Surface Duo: The tablet that can replace your phone?


Surface Pro: The tablet that can replace your laptop.

Surface Duo: The tablet that can replace your phone.

Thoughts on the Duo from this perspective?

Comments (47)

47 responses to “Surface Duo: The tablet that can replace your phone?”

  1. rusty chameleon

    I can get a Pixel 4a for $350 and an iPad for $400 and pay $750 total, yet have hundreds of dollars left by not getting and trying to carry a Duo as my phone.

  2. andrew_graham

    I don't understand why this device seems to be so divisive, both here and in other forums and commentaries.

    Yes it's expensive so it's not for you. Yes it's CPU is not the latest shiny shiny (but was last year), Yes it lacks NFC so it's not for you. Yes the camera (still an unknown quantity) may not match other flagships so it's not for you. But I don't see such nagativism about, for example, the Samsung Fold - an unmitigated overpriced disaster as it is in my view.

    The Duo will only serve a niche market - that's fine, but why all the negativity from people who aren't its target market and hence will never buy it?

    • rob_segal

      In reply to Andrew_Graham:

      Surface Duo is a solution looking for a problem. The few moments of benefits are outweighed by the drawbacks of this device. No NFC is a problem for a flagship device. A camera experience that looks like it wasn't even on any kind of priority list. Then, there are the possible problems people may experience when they get their hands on this device. Lackluster battery life, having to open the device to look at notifications, having to open and flip around the device to capture a quick photo, possible poor photo quality, no always on display. People don't slap their foreheads, wondering why they can't scroll through twitter while watching a YouTube video.

      The concept of Surface Duo looks cool, but it doesn't fix a problem a lot of people have. It's a phone and a tablet that's not better than a phone or a tablet. In the future, Microsoft may find a problem the Surface Duo actually fixes, somewhat like Apple Watch fixes problems people have monitoring their health. That future also means that when Microsoft discovers this problem, it will be fixed by a future hardware release, one that is geared towards fixing it.

      • andrew_graham

        In reply to rob_segal:
        "Surface Duo is a solution looking for a problem."

        This post is an example of the negativity I referred to in my original post. OK, we recognize it's not for you, but it is for other people, like me. It solves a mobile productivity problem and can also act as a phone I've been waiting for a device like this for years. I would prefer something like it running as a WIndows 10 dual screen device but that won't happen and I'm reasonably happy with Android - particularly as I can write my own apps. I don't understand why people who are not in the market for such a device are so denigrating of it. Weird!

        • Paul Thurrott

          Why is that "negativity"? Isn't it just a reasonable assessment based on what Microsoft has communicated about the device?
    • rob_segal

      The use-case has to be more than "this device will help those few dozens or a few hundred people be slightly more productive on their phones occasionally." The original iPad had clear ways it was better than a phone or a netbook for a lot of people. Microsoft or Surface Duo enthusiasts haven't come up with those same kinds of ways the Duo is better than a phone or a tablet it aims to slide between. In the future, with hardware revisions, could that case present itself? Yes, in a similar way as the Apple Watch has evolved over time. It just doesn't exist now. So, right now, the Surface Duo is a solution in search of a problem. It might find that problem one day, but it hasn't found it yet.

      Personally, I think Samsung is closer to that device than Microsoft actually is (folding screen on the inside, regular smartphone screen and a premium camera array on the outside). Microsoft Launcher updated to smoothly handle two halves of a single folder screen or the single screen as a tablet with the phone launcher on the front screen could be better than the Duo.

    • Paul Thurrott

      The problem isn't negativity, it's that there is no target market, nor is there any clear use case, e.g. a problem that it solves whose benefits outweigh the device's many missing or lackluster functionalities compared to "real" phones.
      • andrew_graham

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        I couldn't disagree more but each to his own I guess. I see it, you don't.

        • Paul Thurrott

          In reply to Andrew_Graham:

          Microsoft has never articulated why anyone would want it beyond "look, it has two screens!" Panos Panay literally said that this device is for "Surface fans in the Microsoft apps ecosystem." That market does not exist in any measurable way.

          • james.h.robinson

            In reply to paul-thurrott:

            I agree with Mr. Thurrott and his staff.

            However, sometimes a product has to been released to the public BEFORE a use case is found. As you guys know, that's the purpose of a Minimally Viable Product (MVP). And this Duo is clearly an MVP. I would argue that, historically, PCs didn't have a good use case until customers started using spreadsheets and Macs didn't have a good use case until customers started using desktop publishing. I think the Apple Watch is a more recent example of an MVP. I think the early adopters will find use cases (or maybe the "killer app") once this MVP is in the wild. It might be something regular folks like us might not have thought of yet.

            • Paul Thurrott

              So, I don't have a staff. :) But I literally wrote this, that Duo could go the HoloLens route where customers DO find use cases. My point is only that Microsoft has never presented any of its own.
      • Chris_Kez

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        Paul, I have to ask again why the scenarios demonstrated during the launch event, in the promo videos, and mentioned throughout the comments on this site do not constitute "use cases"? The "problem" it solves is enhancing productivity, and for a lot of people that is absolutely more important than the camera or NFC or the lack of 5G or a year-old but still premium SoC. I'm not sure why you seem unwilling to acknowledge this.

        • Paul Thurrott

          No, no. The Duo making productivity slightly better in certain cases on a phone-sized device is not a use case when those use cases are already superior on more traditional productivity devices (PCs) that are more comfortable to use and when it doesn't do well (or at all) all those things that we already use our smartphones for. Why would anyone normal give up all the things that smartphones do well so that they be more productive in a handful of ways that aren't commonly needed? They won't. I've said this so many times. Yeah, it's obviously easier to copy and paste side-by-side. But where is that in the list of things one does or wants to do every day? Nowhere. So who cares? You're going to, what? Watch a video on one screen and ... take notes somehow on the other? Please. It's not that this is impossible, it's just not important to most people.
          • andrew_graham

            In reply to paul-thurrott:

            For many years I have respected your views but no more. You come across as totally blinkered. It's not even worth replying any more. Farewell.

          • Chris_Kez

            In reply to paul-thurrott:

            Paul, I think your laudable focus on everyday needs ("right tool for the job", "good enough computing", etc.) creates a blind spot when it comes to evaluating stuff that falls outside the mainstream. Except for Surface Laptop, every Surface device is to some degree aimed at a niche audience. Duo is yet another niche device, and is aimed at sorting out this concept of dual-screen productivity specifically, and enhanced small-device productivity in general. At every turn MS has communicated that Duo is not aiming at the average flagship smartphone buyer; they're trying to avoid using the word "phone" altogether as a way of further telegraphing its niche focus. And there are in fact people for whom productivity is priority one for their smartphone, and fingers crossed the pandemic will recede and people can go back to actually being mobile.

            You seem to think the only way to evaluate this is to ask whether it is a good fit for most/normal people; and if it isn't then it is "pointless".

            • Paul Thurrott

              You're overthinking this. I've made it clear that I'm listening and watching for any evidence that this solves real problems. That will come from people who review, buy, and/or use the device over time. So all I can do now is look at what I know and what Microsoft has communicated. As of now, I find it lacking in every way. But ... I will change that opinion based on evidence.
          • harrymyhre

            In reply to paul-thurrott:

            students watching lectures, doctors contacting patients, truck drivers checking in with home office. More screens are a good thing. Why do we want to limit ourselves to just one screen?

            "one screen is THE MOST you'll ever need".

            That's an arbitrary limitation.

  3. jimchamplin

    Surface Duo: The Poorly Defined Object That Can Replace Your Previous Technological Obsession

    At this point why in heck’s name are we calling these things phones? The telephone aspect is a crudely-conceived-of idea involving folding it one way and... no.

    When making voice calls is 87th on the list of features, it’s not a phone anymore. ?

  4. ngc224

    I suspect this is a developer edition for hardcore enthusiasts only. Come spring 2021, we will have Duo v2 (with a different name) and a substantial trade-in program for the upgrade.

  5. john14

    From my point of view Surface duo will not replace laptop or any smartphone.

  6. hidp123

    You'll need big pockets for the Duo, literally and figuratively!

  7. ghostrider

    The Duo is nothing more than a device to get people talking - or at least MS hope so, in a positive light. It's too big for a phone, too small for a laptop. If MS are trying to create another product category - dream on. This thing is just too bulky for the pocket and too small to do any real work on. It's just two screens slapped together in all honesty, and likely to appeal to very, very few, and then only those with extremely deep pockets.

  8. rusty chameleon

    In reply to VancouverNinja:

    Congrats, you might be one of the few good use cases.

    Let us know how it works out.

  9. Wbrisendine

    Perhaps I belong with a small percentage of enthusiasts, but I personally like the duo. It was expensive, but having the opportunity to purchase something else, I would pick the duo. Sometimes it is fun to experience something inspirational or simply chase the new shiny. I am happy with the choice. The Duo has the right combination of functionality that I personally did not find with my Note 10 or Pixel.

    I received my Duo late in the day. I had just enough time to transfer my data before having to head to the office to troubleshoot a technical problem on our network. Using my Duo, I was able to consecutively have a TEAMS session with my MSP, a Unifi Dashboard open, a TEAM Viewer session open to a client workstation, and a laptop open with a terminal session to my firewall.

    Does the Duo allow me to down consolidate to a single device? Nope, but I don't care. I.T. admins will always need a laptop. I personally use a Surface Pro for portability.

    Is the camera the best. Nope, but I don't care either. I am not a photographer. The camera is good enough for the racks that I get to see. Besides, my wife has an iPhone. She can take the birthday pictures.

    Does the Duo make quality phone calls? Yes, it has the same quality as my Note 10 plus.

    Is it pocket-able? I always keep my phone in a back pocket. I have no qualms with its' overall size. It's just another phone. Err, OK it is just another NOT-Phone.

    Is it heavy to hold? My Note 10 Plus weighs 9.1 oz. The Duo is 9.5 oz. I cannot tell a difference. When the Duo is open, it is well balanced and feels lighter.

    Personally, I hate flipping back and forth between apps on my Note 10. The Duo is a welcome change for my work style. The Duo is going to be a productivity boost for me and has my vote.

  10. ponsaelius

    I think the reviews are in close agreement. Hardware is wonderful and a feat of engineering. Software is inconsistent and, apart from some exceptions, totally unaware of the dual screen paradigm. Version 1 product. Not very good camera. Needs a specific use case.

    Does not replace your phone or your tablet.

  11. anoldamigauser

    I would be more interested in this device if it was running Windows in some form. The idea of an ultra portable device that could be used when travelling, that had some form of Continuum to connect to a monitor and keyboard is very intriguing. People who are all in on Android will probably like it, but I am not, so it doesn't do much for me.

    The problem is that the camera isn't anything special and the form factor forces too many compromises on its use for photos and conversations, so it is much more likely to be used in conjunction with a phone. The Neo was, in my opinion, the better size for this type of device, though it seemed slightly too large for a sport coat pocket. I think they also missed out not providing a kickstand on these devices, even a simple one like those on some phone cases would help.

  12. broxman

    The Duo isn't a phone. It's a foldable small tablet with a cellular connection. I think most owners will have a separate phone and use the Duo as they would a small tablet, albeit with the benefit of more portability. You could even use it without a SIM card and connect to wifi or your real phone's wifi hotspot. If you have an iPad mini, hold it in landscape and imagine if you could fold it in half. That is pretty attractive to me (I've preordered mine already). Android tablets have not had much software customized for their size but it looks like Microsoft has done a good job getting their software modified for the device. Hopefully, Google has too. I'm really looking forward to the version of the Kindle app on the device. It should make for the absolute best ebook experience. Having pen capability is also a huge bonus. Judging the device as a phone misses the whole point of the device. Camera, NFC/mobile payments, etc. are not that important for the device if you also have a standard smartphone. I think that's why Microsoft has been so adamant about saying it is not a phone. It is a new class of device - a foldable tablet! Of course, if you do get a separate SIM card for the Duo, you then have the option of leaving your real phone at home. So, the Duo doesn't replace your phone, it replaces your 8 inch tablet.

    • irfaanwahid

      In reply to broxman:

      I'm not entirely sure that it is a secondary device to the primary phone. I think for most business/power users who really don't give that much importance to camera and high refresh rates, will certainly appreciate the device and even make it their primary.

      I know a lot of such users.

      We need to understand the target audience for at least v1 is mostly business users, not for the average Joe.

      • wright_is

        In reply to irfaanwahid:

        I agree, but the specs are all over the place. No NFC and no 5G? in 2020? And no NFC and no 5G and still $1400?

        • hidp123

          In reply to wright_is:

          v2 should sort this out don't you think? Especially, as this phone's hardware was actually finalised last year.

          • wright_is

            In reply to hidp123:

            Yes, but even my wife's 250€ Huawei P-Smart from 2017 had NFC! For a sub-$1,000 device, I could forgive no 5G this years, but no NFC?

            That means, no automatic logging into the wi-fi at work, no payments through my banking app, no verifying myself with my NFC ID card etc. Things I've come to expect over the last 5 years or so.

      • Tomworthjr

        In reply to irfaanwahid:

        I agree.

        It is hard for Paul (or anyone) to see the value to others in something they themselves don't value. I know SO many people who just don't care about photo quality from their phone; they take pictures, and they're happy. They don't have to have the best camera phone ever (until next year's comes out). And NFC & 5G are just utterly, completely pointless to many, many, many users in the U.S. (the only market where this will be sold, at least at first). And the dual, opens like a Moleskine, Surface Pen-writable screen is something that doesn't exist yet - which I for one think will be a massive hit, for the right users. Is it too expensive for those users? Maybe, but it cannot be compared to anything cheaper since nothing else does this. I think they'll sell as many as this first limited production run produces, and will have an immediate diehard fanbase. Will it be enough to carry through multiple gens? I believe it will.

        • Paul Thurrott

          Sorry, but that's silly and insulting. I've been reviewing personal computing hardware for over 20 years, and I don't review products for myself, I try to encompass the general use case and the places in which something might be useful, whether I need that or not. You knowing people is ... literally nothing. It's anecdotal. In the real world, cameras are in fact the number one selling point for premium smartphones. That's not what "I see," It's reality. But the problem with Duo isn't a camera, or 5G, or whatever you think critics are worried about. It's that Microsoft has yet to make a case for why Duo is better. It just has two screens. Compare this to when Steve Jobs introduced the iPad. He said that the device had to be better than a phone AND better than a PC at several key tasks, most of which were quite important. And then he laid out the list, and went through demos one by one to make the point. Microsoft has not done that, because it can't. The firm is literally targeting Surface fans, and that's it. They're hoping some use cases will emerge. And maybe they will. And yes, some people will probably love this thing for whatever reason(s). That's fine. But what I'm criticizing is the basic truth of this situation. Not some "value" that this thing might have for some that you think I can't see.
    • hidp123

      In reply to broxman:

      If someone has a Duo then I don't think they'll carry around another phone in their pockets. It's also marketed as a pocketable device based on the videos from Microsoft. So for such users I think it will replace their phone.

      Also, for this reason (and due to the price tag) I think it is important for the Duo to be on par with similar priced phones when it comes to camera, NFC (unless camera quality doesn't bother the user much, of course).

  13. sherlockholmes

    No. Because it dont has NFC.

  14. F4IL

    > Surface Pro: The tablet that can replace your laptop.

    > Surface Duo: The tablet that can replace your phone.

    I usually buy devices that do one thing well. I buy a phones because I want them to be good as phones, not replace my tablet.

    • wp7mango

      In reply to F4IL:

      I buy "devices" which do several things well...

      Smartphone with camera

      Fridge Freezer

      Radio Alarm clock

      Microwave oven with grill

      Surface Pro

      I guess it all depends on the requirements.

  15. jlv632

    How about " Surface Duo: The tablet that can replace your phone unless you live outside of the US, want 5G for a $1400 USD price, want NFC or put a value on Wireless Charging" ?

    Seriously... I don't see a Duo 2 happening. This has Write-down and Flop written all over it.

    • wright_is

      In reply to jlv632:

      It is like the took the Acer Iconia and replaced Windows 7 with Android and hit it with a shrinking ray.

      The two screens are interesting, but the lack of NFC in 2020 is inexcusable. No international launch, inexcusable. The price ludicrously inexcusable in 2020.

      • andrew_graham

        In reply to wright_is:

        Usually your comments correspond with my views but this time we are miles apart. For me 5G is meh! we won't get it the places I go (generally rural) for years. I never use NFC and I'm not forever taking pictures so the camera is irrelevant. What I would value is the side by execution of two apps in reasonably sized windows with mobile data, texts and phone calls. Split screen in Android 10 is OK as far as it goes but tends to be a bit buggy and the app windows cramped. I'm lucky enough to be totally price-insensitive so as soon as it's available here in the UK I will get one.

        Hmm! actually we do agree on one thing "No international launch, inexcusable."

  16. waethorn

    Neither one can sufficiently take the place of either respective device that Microsoft would have you replace with them.

    A laptop is a better laptop than a tablet, and a phone is a better phone than a tablet.

  17. minke

    Maybe if it had a killer camera and the price was about half. Very few companies purchase phones for employees--it is all BYOD, because companies have found people prefer to use their own devices. I don't think anyone who can afford $1500 for a folding tablet will put up with a camera that isn't stellar. To me NFC is irrelevant since I never use it--slower and more awkward than a credit card, which works everywhere. Where I live probably 90% of places don't take NFC payments anyway. I never see anyone using it. I've tried using it a few times when the terminal indicated it was there and it didn't work. One time the cashier said, "That never works."

    • evox81

      In reply to Minke:

      If NFC payments are slower than a credit card, you're doing something wrong. Using NFC is like the days before "the chip" where it processes instantly. But with the chip, there's a delay that NFC avoids.

      • minke

        In reply to evox81:

        They are slower because they never work, in my experience. I've tried in big-box stores, gas stations, and Starbucks. Failed every time, meaning I then have to pull out the card and pay that way. Frankly, I never see anyone using contactless payments.

    • asiegel

      In reply to Minke:

      In my experience, NFC payments are instant, while credit cards take what seems like several minutes (though is probably 1 minute). I find NFC invaluable and its absence in the Duo will probably be the dealbreaker for me.

    • jchampeau

      In reply to Minke:

      +1 for NFC payments being faster. I've never had NFC take as long as a card/chip payment. I would miss being able to pay this way, though giving it up wouldn't be a deal-breaker. What would be a deal-breaker is giving up the ability to bypass humans at the check-in counter and go directly to my hotel room and use NFC to open the door. I specifically look for digital key-enabled Hampton Inns and Hilton Garden Inns and DoubleTrees now just so I can do this.

  18. ianw789

    I'm surprised by all the negative/critical commentary. Look at the price of this thing. It is not intended to compete with a ~$500 iPad. This is for people who like to signal their status with giant expensive watches and the like.

    Remember when the iPad was introduced? Execs liked it - it was great for going to meetings, sending simple emails, and staying in touch. And it set them apart from the regular workers lugging laptops. Soon all IT departments had to support iPads.

    To me it is obvious that Microsoft wants to be perceived (by business leaders) as a leader in innovation, and they are delivering a lovely-looking piece of quite useful jewellery for a segment who will pay for it. It is deliberately not for everyone, and that is the point. It is for "important people" who spend their day going to meetings (not creating) and wanting to have a nice looking conversation piece that fits in their jacket pocket with more screen than previously possible.

    For that segment, this is a great device (okay, once some more software updates come out).