When you have as many smartphones on your desk as I do, everything just starts to blend together. Aluminum or plastic, slabs of glass, different finishes and colors. There’s are some pretty nifty phones out there right now, but they all are just singular slabs of glass that pretty much all do the same thing. It’s for this reason why I’m in love with my Galaxy Z Fold 2 and that love has extended to the Microsoft Surface Duo.
Unlike the Z Fold 2, the Surface Duo doesn’t have “1.21 GIGAWATTS” of power or anything even close to that. It’s powerful enough, at least for most things, but it wasn’t intended to rock your socks off in the specs department. Hell, according to Daniel Rubino and Zac Bowden of Windows Central, it wasn’t even supposed to run Android. Instead, that’s where Windows 10X was supposed to come into play as Microsoft envisioned a world with a simplified version of Windows designed for dual-screen devices.
But with the incredible fire sales that are going on right now for the Surface Duo, I couldn’t resist at least trying out a device that looked so futuristic from afar. Sure, there are plenty of software issues that Microsoft is actively trying to fix and deal with. I mean, it’s still running Android 10 despite Android 12 coming around the corner.
Plus, there’s the whole difference between the Microsoft Launcher you can download on any Android phone and the one that comes pre-installed on the Surface Duo. You can’t change do anything with the icons, and the customization is about as lacking as it gets. Third-party launcher developers either don’t care or just don’t have the resources to develop for these large or dual-screened behemoths.
But for all of the issues that even I have had with the Surface Duo in the last few days of having it, I can’t stop looking at it and I can’t put it down. It’s almost the same feeling that I had when I picked up the Galaxy Z Fold 2 right after it launched. Microsoft is doing something special here, and it has absolutely nothing to do with specs.
Whether it was an unintended consequence or not, you can even use the Surface Pen with the Duo. And if you have the Surface Slim Pen, it attaches magnetically to the glass. This makes for the best portable notebook (and most expensive one) that you could ask for, save for the durability concerns, of which there are a few.
Unfolding the Surface Duo for the first time is just exciting. Being able to fold it backward is incredible, and there are different positions that you can just put the Duo in without having to worry about the phone just falling flat on its face or on the back. The combination of glass, metal, and plastic all just flow together and nothing looks out of place. Ignore actually using the phone for a minute, but just looking at the hardware, Microsoft is onto something here.
Of course, the company has plenty of experience tinkering with new designs and new product categories, as evidenced by the ARM-powered Surface Pro X, or the entire Surface Pro lineup. The Surface Book series of laptops, specifically the Surface Book 3 is unlike any other laptop on the market. I mean, to be able to detach the screen from the keyboard, without using a flimsy cover or anything like that is pretty incredible in its own right.
No, the hardware engineering reminds me of Apple and what it does with the MacBook line, the iPhone, and the iPad. Of course, Apple isn’t really pushing any of the boundaries in these areas, other than processing power with the M1. But there’s no denying that Apple’s lineup of products is a feat of engineering in their own right. And that could be further proved if the rumors about a new MacBook Pro at WWDC come to fruition. There are even rumors that we’ll end up seeing an Apple foldable phone in a year or two, but until then, we just have to appreciate the likes of Samsung’s and Microsoft’s engineering.
Another thing about the Surface Duo that I love is the sound that it makes when you close it. That “snap” or whatever you want to call it reminds me of a book closing when you’re finished reading for the day. The finality of it just makes me feel like “okay, I’m done for now”, instead of the feeling of the slab of glass in my pocket that is always at the ready for me to browse Reddit, doom-scroll Twitter, or check messages all of the time. With the Surface Duo, it’s more of a “yeah, a notification just came in, but I’ll get to it when I have time”. And that idea of “digital wellbeing” from a hardware aspect is something that we haven’t seen from other devices.
This is just the beginning of my love letter to Microsoft and the Surface Duo, as I’ll have plenty of more thoughts on the device in the coming weeks.