Microsoft has tried to make smartphones on several occasions — it even purchased Nokia’s Lumia mobile division in 2014. Despite that, Windows Phone succumbed to the market pressures of Android and iOS. Well, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Microsoft’s first Android phone is now available for pre-order, but it won’t be cheap. The Surface Duo is coming on Sept. 10, starting at $1,399.99. You can add $100 if you want to upgrade from 128 to 256GB of storage.
The Surface Duo is such an unusual device that calling it a phone doesn’t really paint an accurate picture. The device has a pair of 5.6-inch OLED screens attached to a 360-degree hinge. Each panel is 1800×1350, which is a 4:3 ratio. Together, the two screens create a viewable area measuring 8.1 inches diagonal at 2700×1800 (a 3:2 ratio). Each half of the device is surprisingly thin at 4.8mm, and the device is 9.9mm thick when closed. By comparison, Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy Z Fold 2 will be 16.8mm thick when closed.
In many ways, the Duo feels more like a tablet that happens to make phone calls than a smartphone. Case in point: It’s missing some of the notable smartphone features you’d expect for $1,400. There’s no NFC, and the Surface Duo runs on last year’s Snapdragon 855 ARM chip with no 5G support. The device itself will also be hard to use with one hand, even compared with very large smartphones like the Galaxy S20 Ultra. While Samsung’s flagship phone is a real hand-stretcher at 76mm wide, the Duo is 93mm wide when folded for single-screen use. It does offer tent, laptop-like, and stand modes for use on tabletops, though. It’ll also work with the Surface Pen stylus.
Microsoft is focusing its efforts on integrating all its software and services with the Surface Duo. Microsoft’s suite of Android apps like OneNote, OneDrive, Your Phone, and Word will all be pre-loaded on the device, and they’ll support dual-screen interfaces. Third-party apps mostly will not, but you will be able to create app pairs that will open with one app on each screen. Microsoft also worked with Amazon to make a version of the Kindle app that shows separate pages on the left and right displays like a “real” book. The Duo will also have Microsoft’s custom Android launcher, which you can install on your current phone.
The $1,400 asking price is high, particularly when it’s missing some notable smartphone features. Still, the dual-screen design might interest some people, and the Duo looks like a great phone for anyone deeply embedded in the Microsoft ecosystem. You can order the unlocked dual/eSIM Duo from Microsoft or get one from AT&T with single-SIM functionality.
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