When Microsoft first unveiled the Surface Duo, it surprised the tech world. While we were expecting a dual screen windows The device (also known as the Surface Neo), was a small Android phone that came as a shock.
Of course, the Surface Duo launched a year later, and while people appreciated its hardware, the OS experience was chaotic. For the Surface Duo 2, Microsoft thought its software problems had been discovered, but the second round of reviews may have been worse.
Fast-forward five months after its release, and the Surface Duo 2 is a completely different device, thanks to three core updates in December, January, and February. Improved performance, smooth animations, predictable behavior, it’s all…better.
Windows Central Executive Editor Daniel Rubino and Windows Senior Editor Zac Bowden had a chat about the Surface Duo 2 and Microsoft’s progress.
Let’s talk: Surface Duo 2
Daniel Rubino: So, Zac, five months later, and we’re still using the Surface Duo 2 as our primary phones. I praised the hardware changes in my original review, but regretted the constant touch sensitivity issues that drove me crazy, including swiping for notifications. But the last three software updates have made a huge difference. To me, the Surface Duo 2 feels like a standard Android phone now, except for that extra screen. Perhaps this will be the minimum for a premium device in 2022. However, there is no denying that Microsoft has made great strides in updating this phone and, in general, is getting better at updates. What is your opinion?
Zach Bowden: I think it’s fair to say at this point that the Surface Duo 2 is finally where it should have been at launch. It launched in much better condition than the Surface Duo 1, but it wasn’t in a good enough position that I can recommend it to regular folks, and I think that showed up in the reviews at the time. Now, if you can wrap your head around the side of the dual monitor, the software won’t stand in your way anymore. This is a huge deal. This conclusion even extends to the Surface Duo 1, which I would argue is basically on par with the Duo 2 at this point.
Daniel Rubino: Yes, the most important shift for me was the consistency of Microsoft. Updates come around the same time every month, feature detailed changes, and those logs are posted instantly to the website (instead of two days later). The company also appears to be getting better at addressing persistent issues and adding flair to the overall user experience. Things are smoother, more cohesive, and there are no rendering errors. This also applies to the Surface Duo 1, which, despite the older hardware, performs much better than I thought it would at this point.
What about pricing? In the US and Canada, Microsoft recently dropped the Surface Duo 2 from $1,500 to $1,250. This isn’t a quick sell, likely due to tight supply management control, but it does take the sting a little. Is it enough to move the needle?
Zach Bowden: I do not think so. Unfortunately, those initial rounds of Duo 2 reviews sealed the fate of this device. Even though they are both no longer in that state, he will have the stigma of being a buggy mess like the first duo. A lot of people will see the price drop here and there and think it’s because the device is broken, so retailers are dumping stock because that’s exactly what happened with the Surface Duo 1. But I don’t think that’s fair on the Surface Duo 2, which is just starting to see a drop. slight in price. Duo 1, at this point, was about 50% off, but Duo 2 isn’t even close. I think this says a lot about how well Microsoft handled the production and rollout of the Duo 2.
Now that the software works as intended, we can finally see if people prefer dual monitors over single screen multitasking. Before that, I think many people couldn’t get used to the dual screen aspect because the software was rough and wasn’t making it easy. But now, the program is working as intended, and this is the first time we have been able to figure out how to do it Normal People are moving on to the dual screen nature of this device. Will they find it helps their productivity flow? I definitely think it helps me, but not everyone is the same.
Daniel Rubino: Yes, I agree on the realization part, and that would be a tough hill for Microsoft to beat. I think as long as they continue to do so with the software, including occasionally lighting up new features, the company will at least be in a much better position to launch the Surface Duo 3.
What else should Microsoft do on the Surface Duo 2? For me, it starts with Microsoft Launcher. Since 2020, Launcher on Duo has improved performance and animation, which is excellent. However, even though the regular Microsoft Launcher for Android has many of these capabilities, we still can’t change icons or customize gestures, which is weird. I would also like to see the Glance bar get more customization. What do you think Microsoft should add to the Surface Duo 2 for software and features?
Zach Bowden: Improving the Glance bar is one of my top requests. It’s a great idea, but I’ve never been able to use it because I don’t often get to use the few apps it supports. I communicate via Telegram, Skype and Slack, not via SMS or phone calls. Additionally, I would also like to see Microsoft focus more on pen integration; Things like adding the ability to take notes and ink directly on the lock screen instead of opening and unlocking OneNote first. It would also be nice for SwiftKey to support inking in text fields.
I think what I would most like is the wider adoption of third-party apps to take advantage of Duo’s extended power. So far, only Microsoft apps (and a few third-party apps) support this mode. It’s okay, because not all apps Need To support it, but I suspect that with Android 12L coming to Duo later this year, we’ll start to see some app developers target these APIs and build apps that, at least, avoid the gap in the middle of the halves.
Daniel Rubino: Yes, I agree to update Android 12L and apps. I’m more excited about developer options than the operating system itself. This means that Google is supposed to update all of its inbox apps like Gmail, Gboard, YouTube, Maps, Messages, Play Store, etc., to support the recommended APIs. Same with more Surface Pen support, which makes the Surface Duo stand out from almost all other Android phones besides any Samsung versions.
I also echo your request for SwiftKey, which is still not as good as Gboard for typing, and has handwriting recognition support for Years.
Overall, I think it’s safe to say that Microsoft has arrived at a stable platform for the Surface Duo with basic features and functions that behave as they should. Now, we’ll have to wait for continuous improvements and new “feature drops” every once in a while to continue pushing the form factor. Microsoft’s next big test: How long will it take to get Android 12L out? We certainly wouldn’t expect anything like a ludicrous year-long wait for Android 11, but how quickly the company can push this operating system to speak a lot about its overall progress.
Let’s revisit this topic later this year and see where the Surface Duo 2 stands!
Surface Duo 2
The Surface Duo 2 is a unique foldable device with two screens. It can run apps side by side or extend apps across both screens. The second generation Duo improves over its predecessor in several key areas, including having better cameras, screens, and software. Later this year, the Duo 2 should receive an update to Android 12L, which is optimized for tablets and foldable devices.
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