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First peek at Microsoft’s Surface Duo smartphone

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First peek at Microsoft's Surface Duo smartphone
Credit: Microsoft

Details about Microsoft’s long-awaited Surface Duo smartphone have been sparse since word of its existence was reported last fall. But the first specs have now been released.

Windows Central reports that the foldable dual-screen device will feature 5.6-inch AMOLED screens with 1800×1350 resolution per screen. Processing will be handled by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 system on a chip (SoC). The SoC will have 6GB on memory plus two flavors of storage: 64GB or 256GB.

The Surface Duo will be powered by a 3460mAh battery.

Some observers might have expected a more powerful battery as well as a more recent version of the Snapdragon line, the 865. But Snapdragon 865 specs require a companion 5G chip, an element Microsoft could not accommodate without delaying production and overhauling the Surface Duo’s layout. The 865 specs were released last December.

Two advantages of using the older Snapdragon 855, however, are lower power consumption and lower cost.

Qualcomm is expected to soon release an SoC with a built-in 5G modem.

The surface Duo will support USB-C fast charging, but will not provide wireless charging.

A single 11MP camera will serve dual functions for both front- and rear-facing photography.

The phone, which will come with Android 10 (and likely Android 11 when released) will have a fingerprint sensor for authentication.

The Surface Duo is expected to launch this summer.

The early history of dual-screen phones was not a bright one. The first entry, the Kyocera Echo, arrived in 2011 touting two 3.5-inch screens with 512MB RAM. There were few apps available that took advantage of the dual screen, the processor was weak, battery life poor and the bezel separating the folding windows was unsightly. The phone was a flop.

Six years later, the ZTE Axon M suffered a similar fate as reviewers found it to be clunky, underpowered and, like the Echo, sporting an unsightly hinge holding the two screens together.

More recently, dual-screen phones appear more promising. Samsung initially stumbled with the release of the Galaxy Fold early last year as reviewers found faults with the display. But Samsung recalled all units, tweaked the foldable screen display and five months later previewed an improved version that addressed the old faults. Its bright 7.3-inch display is made of bonded layers of polymer rather than glass and features six cameras, including a 12-megapixel ultra-wide lens. It lists for $1,980, although there are rumors that a Fold Lite is in the works that is expected to sell for about $1,100.

Also last year, the Chinese manufacturer Huawei Technologies released the well-received Mate X boasting a flexible folding screen with no distracting bezel down the middle. The phone extends into an 8-inch tablet. The Android-based phone received strongly positive initial reviews, but sales were seriously hampered following a falling out between Huawei and Google. And escalating trade disputes between China and the United States killed sales here. The Mate X’s eye-popping $2,600 price tag didn’t help sales, either.

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