A few years ago, the smartphone market was even more exciting than today: in addition to devices with Android and iOS, cell phones with Windows 10 Mobile were also included. The latter operating system is no longer available. But Microsoft wants to make a comeback with the Surface Duo. At first, this looked promising, but according to new rumors, the model will be a disappointment. And that makes me sad.
I use a Microsoft Surface Pro 7 for my work. The tablet-laptop hybrid completely convinced me. I like the concept, the design and the touch controls. It was all the more interesting for me when Microsoft announced the Surface Duo in 20119. The same design language as the Surface Pro series, Android operating system and two screens!
Does that sound interesting? Yes. But now the technical specifications of the Surface Duo have leaked (again). And for me, the smartphone now looks like an interesting blind date, followed by a sobering first meeting. Roughly speaking: it is questionable whether the two-display smartphone is competitive.
Microsoft Surface Duo: It’s supposed to be there
The biggest eye-catcher of the Microsoft Surface Duo is the dual display, which can be folded up. The manufacturer relies on two individual screens connected by hinges, not on the foldable (but currently also fragile) screens. The device should appear in mid-2020, but then according to Windows Central with this equipment:
- Display: 2x 5.6 inch OLED screens (4: 3 format), each with a resolution of 1800 x 1350 pixels
- Chipset: Snapdragon 855
- RAM: 6 GB RAM
- Internal storage: 64 GB or 256 GB
- Camera: 11 MP wide angle with f / 2.0 aperture
- Battery: 3460 mAh
- Connection: USB-C
- Operating system: Android 10
- Other: Supports Surface Pen, no NFC, no wireless charging, no 5G
And here we come to the point why I don’t understand Microsoft. Sure, the Surface Duo probably has a long development period behind it. But according to the specs, the cell phone can never keep up with current flagships. My opinion.
These compromises are “okay”
The Snapdragon 855 is fast, but it’s already one year old. In 2020, the even better Snapdragon 856 is announced. In addition, many top models offer 8 GB RAM or more. The resolution of 1800 x 1350 pixels should ensure a similarly sharp image as that of smartphones with a Full HD screen. But manufacturers like Samsung are still here too, the Galaxy S20 offers about a WQHD resolution.
I could handle all the points mentioned so far, since the Surface Duo doesn’t fall far behind the competition here.
Big concerns about battery life
Microsoft misses opportunities, however, according to leaks in camera, battery and extras. A battery with almost 3400 mAh may also be in some 6-inch flagships with Android from other manufacturers. But with the duo, this battery has to drive two screens at the same time – and screens are usually by far the most energy-hungry components in a cell phone. In the worst case, the battery life of the Microsoft mobile phone is significantly less than one day.
Camera: “Available”. Point.
A big minus point is rumored to be the camera. This is said to have only 11 megapixels, which – assuming good software and a high quality image sensor – can theoretically lead to very good images. However, the aperture of f / 2.0 indicates that the camera quality gets to its knees at the latest in situations with little light.
In addition, only this one lens is installed – as the main and front camera at the same time. A second (and third) lens, for example for ultra-wide-angle or telephoto shots, is probably missing, although such features have long been standard, especially in the luxury class. If you like to take photos with your mobile phone, you could quickly remove the Surface Duo from your “want” list.
No more Google Pay in the supermarket
It is also very critical that the NFC chip is allegedly missing. I now only pay in stores with my smartphone via Google Pay. Almost every cell phone offers this option these days. Without the said chip, this would not be possible with the Surface Duo. So if NFC is really missing, I wonder what Microsoft was thinking.
The decisive factors for success
As mentioned at the beginning, I am a big fan of Microsoft’s Surface products. And I would really wish the manufacturer if the smartphone comeback was a great success. If the rumors about the technical equipment correspond to reality, the following factors are important for success: The actual battery life, the camera quality and especially the price.
If, contrary to my fear, the Surface Duo were to take good photos, hold out for at least one day per charge and go on sale at a price similar to that of the iPhone SE (2020), it would be very competitive (if you can do without NFC). As a reminder: The Apple smartphone is currently available from 479 euros.
But compared to the current flagships beyond the 800 euro limit, the Surface Duo unfortunately offers too few extras and features. At least according to the rumors. Unfortunately, I have the feeling that Microsoft would like to place his cell phone in this price range due to the dual screen.
So far we can only speculate on many points. After all, the cell phone is not yet on the market. So it may be that some information changes or that the cell phone performs surprisingly well in some categories.
Ultimately, however, it makes me sad that a good idea like a Surface phone, before it is released, is more sobering than anticipating. It currently looks as if this device was not intended for the general public, but rather for a top business target group. Please, Microsoft: do not waste this chance to re-enter the smartphone world!