The Surface Duo’s release date has been all over the place. When first announced last year, Microsoft said it was coming “Holiday 2020”. This date was bumped up to September 10, in part to challenge the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 in the folding phone arena.
But that date only applies to the US. Although the Surface Duo is certified for sale in Canada, the European Union and Japan, Microsoft hasn’t been forthcoming with a release date, simply saying that it’s taking “a measured and phased approach to availability to meet customer demand.” That, bluntly, could mean anywhere from ‘a few weeks afterwards’ to ‘never.’
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But according to Android Central’s Zac Bowden the current thinking within Microsoft is “the first half of 2021” assuming the phone’s sales meet Microsoft’s expectations. Bowden notes that “this plan is flud”, and it could come early if sales are going gangbusters. Presumably the opposite is true, too: if the Surface Duo turns into Microsoft Zune 2.0, it might never leave the US.
This vague window hasn’t prevented carriers from making plans, apparently. The report says that EE is planning on carrying the Surface Duo in the UK if and when it makes it to British shores, though it’s not clear if that’s an exclusive deal or not.
Worth the wait?
While it’s perfectly understandable that Microsoft doesn’t want to produce more units than it can sell — a call back to the bad old days of the Surface RT — this strategy is certainly a risky one. The longer wannabe early adopters have to wait, the less likely they are to be interested when the phone arrives.
This would be true about any handset to a degree, but it’s especially pertinent with the Surface Duo which isn’t the most current phone in terms of raw power. While the design is certainly innovative and new, Microsoft has housed components which are a bit longer in the tooth, with 2019’s Snapdragon 855 paired with 6GB RAM. If Microsoft’s 2021 plan is realized, the Surface Duo will be two processor generations behind rival flagships when it finally emerges.
Maybe that won’t matter. The Snapdragon 855 will still feel snappy in 2021, and the device’s appeal is more over its form than anything else. But even then, unless Microsoft drops the current $1,399 price before the Surface Duo’s overseas launch, the high cost of entry will feel even more significant in 2021 with other faster options nipping at its virtual heels.