We thought we knew what would show up at Microsoft’s Surface event — but no one expected the Spanish Inquistion, as Monty Python once joked, and we weren’t expecting a surprise phone announcement. Microsoft dropped jaw Tuesday morning with the annoucement of a new smartphone, a foldable Microsoft phone called the Surface Duo, powered by Android and developed in partnership with Google. But don’t expect it before the later part of next year.
Unlike other foldable phones, the Surface Duo doesn’t attempt to hide the split where its two screens meet. Instead, the hinge is celebrated, and this embrace of the naked hinge allows the phone to fold back entirely. It can fold completely closed, be opened like a book, or folded back so only a single screen is in use, It’s a design unlike any other folding phone on the market right now, and it’s clear Microsoft isn’t intending this to compete with other folding phones like the Galaxy Fold or the Huawei Mate X.
Apps can be opened on either display, and Microsoft showed off a variety of apps running side by side, with information being able to be dragged between the two screens despite the split. Most excitingly, the Surface Duo realizes the foldable phone dream a lot of us have been waiting for all these years — turn the phone horizontal and the bottom screen morphs into a keyboard, mimicking a laptop experience on your phone. Launch a game and the bottom screen becomes a game controller. Or just keep it vertical and read a book using both screens.
Outside the fold, it’s a slightly dated phone. Unlike the Galaxy Fold and Mate X, there’s no screen on the outside, while the two inner 5.6-inch displays are surrounded by some monstrously chunky bezels. To say it looks dated is an understatement.
There’s also no indication of whether extra camera lenses will be included in the final product. There’s a single camera lens on the right display, and it’s unclear whether the final version of the Surface Duo will include additional camera lenses. It’s possible Microsoft’s design may have proven a hindrance here, as the lack of an outer screen makes a camera on the outside oft he phone tricky to use without having the device fully unfolded.
As you might expect, the Surface Duo is integrated with Windows — so you’ll be able to easily jump between working on your phone and your PC. Microsoft was coy where specs were concerned though, and though it’s expected to be a powerful device, we won’t know for sure until closer to the release date.
There’s a reason we have so many questions, and it’s because the Surface Duo is clearly not close to release. It’s not likely to be released until the end of 2020, and with folding phones like the Galaxy Fold and the Mate X already here, and the Motorola Razr not far off, the Surface Duo could well be unfortunately out of date by the time it arrives.
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