Microsoft's last foray into the world of smartphones didn't pan out so well, but yesterday they not only got back into the smartphone game but also jumped on the foldable bandwagon announcing two of the most interesting tech products of the year.
Finally embracing Android, Microsoft have announced the Surface Duo, a dual-screened mobile phone that has two separate 5.6-inch screens that fold out to create an 8.3-inch tablet. They are not the first company to adopt this approach, the LG V50 Dual Screen is the most recent alternative, but the Microsoft solution looks the most elegant.
While the form factor is quite large for a phone, it has some Nokia Communicator vibes to it, and I loved that phone so have no problem with the size myself.
Considering all the delays and problems foldable screens have been having, adopting a dual-screen approach could be the sensible move. There is one catch though, the launch date is holidays 2020 – which would imply Christmas 2020. That is a bit like Huawei announcing the Mate 40 now. Tech moves a long way in a year, so what looks impressive now, may not be so in over a year.
Ignoring the release timeframe. Microsoft has partnered with Google to deliver support for all Android applications, though users should expect this product to feel like a Surface device, they were not very clear on the exact OS though, it may not be Android but Android apps in containers.. Sadly, detailed specifications for this mobile phone are unknown at this time, though it is expected to utilise a Qualcomm processor. Pricing for the device is also unknown at this time.
Microsoft also launched a dual-screen tablet in the form of the Surface Nea. It has two 9″ touchscreens, a 360-degree hinge, and pen support. Each side is 5.6mm thick, so when folded you're going to hold something that's 11.2mm thick and it weighs 1.3kg which is about the same as some ultra-books.
This will run Windows 10X, which is designed specifically for dual-screen devices and is powered by an Intel Lakefield processor, with an “11th Gen” graphics engine that controls both screens.
The new, thinner Surface Pen attaches to the back, while the keyboard is separate to the Neo but attaches magnetically to the back, so you can ‘fold' it out and set it on top of one of the screens. When you do that you'll see extra input options like emoji in the extra screen space that's left, or use that as a trackpad.
I have to admit, both devices look amazing, I am a sucker for new technology though. It is fantastic to see something new and exciting in the world of laptops. There are some concerns, that release time frame is madness, this may be to let third-party OEMs have time to release Windows 10X devices though. Price, performance and overall usability also remain to be seen.