Surface Duo to Launch September 10 at $1399

Posted on August 12, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Microsoft Surface with 91 Comments

$1399? Yikes. It looks like Surface Duo is going to set enthusiasts back a lot more than most probably anticipated.

“Unveiled today and shipping September 10, Surface Duo represents the next wave of mobile productivity, inspiring people to rethink what is possible with the device in their pocket,” Microsoft’s Frank Buchholz writes in a … Tech Community blog. For some reason. “Surface Duo delivers the easiest way to multitask on the go, bringing together the power of Microsoft 365 experiences and the full ecosystem of Android mobile apps. Starting at $1,399, Surface Duo opens into the thinnest mobile device on the market with an 8.1-inch PixelSense Fusion display connected by a revolutionary 360-degree hinge, allowing you to use each 5.6″ display individually or together, across a variety of modes. Do more wherever you are with Surface Duo.”

I have a few concerns with this statement.

First, Surface Duo does not have an 8.1-inch PixelSense Fusion display. It has two 5.6-inch displays separated by large bezels and a set of hinges. Even when laid flat, the two displays are visually and obviously separated.

Second… “the thinnest mobile device on the market”? That’s where Microsoft is going stake its claim? Surface Duo may be the thinnest Surface device ever made. But the thinnest mobile device currently in the market? Sorry. That’s impossible. But we can’t fact-check it yet: Microsoft never communicates the actual thinness of the device in this post, which was clearly rushed out because of leaks. (Check out the empty Surface Duo page on Microsoft Docs that it links to for an example of why I believe this to be true.)

I assume we’ll learn more soon.

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Comments (98)

98 responses to “Surface Duo to Launch September 10 at $1399”

  1. scovious

    If it can't tap to pay, and there isn't a good watch companion for it, it feels like making a downgrade. That's a lot to pay for making me carry more things in my pockets...

  2. F4IL

    Horses for courses but the battery is just disappointing and a major blocker for a device in this price bracket.

    • Yaggs

      In reply to F4IL:

      Up to 15.5 hours of Local Video Playback2

      Up to 10 days of Standby Time2

      Up to 27 hours of Talk Time2
      Didn't think that sounded too bad...

      • F4IL

        In reply to Yaggs: Didn't think that sounded too bad...

        It is pretty bad and also not realistic for a daily driver.

        • illuminated

          In reply to F4IL:

          If 15.5 hours of local video playback is not enough then what is realistic for daily driver?

          My phone would not handle 15 hours of video playback yet it has enough battery for 1-1.5 days depending on usage.

          • F4IL

            In reply to illuminated: If 15.5 hours of local video playback is not enough then what is realistic for daily driver?

            Being outdoors with varying screen brightness, using maps w/GPS, taking photos, recording videos, web-browsing, making use of multitasking on the device's much touted and pre-installed productivity suite, etc.

            Looping a video for 15.5hrs is a synthetic workload that does not represent a realistic use case scenario for most people.

  3. RobertJasiek

    4:3 is the right ratio in the unpublished Surface Mini and the Duo while I do not want a foldable. Please release Windows tablets and ordinary smartphones with 4:3! Hint: iPads with 4:3 sell like cakes.

  4. dnwheeler

    I have very mixed feelings. I really love the design and form factor - for me, the "phone" is just an app on a portable device - but the price is a bit much for a small Surface. The fact that it's based on Android is probably the biggest deal-breaker for me - I use Windows almost exclusively, and introducing a new OS into my life is just another complication that I don't want to deal with.

    • dftf

      In reply to dnwheeler:

      "I use Windows almost exclusively" -- even on your smartphone? Are you still using a Windows 10 Mobile OS device? (You realise since December 2019 there have been no security-patches, and the Store is likely to close-down after January 2021, when Microsoft cease all updates for the Office apps on that platform)

  5. billd12848

    Thinnest device? Maybe the thinnest of the folding screen devices. Universe of 3.....

    • mklemin

      In reply to BillD12848:

      When it's open, it's 4.8mm thin. I can't think of another phone close to that in thinness. For reference, the iPhone 11 Pro is 8.1mm, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is 8.1mm, and the Pixel 4XL is 8.2mm in thickness. So the Duo is significantly thinner than the current flagship phones (when it's open).

  6. waharris007

    In reply to VancouverNinja:

    Trading in your old phone for $450 isn’t the same as a $450 price break. You’re still paying that $450; you’re just paying it in iPhone instead of in dollars. Besides, if you get $450 trade-in value, that means you could probably sell the device outright for maybe $600 or more cash.

    I’m not arguing against trading in or selling to recoup some of the cost; I do that all the time. I’m just saying it’s not fully accurate to say a trade-in “drops” the price of a new device.

  7. rarenthms

    You know if they took $2-4 billion off the TikTok deal and dropped the price by $400 they would get a better ROI and sell a bunch of them. Too pricey for this Microsoft fan

  8. cavalier_eternal

    I don't find the pricing tag shocking or maybe I should say that I expected it to be expensive. This is a product with a fairly limited market and I guess we will find out if that market will pay 1400. A little concerning that Paul is the in that target market and is apprehensive. Mostly I want see the reviews. I think the two screen or folding screen concept has legs but no one has really cracked the implementation of it. If MS has then it could be a market changing product.

  9. Nick Vlittas

    I know the price tag is a "little on the high side" but I still am very interested. I still think that this is the device that can make a difference out of the office.... when the pandemic is more under control and we return to a somewhat normalized life... we will be back on the road and this is where I can see some real benefits.

  10. chrisltd

    If the Duo is $1,400, would the Surface Neo have been $2,000 or more?

  11. jhambi

    1400 / 350 = 4 pixels. You just duct tape them together and you've got a quad display.

  12. harmjr

    I want this but don't have that kind of cash... So come black Friday sales I'm getting the LG V60 dual screen instead. I hope this will drive LG's device under $500.

  13. jgraebner

    In reply to VancouverNinja:

    Did you specifically ask them if they use NFC or did you ask them if they use features like Google/Apple Pay or tap to pair with headphones? I would imagine that a lot more people are familiar with the features that are enabled by NFC than they are with NFC itself.

  14. kenosando

    A very expensive proof-of-concept. Problem is, it will take Microsoft a year-and-a-half (or longer) to come up with a second iteration, while companies like Samsung iterates within the year.

    Now imagine how expensive the canned Surface Neo would have been...

  15. gabbrunner

    The question here is of course not "Is it the next iPhone?". It's "Is it the next Blackberry?" As in, is this what busy execs will be carrying around in the near future? Will it become some kind of status symbol for a certain productive type?

    iPhone works so well for businessmen around the world, I cannot see this happening.

    Maybe for a certain type of freelancer who needs to be responding to emails at any time and anywhere...

    I can see what they are trying to do but it's going to be hard to pull that off.

  16. campbell

    This is far too expensive, but i guess the sticking point is where MS measure it being a success or not. What are they really wanting from this? To introduce a new form factor? To really see how Microsoft Launcher+bespoke hardware can really work in tandem.

    Could they be thinking about 'Surface as a service'? Laptop, Mobile and software all wrapped up in a bundle?

  17. ponsaelius

    I assume the addition of a $2 NFC chip to do mobile payments would make the Duo unacceptably expensive.

    • Scsekaran

      In reply to ponsaelius:

      I am not sure it is just cost alone is a factor. It could be related to payment method - Google pay vs. Microsoft pay. I don't know whether Microsoft Pay is ready to be used with mobile NFC chips but they do work on the Web. It may be related to data security in the corporate environment. But it is a big miss for consumers and no excuse to leave it out

  18. geoff

    I wonder how long it be be before someone gets Windows-on-ARM running on this device.

    If Microsoft do it themselves, it might get interesting.

  19. red.radar

    I know this device was planned and designed pre-Covid when the world was very mobile. I can’t help but think the market for this device doesn’t exist. We seemed to have move back to office / desktop more traditional productivity devices now that we are more home bound.

    I expect things to bounce back but the market timing of this device is rather unfortunate

    $1400 is a nice laptop or desktop

    these things will perhaps be neat collector items in 15 years.

  20. cavalier_eternal

    In reply to pecosbob04:

    Just flag the clown for Spam and Abuse. No need to engage with a dinosaur.


    Today I returned to looking at the prices for a Lumia 950 on Amazon.

  22. spraly

    How do you make phone calls on it? How do you see who(m?) is calling you? You have to open the device up and put a huge 8 inch to your face?

  23. iantrem

    "Starting at $1,399"

    So that's with the bare minimum of storage then?

  24. dexman335

    Microsoft's technical specs for the Duo do not make any reference to Verizon Wireless for network compatibility. Locked: AT&T. Unlocked: AT&T and T-Mobile. A footnote instructs Sprint users to associate their phones with T-Mobile's network.

    Seems like the Duo is traveling the same compatability road as the Lumia 550, 650, 950 & 950XL. ?

  25. rheuser

    I was eager to get one until I saw the price. Too much for me.

  26. rob_segal

    In reply to VancouverNinja:

    $950 is still too much considering the LG V60 ThinQ dual screen is around $800 and the Pixel 4a is $350.

  27. illuminated

    Price screams "do not buy this, we just want to show you what we can do".

    360 hinge is cool though. But that price... Work from home must have hit some people real hard.

    EDIT: looked at couple of videos and Duo looks kind of nice. Still too expensive but cute.

  28. kennyb

    No NFC? What a weird omission.

  29. remc86007

    Not sure why everyone is so surprised at the price. The Iphone Pro Max starts at $1100 and only has one screen. Also look at the ridiculous prices that the Galaxy Fold launched with. I think this thing is going to be a better seller than people think. My wife has used an iPhone for the past 2.5 years after switching from Windows Phone and she wants a Duo. No doubt this price will drop after the initial surge in demand; Microsoft may as well make back some of its R&D money while it can.

    • Paul Thurrott

      Sure. But that iPhone runs iOS apps and is future proof.
      • VancouverNinja

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        How is iOS more future proof than Android? IOS has less than a 20% global market share compared to almost 80% for Android.

        Then there is the fact that Android OS works and plays nicely with Windows where iOS pretty much doesn’t.

        What sounds like a better mobile OS solution for a Windows user?

        • solomonrex

          In reply to VancouverNinja:

          Because Apple will support it for 5+ years, not just 3 or so.

          I think Microsoft has a good track record for that, obvs, but they're relying on Quallcomm here.

        • Jorge Garcia

          In reply to VancouverNinja:

          Correct. All but a sliver of the 3 BILLION people in China and India (especially India) will pretty much know nothing but the Android OS for the foreseeable future. And please don't believe the percentages that state that iPhone adoption in China is in the 20% range and garbage like that...those numbers don't make any sense mathematically and it's because they only count the wealthy "urban" centers. Outside of the main cities, Android penetration is probably very close to 100%, but those don't count for some reason.

        • Paul Thurrott

          All Apple devices get updates for several years. The apps are routinely better on iOS. Etc. Interoperability with Windows is an issue. I'm not sure that most people would even care about that, however.
          • bleeman

            In reply to paul-thurrott:

            Interesting in that I've found just the opposite with regards to IOS apps. As you mentioned though this is all relative. I have found that approximately 60% of the apps I use on my Galaxy Note 10+ are significantly better than their IOS counterparts on my iPad mini. What I find with the mini is that far too many of them are designed for the iPhone and don't look good on the iPad. So it may be an Apples to Oranges thing, but for me I haven't been impressed with the IOS apps, but I do like my mini.

      • remc86007

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        How is Android not future proof? Sure IOS apps are generally better, but most of the apps I use most frequently on my note 10 are as good if not better than the IOS versions: (Outlook, Edge, Spotify, Youtube). Seems a little awkward for you to imply that the price of Apple's phones--which have had no legitimate innovation in years-- are fine, but a new formfactor phone from Microsoft at $1400 is too much?

        • matsan

          In reply to remc86007:

          Total n00b when it comes to Android, but can you take a stock Android image and install it on any device or do you rely on the vendor to bake an image for your specific hardware?

          My question comes from being burned by Dell and HP on Windows CE/Mobile devices where they stopped baking images with newly released versions from Microsoft and thus left their users out to dry.

    • luthair

      In reply to remc86007:

      I don't see normal humans buying it, there might be some business markets where its useful but its an incredibly niche device.

    • VancouverNinja

      In reply to remc86007:

      My wife wants it too and she has an iPhone as well.

  30. rob_segal

    The Pixel 4a is $350 and is a better phone on paper. It has a better camera lens, dual speakers, and a good enough processor. Is a second screen worth more than $1000 in additional cost?

  31. jchampeau

    8.1-inch screen? Thinnest mobile device on the market? I hope someday we collectively swing back to a state where facts matter and telling the truth is thought of as the right thing to do.

    • VancouverNinja

      In reply to jchampeau:

      The screen thing should have been written up differently but the underlying point it the users app will spread across these two screens for the equivalent of an 8.1 screen space. Picking on this write up point is just tossing rocks.

      The thinnest device I believe is bang on. They state that it “opens up” to be the thinnest and it looks unusually thin from all the shots posted so far.

  32. Yaggs

    Not surprised at the cost... I think there are a lot of strange ideas at what this thing is supposed to be or where it is supposed to be positioned. Surface hardware isn't supposed to sell in the tens of millions... I think they really are exploring new device types with this kind of product. It makes total sense that it's that expensive. That keeps the market to people who will put up with the version 1 issues this thing is going to have. The price isn't out of line with other foldable devices, and I would argue that this has the potential to last a whole lot longer than something like a Galaxy Fold. I also think the bezel in the middle is OK for where we are at with tech right now... I would make that compromise over the plastic screen and the middle crease on the fold any day.

  33. red.radar

    ugh the price... I was hoping it would reinvigorate the tablet space by offering a worthy android device. At that price I could nearly buy 4 iPads and pass them out to my family members like Oprah.

  34. Scott Ross

    I had a feeling it would be a $1000+ device. Its the surface line there is always a premium. But at $1400 I would want at least two years of Microsoft 365 included. If sales are in a slump first couple of months I wouldn't be surprised if it gets bundled in. Still a little peeved that a release date and price was give for this in September and yet no price for the Xbox Series X in November.

  35. MarkPow

    Crikey - got to really want it at that cost! And I don't.

  36. martinusv2

    Too high for the specs, but less than Galaxy Fold 2.

  37. MTrimmer

    I hope they didn't make many of these. Using a year old processor with what appears to be an average camera at best combined with high pricing sure doesn't look like a winner to me. I hope they have a surprise or two in store that will better justify this pricing.

  38. Jogy

    > $1399? Yikes. 

    My reaction exactly. I am interested in a dual screen mobile device, and I would make use of it, but definitely not at this price point.

  39. chaad_losan

    It's too wide to fit in your pocket. Seems like it's for women who have a purse or someone with a backpack. I don't think there is a market need for this really. Dual screen is not a thing with android and only certain apps, like the ones from Microsoft will probably support dual screen. And it is expensive in a form factor that may be abandoned before it gets started. Without an outer screen having to unfold this all the time to see any information is a great way to fumble with it and drop it. Bye bye $1400. You'd be hard pressed to open this on the fly while walking or doing anything but sitting down like your going to use a laptop. While It's interesting Microsoft is trying something new. I just don't see this being a popular thing. And with no camera on the back at all, and just one on the front. There is no case to use its giant screen to use as a view finder unless you fold it outward, but I doubt the camera it does have comes anywhere close to the capabilities of the Note 20, or any other flagship phone in its price range. And no flash. It just seems like someone with a minimalist checklist of stuff and they came up with an engineering sample and said, "Done release it!".

    • dftf

      In reply to chaad_losan:

      "Dual screen is not a thing with android and only certain apps, like the ones from Microsoft will probably support dual screen"

      If Android essentially lies to the apps and just says they are running on a single-screen but just renders the app on the second one and again lies to say it is the foreground app then I can see this would be easy to implement.

      But if the second screen is essentially just done using "split-screen" mode then no, at-least a third of apps on my Android phone do not support this.

  40. mattbg

    "opens into the thinnest mobile device on the market"

    So it's not the thinnest when it's closed. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it's 0.001" thinner than the thinnest phone available in the US market.

    • dbp

      In reply to mattbg:

      4.8mm when open, 9.9mm at hinge when closed. My Galaxy S10 is 7.8mm, so this is only 2.1mm thicker. A bit chunky, but this is actually better than I expected it to be. And 4.8mm is really quite thin.

  41. kevvan

    I put this in the "we made one" device category and now like some of the other vendors they can say they did a dual screen device. Perhaps the history of the Courier compelled them to do this as a small minority has been lusting after the concept and kept some interest in the Microsoft feedback loop.

    Maybe it is not sentiment driven but a play to ensure they did not miss if the form factor hits and they can be held as the leader in the form factor like the Surface. Given the company focus on the cloud and office - why MS is still branching out to oddity hardware is an odd strategic play. I wonder how they even that they got the green light for this given the current thrust at MS and the track record for not doing this anymore.

    Taste in hardware is in the eye of the beholder and like the heyday of the windows phone era, some will jump in. I just don't get it. It does not stir a single pang of desire for ownership and I do not think the general public is clambering or excited for this device. It is probably a nice piece of hardware, but like so many things on the bench will it be forgotten in a year.

    It is a mixed sentiment to say they did a good job by trying it. Honestly it feels empty and I feel for those that take the risk given the sketch track record of devices of the past.

    If it hits good for them. For those that try it and like it, I hope it really works. For me - Pass.

  42. oscar999

    With that price and with a dual screen its very clearly geared toward business, not consumers. Much as the rest of the Surface brand.

  43. komosis

    I agree with SRRLX1986 and MTrimmer.

    I have been looking forward to the release of this device since it was announced last year. I hope they have some kind of incentives play, like a multi-year Microsoft 365 membership, or bump for users like me who already have subscriptions. If it $1399 for the phone alone, then I will have to go with an alternative. Sad......

  44. dftf

    I'm still unsure if dual-screen devices like this will really become a big-thing.

    The only last successful one I can think of was the Nintendo DS, but that was a games-console, not a device you do multiple different activities on.

    Personally I'd rather just have phones you can link a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse to, cast them to a screen, and turn the phone into a desktop-style experience, so it's a smartphone and mini-computer combined. Be nice to use things like Word, Excel and PowerPoint in a full-screen when a quick bit of editing is needed, or browse the desktop-version of some websites.

    I wonder too if dual-screen devices will allow every app on your device to run full-screen on either screen, given there is a "split-screen" view in modern Android, but around half of all apps on my device don't support it. So will they also refuse to work on the second-screen rather than the primary one?

  45. VancouverNinja

    Paul, Think you should slow down a bit. The article clearly states the device “...opens up...” to be the thinnest mobile device. From all the photos I have seen that is one of the attributes that caught my eye. The device looks unusually thin when in use.

    • Jorge Garcia

      In reply to VancouverNinja:

      The insane slimness, while retaining the ability to fold all the way, is the reason I give (gave) it a pass on the "huge" bezels. BUT that was when I assumed it'd cost no more than $800. At this price, it just makes (almost) no sense for any consumer to purchase this, unless they really really want a minuscule laptop-like smartphone thing, which to be honest is still a little compelling.

  46. IamDefiler

    Just give me that Android launcher for my V60 and I’ll be happy.

  47. bart

    $1400 for a 1st gen device with unproven form factor and last year's specs? No. Just no.

  48. GregCGilbert

    I don't know if it's the thinnest, but the specs say 4.8mm when open.

  49. bleeman

    In reply to VancouverNinja:

    Hmm, so I trade in my Galaxy Note 10+ and I get $650 for it. Now I have a dual screen device running Android. However, I can no longer use any Pay app as there is no NFC, and I now have one camera instead of 4 with lower resolution. Oh and in order to take written notes like I do with my existing S pen I get to shell out for a Surface Pen separately if I don't already own another Surface product (fortunately, I do). And then add in the fact that I've been burned by Windows Home Server, Windows Phone, Zune, Microsoft Band, Cortana on all my devices unless I want to use the new brain dead version they're pushing. So I think the answer for me is a BIG FAT NO. Too bad too as I had been looking forward to this, but no longer.

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