Microsoft’s Surface Duo is a fascinating, new type of device

Mala Bhargava | Updated on: Aug 14, 2020

It’s hardly about sticking two screens together with a hinge. The real innovation is how the two displays work in tandem as one device

The world loves a folding phone. And Microsoft just came up with one that looks very hard to resist. It’s available for pre-order at $1,400 for lucky gadget lovers in the US, but other countries will have to wait — and hope.

The Surface Duo is unlike Samsung’s folding phones in that it doesn’t try to bend the glass or glass-like material in any way: it just does away with that tricky issue by using two displays with a good hinge in the middle. With that, you don’t need to worry about the vulnerability display or even the jingle.

Seamless display transition


At the same time, the Surface Duo is hardly about slapping two screens together and making them stick using a hinge. The real innovation is how the two displays work seamlessly together as one device. So it’s as much in the software as it is in the hardware. The Duo, it may surprise many to know, is based on Android. Microsoft has worked with Google to ensure this take on Android works to let apps take advantage of the two screens. So, imagine this: you have Kindle open on the left screen; you ‘span’ to expand the app and it moves to take up the right side as well. Now you have two virtual pages open in front of you and you can even flip them as you would with a real book.

Other examples include, say, OneDrive open on one side; you can see your gallery of photos all lined up. Pick one and push it to the other screen. Now it opens up and you’re using the two screens in another way — menu-like functions on one side and the content on the other. You could do that with your Outlook mail as well — inbox on one side and an email on the other.

Two tablets and a phone


Incredibly, the virtual keyboard adapts to how you’re working and moves on the screen as well from one screen to the other. If you flip the device on its side, you actually have the top part as a viewable screen and the bottom as a keyboard, like a mini laptop.

This 5.6-inch device is neither phone nor tablet, but both. Actually, it’s two tablets and a phone. The specs are not the newest (it uses Snapdragon 855, for example) and there are no collections of cameras to play with. Such things may come in the future, but for now it’s a fascinating new form factor that any tech enthusiast would love to get their hands on.

Published on August 14, 2020
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