Microsoft’s Surface Duo is finally shipping on September 10, and we now know just how much it’ll cost: $1,400. It’s a high asking price, making it difficult not to make comparisons to other phones. In a world of iPhones, Galaxies, and Pixels, the Surface Duo is a newcomer with a lot to prove. It’s the first dual-screen or foldable phone to hit the market either.
But Microsoft does have a few tricks up its sleeve. Backed up by its rich ecosystem of apps and a close relationship with Google, Microsoft has brought four features to the Surface Duo that hard to find elsewhere.
Two screen multitasking
Topping our list at No. 1 is two-screen multitasking, which has been billed by Microsoft as one of the top-selling points for
That isn’t physically possible on single screen phones, and split-screen multitasking often doesn’t quite cut it. But even on other dual-screen phones, like the LG G8X ThinQ or LG Velvet, your second screen gets treated as a separate space, or, a separate phone. The two screens do not really flow well together. You can’t easily “drag” your apps or content across either screen without an awkward three-finger gesture.
What about foldable phones like the Samsung Galaxy Fold, or the upcoming Galaxy Z Fold 2? Well, opening apps across the fold on the screen seems quite seamless. Thanks to a floating window that can be pulled out from the side of the phone, you can open multiple apps side by side (up to three.) However, in our review, we found that Samsung and Google could do a bit more work on optimizing the split-screen mechanics. They didn’t feel as fun or smooth as on a true tablet like an iPad.
All of these attempts run into the underlying limitations of Android. But with the
We haven’t tested it yet ourselves, but Microsoft has made things far easier — in concept. Opening and dragging apps looks intuitive and is a blend of what you experience on Android, iPadOS, and other dual-screen phones.
If you want to open up your mail app alongside your web browser, you just pull up on the dock. Open that app on one screen, and then pull up the dock on the other screen and choose your browser. Then, when you want to switch apps from one screen to the next, simply pull down on it, and drag it across the seam to the other screen. Finally, to span the app, just hold it across the hinge.
You can see Panos Panay demo this in the video briefing for the
Optimized Microsoft apps
When the dual-screen or foldable trend first started, a lot of smartphone makers and developers struggled to optimize their apps for the new devices. While Samsung and LG have since made improvements, this is an area where Microsoft has an upper hand. The Duo comes with a lot of first-party Microsoft apps made optimized specifically for the dual-screen setup.
A complete list of apps optimized for the
For instance, OneNote will span across both screens, showing you a list of notebooks on the left screen, and an area to ink and write on in the left screen. OneDrive, meanwhile, will show you a list of all your photos on the left screen, and then an individual photo on the right. Then, with the Outlook application, you can a list of emails on the left screen, and reply on the right. Finally, you can turn the Duo over 90 degrees, and use the Duo like a laptop, and reply to that email, too.
The focus here is on productivity and work, which is right in Microsoft’s wheelhouse. While some of the success of the
Link to Windows
Next up on our list is the Link to Windows functionality. Any single-screen or dual-screen Android phone can already sync up to Windows 10 with the Your Phone app on
While Link to Windows is also available on select Samsung phones, Microsoft has plugged a deeper Windows and Android integration right into the Duo hardware. Thanks to this feature, you don’t need to download the Your Phone Android app to sync up the Duo to Windows. From the notification panel, you just need to pull down, select Link to Windows, and sign in with your Microsoft Account. Then, on Windows, you’ll be able to boot up the Your Phone app and sync up your photos, videos, messages, and more.
It’s more than just ease of access. The
Microsoft is also working on a feature known as “Your Phone Apps” which will bring the apps in a seamless windowed mode to
You can see Microsoft executive Shilpa Ranganathan demo this in a video at around the 25-minute mark. She’s able to access both screens of the Duo on her PC and do everything she would on her Duo from her computer.
Various modes of use
Finally, are the multiple modes you can use
Just like LG’s dual-screen smartphones, that hinge means you can fold it over into a tent mode to watch a video. You also can use it in a laptop mode, with the virtual keyboard on the bottom. Or, like the
So no, this isn’t technically the only phone that can do that, but the
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