Hands-On With Microsoft's $1,400 'Surface Duo' Dual Display Smartphone

As Apple prepares to unveil its new iPhone 12 lineup next month, Microsoft has launched the $1,400 Surface Duo, a foldable smartphone that offers two displays and is quite different from anything Apple has to offer.


We've checked out a few foldable smartphones like Samsung's Galaxy Fold and Galaxy Z Flip, so we thought we'd also take a look at the Surface Duo because foldable smartphones offer interesting new technology that we might eventually see from Apple.

microsoftsurfaceduo1
Unlike the Galaxy Fold that offers a single foldable display with the display technology covering the hinge, Microsoft has embraced the foldable design with two separate screens connected by a visible hinge, which is smart because Microsoft's Surface Duo isn't going to have the durability and creasing issues that have been seen with Samsung's devices.

microsoftsurfaceduo5
The Surface Duo is well built and a lot of attention was paid to the design of the hinge, which is no surprise given the price point. The Surface Duo and the hinge in particular feel high quality, and this is a foldable smartphone that resembles a premium, futuristic device. Even with two 5.6-inch screens (8.1 inches combined), the Surface Duo is surprisingly thin, but it's the hinge that stands out.

Microsoft did a solid job with the build quality of the Surface Duo, but the device's design is the best part about it because the software doesn't measure up. Microsoft uses Google-designed Android software, and the lack of integration between hardware and software hinder the user experience and it feels unfinished.

The Surface Duo is running a Microsoft-skinned version of Android 10. It offers the Android 10 features and some add-ons designed by Microsoft for the dual screen, but the operating system doesn't feel optimized for this two screen form factor. Microsoft and Google can improve the software over time with updates, of course, but at release, it's not ideal.

microsoftsurfaceduo4
Despite the poor software, the Surface Duo offers some notable usage benefits when it comes to productivity. Specific apps can be set up to launch at the same time with App Groups, so you can pair up OneNote and Outlook, a web browser and YouTube, and so on, which is ideal for multitasking, though some apps can also be opened across both screens for doing things like writing an email on one screen while also browsing through your inbox on the other. This feature isn't optimized for all apps though, which is a major downside.

microsoftsurfaceduo7
There are several Surface Duo usage modes. Book mode, as the name suggests, is when both screens are opened up like a book. Single Screen Mode lets one of the screens be flipped behind the other for a more traditional smartphone feel, while Compose Mode lets the Surface Duo be flipped into a laptop-like clamshell orientation. There's also a tent mode with the two sides positioned down into a tent shape for watching media content.

microsoftsurfaceduo2
For most usage, the Single Screen Mode that has one display stacked on top of the other feels most comfortable because most people aren't going to want to take a photo or chat with someone using a book-like form factor, but it can be useful to have the option to fold out another screen to get work done.

When it comes to specs, the Surface Duo is running year-old tech with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip, and it's limited to an 11-megapixel camera that's just not impressive when every other smartphone manufacturer is focusing on camera quality. It also has thick bezels that smartphone makers are moving away from, which is worth noting.

microsoftsurfaceduo6
Overall, the Surface Duo brings innovation in the smartphone space and we're interested to see where Microsoft's technology goes in the future, but given the $1,400 price point, the software issues, and the overall usability, this is not a device that's suitable for most people and not one that we'd recommend.

There have been some rumors suggesting Apple is exploring a foldable iPhone, and Apple has filed a few patents for foldable smartphone technology, but it's still unclear if this is technology that's going to stick around and if an Apple foldable iPhone will ever come out of the prototyping stage. We don't know when Apple might release a foldable ‌iPhone‌ if one is indeed in the works, but it's definitely not coming in the immediate future.

Top Rated Comments

grantew1 Avatar
13 months ago
I have been a microsoft surface supporter but I don't think this is going to do well, given the price and wow, it's two screens struck together. As mentioned, most people don't need this. At $1,400 dollars, you have much better options.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
FightTheFuture Avatar
13 months ago
Nothing excites people more about tech than making a good hinge.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TheYayAreaLiving Avatar
13 months ago
This looks like a beast to me. Go Microsoft!!!
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
nitramluap Avatar
13 months ago
Solution looking for a problem. Meh.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
thedarkhalf Avatar
13 months ago
A solution looking for a problem.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
topdrawer Avatar
13 months ago
now patiently waiting for the android 4 split screen. it will be something like this i imagine

Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

maxresdefault

Samsung to Reveal 'Most Powerful Galaxy Device' at April 28 Event, Likely Referencing New Laptops

Wednesday April 14, 2021 2:28 am PDT by
Samsung has teased a new Galaxy Unpacked virtual event on April 28 that will see the company reveal "the most powerful Galaxy" device, which very likely means new laptops rather than new Samsung smartphones. The next Galaxy phones aren't expected to surface for a while yet. According to a report by The Elec, the company is set to launch a Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 2 at a July event....
maxresdefault

Microsoft Pits Surface Pro 7 Against iPad Pro, Says Surface is 'Still the Better Choice'

Monday April 5, 2021 10:07 am PDT by
Microsoft today shared an ad that pits the Surface Pro 7 against Apple's iPad Pro, in a continuation of a Surface Pro 7 vs. MacBook ad campaign that kicked off in January. The ad highlights the Surface Pro 7's kickstand, pointing out that the iPad does not have a built-in kickstand option, and it calls the iPad Pro's keyboard "a lot heavier" than the Surface option. Microsoft also goes...
samsung experience 1

Samsung's 'iTest' Lets You Try a Galaxy Device on Your iPhone

Thursday April 8, 2021 12:42 pm PDT by
Samsung has launched "iTest," an interactive website experience that's designed to allow iPhone users to test out Android on a Galaxy device, or "sample the other side," as Samsung puts it. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. The iTest website is being advertised in New Zealand, according to a MacRumors reader who came across the feature. Visiting the iTest website on...
maxresdefault

Testing the Oppo Find X3 Pro's Microscope Camera Lens

Friday April 2, 2021 11:52 am PDT by
MacRumors is an Apple-focused site, but sometimes we like to share notable new features that Apple's competitors add to their devices, as a look at what Apple might explore in the future and just to keep tabs on what other companies are up to. Oppo recently released a smartphone with a microscope lens, and we thought it would be fun to check it out and see how it works in our latest YouTube...
iu 2

Microsoft Surface Duo Set to Arrive September 10 For $1,399

Wednesday August 12, 2020 6:10 am PDT by
Microsoft will launch its Surface Duo dual-screen Android phone on September 10, with prices starting at $1,399. Pre-orders will begin today at AT&T, Best Buy, and the Microsoft online store. The Surface Duo features two 4:3 OLED displays that are connected side by side with a hinge. Each display is 5.6 inches in size, which results in a 3:2 8.1-inch overall tablet-style screen size....
maxresdefault

Microsoft Targets MacBook Air's Need for Dongles, Lack of Touchscreen in New Ad

Monday April 26, 2021 9:40 am PDT by
Microsoft is out with yet another ad highlighting the new Microsoft Surface Laptop 4, but rather than primarily focusing on the features of the machine, Microsoft has chosen to pit it against Apple's MacBook Air. In the spot, the same Windows user who was in previous ads, shows off his new Microsoft laptop to his sister. She continually asks questions about how it compares to the MacBook...
Foldable iPhone 2023 Feature Yellow

Kuo: Apple to Launch 8-Inch Foldable iPhone in 2023

Sunday May 2, 2021 8:43 pm PDT by
Apple is working to launch a foldable iPhone with an 8-inch QHD+ flexible OLED display in 2023, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a note to investors that was seen by MacRumors. Based on our latest industry survey, we forecast that Apple will likely launch a foldable iPhone with an 8-inch QHD+ flexible OLED display in 2023, with SDC as the exclusive display supplier and Samsung Foundry...
microsoft to do feature

Microsoft To Do App Ends Support for iOS 12, Now Requires iOS 13 or Later

Tuesday April 6, 2021 1:55 am PDT by
In its latest App Store update, Microsoft To Do has ended support for iOS 12 and older, officially requiring that all users must be running iOS 13 or later in order to receive app updates. Microsoft To Do rose to popularity last year following the closure of Wunderlist and Microsoft's acquisition of the company. Since then, Microsoft To Do has been playing catch-up in attempting to keep...
Apple vs Microsoft feature

Rivalry Between Apple and Microsoft Heating Up Again Over Augmented Reality, Gaming, and More

Friday May 14, 2021 11:04 am PDT by
The iconic and industry-classic rivalry between Apple and Microsoft, which has arguably seen a slowdown in recent years, is poised to begin heating up as both companies target the future of augmented reality and renewed competition in the PC industry, according to an analysis from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Both Apple and Microsoft have strong ambitions for the future of augmented reality....
edge browser KM Night Mode

Microsoft Edge Gains New 'Kids Mode' for Safer Web Browsing

Friday April 16, 2021 3:33 am PDT by
Microsoft has released a new Kids Mode for its popular Edge browser that allows children to discover the web in a fun way while limiting their access to only approved sites. Aimed at pre-teens, Kids Mode can be accessed via the profile button in the toolbar, although it doesn't require a child account or a profile to use. It offers options for age ranges 5-8 and 9-12 years old. Both...