The Surface Duo represents a return to the mobile sector for Microsoft, albeit in a very unconventional form factor. Microsoft’s new device sports two screens to enable better multitasking and productivity, but it’s far from a perfect experience.
You can get the full story in our review below, but there are a number of ways — from the price and spec sheet to the overall experience — that the Redmond company could’ve improved matters. Here are eight things we want to see for the Microsoft Surface Duo 2.
Our verdict: Microsoft Surface Duo review
A far more polished software experience
Arguably the biggest issue with the Surface Duo is the horribly unpolished software experience. Sure, first-generation products tend to have bugs that need squashing. Unfortunately, this isn’t so much a case of a few bugs as it is an entire infestation.
You’d think the firm would learn its lesson after shipping its last flagship phone in an awful state back in 2015. But that doesn’t appear to be the case. Presumably the lack of mobile polish is due to the firm firing a ton of testers years ago. So, we’d love to see a better out-of-the-box experience from the Surface Duo 2, and a raft of updates in the short-term to fix the Duo.
A desktop mode
Microsoft was one of the first companies to offer a desktop mode on its smartphones back in 2015, thanks to its Continuum for Phones feature. This let you output your Windows Phone to an external display, giving you a Windows-like experience — albeit with universal Windows apps.
We’ve since seen Huawei, LG, and Samsung up the ante with more robust desktop modes of their own, so we’d love to see Microsoft build a similar feature. The Redmond company can harness Android’s native desktop mode support to craft the feature. Toss in the firm’s productivity tools like Office and Remote Desktop software, and you could have a powerful combo.
Power to rival other flagships
The Surface Duo launched with the Snapdragon 855 processor, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. In terms of the chipset alone, it’s a powerful piece of silicon. However, it’s still last year’s chipset, while other flagship phones are using this year’s top-notch processors. Meanwhile, the RAM-count is also something we’re more likely to see in affordable flagships and mid-rangers rather than in a pricey device.
So, we’d definitely like to see the Surface Duo 2 pack a contemporary high-end chipset, more RAM, and more storage — or at least microSD support. Aside from the power boost, a contemporary flagship processor would also enable other welcome features like 5G, higher quality photo/video capture, and better Bluetooth/Wi-Fi connectivity.
Another major feature missing from the Surface Duo is NFC, as Microsoft figured that the wireless connectivity standard wasn’t worth having on a $1,400 device. The company claimed that it chose to focus on “fundamental scenarios” first.
It’s tough to accept this response when Huawei and Samsung’s foldables offer NFC. You can certainly argue that their foldables are more complex designs from a hardware perspective. Hopefully, the next Surface Duo device packs the wireless standard. This would mean you can actually leave your traditional phone at home if you want to access public transit and pay for goodies at the cash register.
Better pricing (or more features)
The use of last year’s internals and some missing features can be justified if the Surface Duo had a reasonable price tag. Unfortunately, the price isn’t reasonable at all.
Starting at a massive $1,400, the Surface Duo is in the same price segment as the Galaxy S20 Ultra and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. In fact, it’s also slightly more expensive than the Galaxy Z Flip.
We’d definitely like to see Microsoft dial down the pricing a bit or add a ton more features to justify this tag. In case of the latter, there are many other extras the firm could bring to the table, such as a higher refresh rate, a bigger battery, plenty more storage, and 5G.
One of David Imel’s most requested features is for the Surface Duo 2 to gain wireless charging functionality. It’s not an unreasonable request either, since it’s become a fixture on many premium devices in recent years.
We’ve even seen wireless charging come to Samsung’s foldables, proving that foldable designs can offer the tech too. Here’s hoping we see something nippier than 18W wired charging in a time when even mid-range phones are offering faster speeds.
Microsoft claims that they’d need to add wireless charging coils to both sides of the device, but we’d be fine with only one coil on the back display. This would definitely add a bit of thickness to the device, but we think it would be worth it, especially if that meant Microsoft could add a bigger battery.
A better camera experience
The Surface Duo isn’t meant to be a camera powerhouse, but that doesn’t excuse the poor camera experience we ended up getting anyway. Microsoft’s device only packs one paltry 11MP shooter overall, landing on the front of the device.
Fortunately, the tablet/phone hybrid can be folded in the other direction to let you take rear-facing shots with the front-facing shooter. It still feels like the Redmond company should’ve added a dedicated rear camera or another front-facing camera (e.g. ultra-wide) to make for a more flexible platform.
The Surface Duo takes solid photos but the camera app is very barebones. Those expecting a night mode and other typical features might be disappointed. This is especially disheartening when Microsoft is sitting on great camera tech either developed in-house or acquired via its Nokia purchase. Features like its creative studio suite and Rich HDR (offering adjustable HDR/exposure/flash intensity after the shot) are pretty nifty, so it’s a shame none of that exciting functionality is here.
A better typing experience
One of the more annoying things about the Surface Duo is probably the typing experience. David noted that Microsoft defaults to its SwiftKey app (in one-handed mode), but that it was rather buggy and bad at suggesting words. He then switched to GBoard, but found he had to hold the device with one hand and swipe with another — an uncomfortable experience.
For what it’s worth, you can use the Surface Duo like a laptop, with the keyboard on one screen and content on the other. But David still thought this was a cramped experience compared to other phones. So, we’re holding out hope for better third-party keyboard app support as well as a more refined SwiftKey experience.
That’s it for our look at additions and improvements we’d like to see on the Surface Duo 2. What would you like to see? Let us know in the comments!