Could Surface Duo bring Microsoft back into the smartphone realm or is it going to be another disaster?

The company’s last effort to make a smartphone of their own wasn’t so successful. They launched their last windows phone in 2016, which was a complete failure, and they are back after 4 years into the smartphone market with their Surface phone, but what are they doing differently this time, which could make it a success for the company?

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Photo by Mark Boss on Unsplash

First, they are not using any version of Windows 10 optimized for the phone. Yes, you heard it right, the company learned from their past mistakes, and they went with Android this time, “Smart move, Isn’t it”?

What else has changed?

They have a well establish Surface line of laptops and hybrid devices, and the same design language has been translated into their new Surface phone, it has an all-glass design, and it is the thinnest folding phone as it sits at 9.9mm of thickness when folded. But, With those curved corners it looks a Lil bit like a Nintendo 3DS XL, isn’t it?

The design of the phone is attractive, which can attract some crowd towards the phone, but, what about the people who are more focused on; what this device could do rather than, what it looks like. The main focus of the device is productivity and creativity, and Surface Duo is the sexiest device they have ever designed, says Panos Panay (Chief Product Officer of Microsoft).

So, what we need to understand is; they are targeting a specific customer base like many other companies and their devices. We have phones which only target gaming, for example, Asus ROG Phone and Nubia Red magic, etc, and then, we have phones which are more design-focused, for instance, Motorola’s Moto Razr and Samsung Galaxy z Flip.

Microsoft is targeting more executive customer base rather than everyday mobile users, but this does not mean that there is nothing for an average consumer in it. It could be an amazing device for someone who reads a lot, and dual-screen adds additional features such as taking notes while reading, a feature called app groups, you can create combos of your favorite apps, in case of reading it could be Kindle and One-Note, you can check 2 social media at once possibilities are unlimited. Surface Duo will lay the groundwork for future dual-screen devices — Panos Panay. As there are not a lot of apps optimized to work on this form factor yet, but Microsofts full office suite is optimized for the dual-screen functionality, and Google should have adapted to it as well.

Let’s talk about tech specs:

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Photo by Kvistholt Photography on Unsplash

Screen: Surface Duo is rocking dual 5.6″ AMOLED displays which have 401 PPI and it opens up and makes it an 8.1″ AMOLED display with 401 PPI, both the displays are separated by a little seam in the middle and, to be honest, the device has pretty big bezels to my taste.

Processor: The phone is using Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 855 chipsets optimized for the dual-screen mobile platform.

Battery: 3577mAh (typical) dual battery, it has 2 batteries underneath each screen which keeps the device sleek looking. According to the company, it will provide 15.5hrs of video playback time, up to 10 days of standby time, and up to 27 hours of talk time.

Connectivity: WiFi: WiFi-5 802.11ac (2.4/5GHz), Bluetooth: Bluetooth® 5.0, LTE: 4×4 MIMO, Cat.18 DL / Cat 5 UL, 5CA, LAA. Up to 1.2Gbps Download / Up to 150Mbps Upload.

Camera: The phone only has an 11 megapixel f2.0 camera which can record 4K and 1080p videos at 30 and 60fps with Gyro based digital image stabilization.

Speaker: Mono speaker, Dual Mic noise suppression, and echo cancellation.

Image of Surface Duo showing both the screens.

Microsoft did not follow anyone this time by designing all-screen folding phones like the competitors. We have seen the folding phones with all-screen implementation, such as the Samsung galaxy fold, Huawei mate X, and both the phones have that ugly crease in the middle, which I dislike and, I would rather go for a seam. That makes the device more durable and Practical.

The dual-screen adds the unique functionalities to the phone which are — Dual screen windowing, Adaptive modes, App Groups, etc. It has a 360-degree hinge which makes it more flexible and hence can be used in different ways to consume media. You can put it in a tent mode and watch a video. You do not have to hold the device in your hands to present something to someone because of the thoughtful design. Imagine playing games on this device, where you have the controls on one screen and gameplay on the other.

There are numerous possibilities, but is it enough? Well, the phone looks amazing, it may not do wonders for the company but they are definitely on the right path.

What could lead them to another disaster?

  1. Well, is it the right time for the company to launch a $1400 device when so many people do not have jobs and the economy is crumbling. Nobody would want to pay this hefty price for a smartphone during this pandemic, I won’t.
  2. At this price point, I would want flagship specs, but they went with Snapdragon 855, instead of 865. it doesn’t support WiFi 6 and 5G.
  3. The phone has 2 or 3 fewer cameras compared to the competition.
  4. The phone just have a Mono speaker; it has dual screens, batteries, why not a dual stereo speaker? I know you were working on this since last year but you had plenty of time to spec it up, Come on, Microsoft.
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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

In the end, It all comes down to how much money do you want to spend on a Smartphone, People are leaning more towards budget-friendly smartphones and most of the companies are trying to reach that customer base by launching an inexpensive smartphone, for example, Google Pixel 4a, Apple iPhone SE, OnePlus Nord, etc, and Microsoft did the opposite.

Once again, the Surface duo by Microsoft is a beautiful-looking device, and there is definitely a market for it. There are hardcore Surface fans out there who won’t care about price or the specs they would want to get their hands on one for sure.

Best of Luck, I hope you’ll do well this time.