. I kind of forgot about the other products the showed. Even with the calling feature now in the Your phone app, Neo is a powerful tool for the mobile user. I can't wait for my first meeting with the Neo and a pen taking notes instead of taking a note pad or a laptop. Now if Microsoft can just get Cortana working to truly be an assistant and help with meeting notes.
  • I love the Duo and used Windows Phone for 7 years. My windows Phones always provided cutting edge cameras for the time and I don't see why Microsoft would backtrack on that. If I'm walking around with a device in my pocket I want to be able to take decent pictures. For me, it's one of the main uses for the device. So no decent camera, no purchase.
  • As long as it's respectable, I'm cool with it. If it's a junk 1.2MP camera from a phone from the early 2000's, then it may be a point of contention. If it matches what I get on my Lumia 950XL, I'll be completely happy.
  • Well this model its a new genre defining device and it would certainly drop in quality reputation if it has a crappy camera. Since camera quality is related to high end mobile phone devices. it has to have at least a good sensor so that third party apps can pull the high end camera features to compete with others. like for example the Poco Phone F1. But this will be a high end product and should be considered like one. i just hope its not a crazy $2k like the other brand just because it has another screen. that doesn't translate to twice the price!!
  • I really don't care if Surface Duo's camera is bad either - because I, along with 99.999999% of earth's population won't be buying a Duo. LOL - don't care what the do with it. I wonder if Satya will be personally leading the the new iPhone funeral procession through the Microsoft campus when the Duo launches. Skip to 11:30 to see the last iPhone funeral. Or maybe they will just skip the iPhone funeral this time...
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  • This is a strange article. It's like you've found out the camera is trash for some reason and you're doing damage control. I get that you're suggesting it's okay for MS to not offer an industry leading camera, but I don't understand why you go to a 'bad' camera so quickly? Why can't it easily be a solid camera? The Redmi Note 8 is $155ish. It has a decent camera. I'd imagine the MS camera will be better than that. Which is solid. am I missing something?
  • For me to buy the Duo, it needs to do the following things:-
    1) There has to be a way to receive calls and check basic notifications when the device is closed inwards.
    2) It must have a top of the line Camera
    3) It must have developer support.
    4) Surface Pen (hopefully could be stored within the device) This device will most likely be quite expensive and for me it would only make sense if it can completely replace my Note 10+ (or whichever mobile phone I will have at that time)
    Sadly, one thing about the Duo that I think can't be fixed (I consider it an issue personally) is that you can't view media content (read videos, movies etc.) on both the screens combined without that hinge gap in the middle.
    Still, looking forward to what MS can bring to the table. Maybe the second generation (If MS doesn't kill it) would really be the one to look forward to!
    All the best to them!
  • I'll have to disagree with you, Dan. The Duo is not a revolutionary device,and by the time it will be released, it will likely be even less so. There is no valid justification NOT to put decent cameras into the Duo. If we were talking about adding some revolutionary tech, I'd agree with you, but having a very good camera is what consumers now expect. I expect it. The Duo needs to be good enough to replace a smartphone. If not, if it doesn't even match the mainstream, it's already lost the battle.
  • Reason to not care is.... NOT GONNA BUY IT 😅