Windows Phone is long dead, but that doesn’t mean Microsoft is out of the phone game. Last October, during its Surface Event, Microsoft teased an upcoming “foldable” phone dubbed the Surface Duo. Now the company is taking pre-orders. The two-screen hinged-system starts at $1,399 and will work on AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless networks.
While Samsung and Motorola have released true folding phones, Microsoft is going a different route. The Duo sports two 5.6-inch 4:3 OLED 1800 x 1350 displays married together by a hinge system. Together they form an 8.1-inch 2700 x 1800 screen with a 3:2 aspect ratio. But thanks to that choice, the Surface Duo’s displays are gorilla as opposed to the thinner glass and plastic solutions other foldable phones are using. It can also fold the entire way around. But Microsoft didn’t just slap two screens together and call it a day.
The company has spent the last several months working on its Office, Outlook, Teams, Edge, OneNote, OneDrive, and Microsoft To Do apps to support dual-screen usage better. Unmodified apps will still run since this is truly two displays married together. Microsoft says it has algorithms to determine which screen a single app should launch on, based in part on what you’re doing. If you click a link in your email app on one display, it will open the browser on the other screen.
Microsoft is promising you can mirror your Surface Duo to your Windows PC to extend its capabilities too. While not mentioned in the current documentation, the company has previously promised that the Duo will have virtual desktop capabilities.
In a lot of ways, even though its running Android, Microsoft’s work will make it act like a Windows setup with two monitors. Each display can act as almost a “different device” and run apps independently to get more done.
Until now, we didn’t know the internal specs or the camera’s capabilities. The Surface Duo features just one camera. It’s an 11 megapixel f/2.0 camera with auto modes for HDR multi-frame captures, low light, and a “super zoom” up to 7x. The Surface Duo can record at 4K or 1080p, at either 30fps or 60fps. The camera even includes electronic image stabilization.
Internally, Microsoft went with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, 6 GB of RAM, and up to 256 GB of storage. Microsoft stuck two batteries in the phone, one for each display that adds up to 3577mAh of capacity. That’s less than a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2, but Microsoft promises all-day battery life. You’ll also get a bumper-style case to protect the phone.
The phone doesn’t support 5G or NFC, which means it won’t support built-in payment systems. It does support the separately sold Surface Slim pen and Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox Game Pass Ultimate game streaming service.
Microsoft created an API to help developers support dual-screen devices on Android, and it plans to release them upstream so more manufacturers can take advantage too. If other manufacturers, like Samsung and Motorola, work with the APIs, that could lead to a win for everyone, no matter which foldable you choose.
Pre-orders begin later today through the Microsoft Store, Best Buy, and AT&T.