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Microsoft Surface Duo could beat Galaxy Fold 2 to launch

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Remember the Surface Duo? Microsoft is hoping you haven't forgotten about its folding phone — so much so that it's reportedly planning a launch event ahead of Samsung unveiling the Galaxy Fold 2.

In fact, we may only be two months away from the Surface Duo's release, according to a tweet from Windows Central's Zac Bowden.

The Surface Duo was first teased in October, during a massive Microsoft hardware event that unveiled several new Surface products aside from this phone (such as the Surface Laptop 3 and Surface Neo). The Duo is especially notable, however, because it is the first Microsoft-branded handset since the Windows Phone days — not to mention the first Surface handset ever.

We still don't know everything about the Surface Duo, but what we do know is that Microsoft was originally targeting a vague Holiday 2020 release for this device. We also know that the Duo is clearly a more conventional foldable than, say, the Samsung Galaxy Fold or Galaxy Z Flip.

Rather than incorporating a single flexible panel, the Surface Duo is more similar to classic, two-display foldables, like 2017's ZTE Axon M, or one of LG's more recent Dual Screen case-equipped flagships, like the LG V60 ThinQ 5G.

The Surface Duo employs a pair of 5.6-inch displays joined together by a 360-degree hinge, which means the displays can both be outward facing. Additionally, because those panels can pivot in either direction, the Duo only needs one camera lens, whether you're snapping shots of the world around you or selfies. The sensor behind that one lens will reportedly pack 11 megapixels, and the optic itself will feature an ƒ/2.0 aperture, according to Windows Central.

However, it probably won't be a 5G phone. When Microsoft first revealed the Surface Duo, the prototype used a Snapdragon 855 chipset, and it appears this will hold true for the final model as well. The Snapdragon 855 lacks the 5G modem that typically comes part-and-parcel with Qualcomm's newer Snapdragon 865 chip, so Surface Duo owners will likely be restricted to LTE-class downloads.

That's not the worst thing in the world right now, given that 5G speed benefits aren't quite as massive as carriers often make them out to be, but it could start to feel pretty old hat in, say, 2022, for those hoping to get several years out of their Surface Duo.

The Microsoft Surface Duo's peek feature in action

(Image credit: @h0x0d via Twitter)

That 855 processor will be supported with 6GB of RAM, which happens to be the same combination of CPU and memory as you'll find in Google's Pixel 4. And being a dual-screen phone, you can expect a lot of advanced multitasking software capabilities unique to the Surface Duo. Microsoft says it's worked closely with Google in optimizing Android for the Duo's unique hardware — adding functionality like the peek notifications feature you see above — though we likely won't see all the fruits of that labor until the final Duo is demoed in more extensive detail.

There are many big questions surrounding the Surface Duo, but one of the more interesting ones is how this device will look next to those ostensibly more futuristic foldables and their bending screens. I'll give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt and say that there are certain things the Surface Duo might be better suited for than Samsung's next foldable; the 360-degree hinge will make the Duo more versatile, no doubt, and the physical seam between the two panels might make multitasking a bit more natural.

However, two-screen phones have been done many times before to little commercial success and, at this point, one can only conclude that consumers simply aren't interested. Plus, it's hard to ignore that however interesting a phone like the Surface Duo might have looked five years ago, today it can't help but feel dated, especially with those chunky top and bottom bezels.

Still, we can't wait to get our hands on the Surface Duo. And from the sound of it, we may not have to wait long to do it.