The only thing Microsoft’s Surface Duo innovates is hinges on a phone
More screens! Said, no one.
Last year Microsoft, during its annual Surface product reveal event, debuted the Surface Duo, a dual-screen not-a-phone smartphone that runs on Google Android OS. There was no release date announced as other folding phones hit the market and shattered on impact. Was it just a lucid tech dream?
Nope. Microsoft has announced a release date and pricing for the Surface Duo, September 10th at the cool price of $1,399. The Duo does have some slight advantages of those that came before it, but those advantages are a step back in the use of the available technology. That is, unlike some of the other folding phones that have hit the market, it does not have a folding screen. It has two screens. So the big tech innovation here is hinges. This is smart for sales, but sets the possibility of a properly working folding screen back a step.
Folding screen technology, when perfected, will have many applications outside of your smartphone. In my opinion, we do not need multiple smartphone screens. One is fine. Unless you are reading a digital book, then two screens is kind of nice, but you can only read one page at a time anyway. Unless there are pictures, then that’s kind of cool. Yet, to this point folding screens have been absolute trash. So wisely, Microsoft just decided to forego trying to bend a screen and just added some hinges.
In that, the price tag makes sense since you are basically getting two phones in one, with one processor and one SIM card though. So really, you aren’t. It’s just an extra screen. Why are we so hype about pushing folding phones to market? Where in the marketplace are there indicators that the thing we need when it comes to smartphones is more screens? Is this an attempt to make tablets obsolete? While tablets have been slowly trying to replace laptops?
The Microsoft Surface Duo doesn’t have an exterior screen. Sure, you can fold it over backwards to make both screens exterior screens, but even with the Gorilla Glass protection, you are still risking a $1,399 phone that you can’t put a case on. So who is walking around thinking to themselves, “you know what would be great? If I had to open my phone like a book in order to answer a text message!”
Microsoft is pushing the Surface Duo as a productivity device
The company is literally saying that it doesn’t want “to reinvent the phone, but to inspire people to rethink how they want to use the device in their pocket.” That’s just a bunch of marketing nonsense. You know how we use our phones; to play games, watch TikTok endlessly, and doom scroll Facebook until our eyes glaze over. Do we need two screens for that while we sit in front of Tweetdeck on our laptop in front of Netflix on the TV? Microsoft is hoping the answer is a definitive “yes.”
Even though the Surface Duo is running last year’s Snapdragon specs, it does come unlocked, so that’s good news. Phones being locked to one carrier is some bullshit, says the guy who bought a $1,000 phone locked to one carrier. The Surface Duo, at launch, is still $100 less than both the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip and the Motorola Razr. That’s the savings of not having a screen to destroy after a few folds.
These folding phones, these dual-screen devices are serving up more questions than answers as they struggle to find a foothold in the marketplace. They aren’t exactly filling a need that existed and as Microsoft makes clear in its product statement, the Surface Duo is filling a prospective need based on an assumption muddled with speculative innovation. Plus, with the economy in shambles and millions unemployed, is now the best time to launch a pure luxury phone while purporting to do so under the guise of evolving an everyday use technology?
If Microsoft, or any folding phone manufacturer, really felt that these devices were the next step in smartphone innovation, they wouldn’t price them outside of the average. Sure, the tech is new and at the start, we would expect high prices as the devices test themselves against the standard. But this particular device isn’t too innovative as far as screen tech. It’s just a couple hinges. It’s just two screens connected by a couple of hinges. It’s a tablet split down the middle.
Microsoft’s Surface account tweeted this morning: “Open two screens and open new possibilities.” The only new possibility I see is more content consumption, not creation, not innovation. The Surface Duo is neat, but not exciting. It’s a folding phone without a folding screen, so it leaves that possible innovation off the table. Microsoft has the resources to perfect folding screens so they don’t suck, but it added hinges instead. And good luck trying to text on two screens.
- Samsung is back with another folding phone, the Galaxy Z Fold 2
- Huawei is back with a new iPad Pro competitor and folding phone
- Forget folding phones, bring back the Sidekick
- Sorry, the iPhone 12 won’t be arriving in September