As interesting as it is as a concept, you might be wondering who the Microsoft Surface Duo is for. So Microsoft has released a 35-minute presentation detailing its new phone-not-phone device, contextualizing why you might want a Surface Duo.
It’s not a truly foldable phone like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2, which builds on the original Galaxy Fold with a seamless folding display, nor is it simply a smaller Surface Go 2.
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As such, you might be scratching your head at the Surface Duo’s slightly dated specification — it uses a Snapdragon 855 chip from 2019 — and its rather steep price; at $1,399, it's far more expensive than an iPhone 11 Pro or a Surface Pro 7. All this has left a lot of people, us included, trying to figure out who the Surface Duo is actually for.
Fortunately, Microsoft's deep dive answers a lot of those questions.
“We’ve built this product for Surface fans there’s no doubt about it,” said Microsoft’s chief product officer Panos Panay, “We’ve built it for people who love Microsoft Office, Teams, Outlook; it really does come to life. But it’s also for those people who use Android apps or mobile apps in general - that was critical to the product. But ultimately in building it, it was about productivity and creativity, but it was designed to fit in your pocket - that was super important.”
Panay waxed lyrical about the design of the Surface Duo and its hinge, but he enthused that the Surface Duo can do things that single-screen devices “can’t do, period.” That’s because using apps side-by-side and working across two screens, the “brain turns on in a different way” and allows people to accomplish more.
In effect, the Surface Duo is less about specs and hardware features and more about letting people get a lot more done, especially as unlike on a single-screen device you don’t have to dismiss apps on the Surface Duo as you have more space to play with.
Panay said the Surface Duo was designed to be “Microsoft you love and the Android you know” and went on to demonstrate the multitasking capabilities of the Duo and how easily it is to quickly span a Microsoft app across two screens and how such apps can also take advantage of two screens. The overall idea is how the Surface Duo uses its two screens to cleverly use both screens without requiring users to try and juggle apps and webpages on each screen.
The rest of the video further extols the virtues of this dual-screen approach to tablet-meets-phone productivity. And it all looks rather slick, though we'll need to put the Surface Duo through a full review before we draw any real conclusions.
So in essence, the Surface Duo is a device aimed at people who make heavy use of Microsoft apps and want to get the best out of them on a mobile device. With its hefty price tag, there’s an ‘early-adopters tax’ to pay here if you want to get a Surface Duo. But we suspect with subsequent generations, the Surface Duo could be more refined and potentially cheaper.
If you’re not so keen on Microsoft apps and want a straightforward smartphone then the Surface Duo won’t be for you. And that’s OK, as Microsoft seems to be using the Surface Duo more as a concept device as to where Windows 10 and Office apps can go next, potentially setting foundations for other dual-screen phone-meets-tablet devices to build upon.