'After one of the strangest run-ups to launch in smartphone history,
the Microsoft Surface Duo is here. Microsoft's first-ever Android
phone (sorry, we're not counting the Nokia X) was announced and demoed
an entire year before its release, hinting at what a long and winding
road the Surface Duo took from inception to shipping. The hardware
apparently dates back to plans to revitalize Windows for phones, but
after that plan fell through, the hardware was upcycled into the most
head-scratching Android phone of the year.
The Surface Duo sales pitch is that foldable display technology isn't
ready yet, so try this best-we-can-do-right-now version that features
two rigid, 5.6-inch OLED displays attached together with a 360 hinge.
Microsoft is calling this a "productivity" device thanks to it having
the side-by-side app capability of a tablet-style foldable smartphone
without any of the janky display technology. Microsoft's website also
says the Duo was designed to "inspire people to rethink how they want
to use the device in their pocket," indicating that the company
definitely sees this as a primary device.
I bring up Microsoft's sales pitch because, boy, is the Surface Duo
bad at doing the things Microsoft says it's supposed to be good at.
The phone feels like it was made without any respect to ergonomics,
hand size, pocket-size, or anything that makes a good Android phone.
It has crippling productivity problems that negate any benefit you
could get from the two-screen design, it's extremely awkward in
day-to-day use, and it's very buggy. The phone is missing a whole host
of features you would expect for the stratospheric $1400 asking price,
and even the hardware that is here seems like it's a least a year old.
The Surface Duo feels like a phone that was slapped together without a
plan, and the reports of the phone's history indicate that's what
actually happened. We would like to gently welcome Microsoft to the
Android ecosystem, but we are not grading $1400 smartphones on a
curve. Microsoft needed to knock this out of the park. Instead, the
company turned in a borderline incompetent smartphone that I really
had to force myself to use during the review period.'
Dept. of Computer Science
University of Waikato, NZ
+64 (7) 577-5304