It is extremely rare to get the product Better months after its release. But Microsoft is often forgotten Surface Duo 2, which launched in October 2021 with a steep price and a complete list of bugs and problems that made it very frustrating to use, overcame this trend. In fact, the Duo 2 has improved so much that it’s already one of my favorite mobile devices, even if it’s still weird and unique enough that I can’t recommend it to most people.
In case you forgot, the Surface Duo 2 is a foldable phone with two large hinged screens. Unlikely Galaxy Z Fold 3 on Samsungwhich takes a tablet-sized display and folds it in half to fit in your pocket, the two screens of the Duo 2 make it feel more like two large phones connected together and running the same software. You can easily launch two apps next to each other, as if holding two phones at the same time, or you can cover one app on both screens to mimic a small tablet. Both halves of the phone are thin enough to fold together like a book and fit in your pocket with relative ease. Pair it with Microsoft’s Surface Slim Pen 2and you have a portable digital notebook that can work just as well for taking notes, reading an e-book, or writing an email.
When I reviewed the Surface Duo 2 last year, none of its smart designs or book-like features mattered. The device was effectively broken, held back by software bugs that made it annoying to type, frustrating to use, and ultimately frustrating. It was a $ 1,500 novelty that only the most stubborn Microsoft fraudsters could please, willing to put up with its many mistakes so they could have never started Courier device dreamed more than a decade ago.
But the remarkable thing is that Microsoft has not given up on Duo 2. In fact, the company is constantly doing so issue software updates on a monthly basis to deal with the many problems that Duo 2 had at startup. Some of these updates consisted of simple security fixes and minor bug fixes, while others, such as the recent June update, included more significant fixes and new features added. Most importantly, Microsoft has addressed the touch delay issues that prevailed at startup and made it difficult to deploy the Duo 2 virtual keyboard or even navigate the interface.
Knowing that Microsoft was dealing with many of my initial complaints with the Duo 2, I took advantage of the recent price reduction (the phone can now to get for $ 1,000which is still expensive but significantly lower than its starting price) and a generous exchange offer and I bought one of mine. The goal was to see if I could get a better idea of what Microsoft was trying to achieve with this device when the errors that stopped the show didn’t stop it.
And reader, I can finally say that I understand. Duo 2 is the most unique mobile device I’ve used, which allows me to do things I just can’t do with a traditional smartphone. It also does certain things, such as multitasking and e-book reading, better than the single big screen on Z Fold 3.
For the past month and more, I’ve used the Duo 2 to read many books in the Kindle app, which takes advantage of dual screens to provide a more book-like experience than any other device. I managed my inbox and calendar at the same time; I edited Google Docs while having a Slack conversation. I used Slim Pen 2 to keep handwritten notes on OneNote. I read countless articles in my Pocket Queue with the app stretched on both screens, and the Duo 2 became a portrait orientation. I watched so many videos scattered on both screens that I don’t even notice the slight difference anymore. There is something unquestionably satisfying about completing a Duo 2 task and then folding it like a book and putting it in your pocket.
Duo 2 did not replace my main smartphone because I use them for different tasks: messaging, calls, photos, smart home control, music and mobile payments on my iPhone; reading, multitasking, taking notes and YouTube on Duo 2. I have yet to call Duo 2, because unless you’re using a wireless headset, it’s terribly inconvenient to do so. I mostly used the Duo 2 just like I can use the iPad Mini, except it folds in half and fits in my pocket. It’s not even accurate to call this device a “phone” according to the way I use it. (Microsoft tried to position the original Surface Duo as something different from a phone when it was launched, but moved away from this marketing with Duo 2.)
Microsoft made the Duo 2 camera app faster and more responsive, but I’ve never used it to take pictures. It’s just too awkward to take pictures, and I have my iPhone for that anyway. In fact, I would have preferred it if the awkward rear hump and its camera had disappeared completely and the Duo 2 retained its more elegant lines and ability to fold snugly than itself. the first Duo had.
Apart from being an awkward camera, there are other things in the design of the Duo 2 that make it a challenge to use as a base phone. There is no quick way to check notifications or do something with one hand – you Haven to open the device to use it. (The recent addition of third-party chat notification notifications to the Hinge Display in the June update doesn’t change that.) It’s a much more sophisticated device than flat-panel phones that can be easily unlocked and used with one hand. when you want to kill some time in line at the grocery store. of Samsung Z folding 3 is a much better single device to replace both a phone and a tablet, simply because you can still use it when folded closed.
The Duo 2 is also far from a durable device. Although I haven’t had anything broken in a month – plus I’ve used it again, it lacks water resistance and dust resistance, so you don’t want to get it wet. Its design makes it extremely difficult to place a case and maintain the flexibility of the hinge. (I resorted to the Surface Pen charger cover and Microsoft’s bumper, along with Dbrand’s leather.) Although it’s folded closed when I’m not using it, it’s not something I’d just throw in my pocket with keys and free money for fear that something will get stuck in the hinge.
The software also has a lot of room for improvement. Apart from the Kindle app and Google Play Books, the only apps that can really work well on both screens are made by Microsoft, despite the fact that the Duo 2 has been on the market for eight months. There are still times when an app or link opens on the screen, the opposite of what I expect, or a full screen gesture fails. Getting a pen into something other than Microsoft’s own apps is still disgusting. I don’t think I’ve ever used the drag-and-drop feature because it’s supported in so few applications that it’s not worth remembering that it exists.
It is possible that things will improve with upcoming update of Android 12Lwhich is designed to improve the experience of foldable devices like Duo 2 and Fold 3. But I suspect that even after this update I will still use most applications on one screen.
All this means that despite updates and bug fixes, the Duo 2 will still not be a phone for everyone or even most people. It is best suited as a secondary device for specific tasks, similar to how an iPad or tablet is secondary to your smartphone. Even with the recent price reduction, it is still more expensive than an iPad or other small tablet. It is ideal only for those who will appreciate the opportunity to carry it in more places, even if they already carry another phone in their other pocket.
There are rumors that Microsoft will not release Duo 3 this yearinstead of keeping it for 2023. This will give it more time to smooth over problems and avoid the erroneous startups that plagued both the original Duo and Duo 2. Microsoft may also pay attention to aspects of the Duo’s design. that make it difficult to use as a base (touchscreen on the outside would be a long way here). Maybe he can find a way to attach and charge the pen without resorting to a crazy and expensive accessory case. or recent patent application by the company imagines a Duo-like device that uses a single panel that can be folded 360 degrees instead of two discrete hinged screens. I’m not sure what problem this would solve, other than closing the gap between the screens when watching video, but it would definitely look great.
Anyway, if Microsoft stays committed to the Duo form factor and keeps repeating it, I’ll watch. The Duo 2 has gone from one of the most problematic devices I’ve reviewed to one of my favorites, and I’m curious to see where Microsoft will take it next. In the meantime, I have another book to finish.
Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge