Why the Microsoft Surface Duo already worries me as an Android user

Why the Microsoft Surface Duo already worries me as an Android user

The Microsoft Surface Duo is a smartphone I haven’t tested yet—but based on what I do know, it already has me worried. It’s somewhat like the new crop of foldable phones in that it can fold and flip, and it runs Android 10 just like the Galaxy Fold. It also demands a sky-high price like the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 and Galaxy Z Flip

But while folding phones are pushing the boundaries of what a display can do, and charging prices to match, you’re not getting that with the Surface Duo. Instead you’re getting a dual-screened device with giant bezels that’s running a version of Android overlaid with a heavy coating of Windows. That’s fine—lots of Android phones have personalized skins—but the Duo is a Surface device first and an Android one second, which is concerning. 

Compared to a similarly priced flagship device like the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, the Surface Duo already isn’t stacking up. If it’s a Surface, why doesn’t it have the latest processor? If it’s a phone, why can’t you use it with one hand? Let’s look more closely at the problems I’m already seeing in specs, design, and capabilities.

Microsoft

The Surface Duo may fold, but it’s not a foldable.

Surface Duo specs: Falling short

The problems start with the specs, comparing them to the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. Even on paper, Surface Duo isn’t looking so good:

Surface Duo

Dimensions (folded): 145.2 x 93.3 x 9.9mm
Display: Dual 5.6-inch PixelSense Fusion AMOLED, 1800×1350, 401 PPI
Processor: Snapdragon 855
RAM: 6GB
Storage: 128GB/256GB
Camera: 11MP, f/2.0
Battery: 3577mAh

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

Dimensions: 166.9 x 76.0 x 8.8mm
Display: 6.9-inch WQHD, 3200×1440, 120Hz, 496ppi
Processor: Snapdragon 865
RAM: 12GB LPDDR5
Storage: 128GB/512GB
Front camera: 40MP, f/2.2
Rear camera: 12MP ultra-wide, f/2.2 + 108MP wide, f/1.8, OIS, + 48MP telephoto, f/3.5
Battery: 5,000mAh

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The Note 20 Ultra isn’t just across-the-board better than the Surface Duo, it’s also $100 cheaper. Plus, you get 5G, NFC, Wi-Fi 6, and wireless charging, none of which are available on the Surface Duo. And if you want to use the Surface Slim Pen to take notes, it’ll cost you an extra $145. That’s an awfully high bar for entry into a world that’s nowhere near cutting edge.

surface duo two apps Microsoft

The Surface Duo can run apps side by side, but a lot of Android phones can do that.

Surface Duo design: Feeling awkward

The Surface Duo’s design is certainly pretty. It has an impressively thin glass-and-metal construction that looks like a sturdy notebook, and a 360-degree hinge that looks extremely sturdy.

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Cory Weinberg

About the Author: Cory Weinberg

Cory Weinberg covers the intersection of tech and cities. That means digging into how startups and big tech companies are trying to reshape real estate, transportation, urban planning, and travel. Previously, he reported on Bay Area housing and commercial real estate for the San Francisco Business Times. He received a "best young journalist" award from the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

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