Microsoft’s Floor Duo 2 wants greater than quicker efficiency and higher cameras to win the foldables race

Microsoft's Surface Duo 2 needs more than faster performance and better cameras to win the foldables race

Microsoft’s new Pen magnetically fees and has vibrating haptics.


Microsoft’s unique Floor Duo confirmed the potential for dual-screened telephones, however finally did not ship on expectations. The corporate is hoping to deal with these limitations with the brand new $1,499 Floor Duo 2, introduced on Wednesday, which comes with a much-needed enhance in processing energy and digital camera high quality. The most important query, nonetheless, is whether or not Microsoft can really make the case for a dual-screened telephone.

First, let’s begin with what’s new about the Floor Duo 2, which is obtainable for preorder beginning Wednesday. Microsoft’s second-generation foldable features a triple-lens digital camera with 12-megapixel vast, 12-megapixel telephoto and 16-megapixel ultrawide lenses, which needs to be a giant improve in comparison with the unique’s single-lens 11-megapixel digital camera. That new digital camera system is situated on the Floor Duo’s rear this time round, in contrast to final 12 months’s mannequin which required you to open the telephone and fold the show again to make use of the gadget as a traditional digital camera. 

The Floor Duo 2 additionally comes with most of the connectivity protocols that had been lacking from the primary Floor Duo, reminiscent of 5G help, NFC and Wi-Fi 6. The addition of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 5G processor, the identical chip powering Android flagships just like the Samsung Galaxy S21 and OnePlus 9 Professional, ought to end in a notable efficiency bump, too. The unique Floor Duo, by comparability, runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip, which felt a bit underpowered and could be present in older telephones just like the Samsung Galaxy S10.

The screens on the brand new Floor Duo are additionally barely bigger, and a brand new show strip situated alongside the hinge exhibits info just like the time and notifications when the gadget is closed. 

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These are all appreciated changes that will surely help Microsoft’s new two-screened device catch up to other premium smartphones. But subpar technical specifications were never really the Duo’s biggest problem. Yes, anyone paying for a $1,400 smartphone would expect top-notch cameras, fast performance and 5G at a minimum.

But that’s not the Duo’s main attraction; people interested in Microsoft’s foldable were likely intrigued by the idea of a second screen. The lack of 5G and an unimpressive camera just added to the Surface Duo’s issues, it wasn’t the main cause behind them. 

The first Surface Duo’s shortcomings and challenges

The original Surface Duo seemed compelling in concept. At a time when most of us use our phones for just about everything, who wouldn’t want an extra screen? The problem was that the execution wasn’t as polished as it should have been. The software on the prerelease version that went out to reviewers was sluggish and laggy. Many apps weren’t optimized to work the way you would want them to across two screens. 

Microsoft’s software updates fixed many of these bugs, but that didn’t address the biggest hurdle that devices like the Surface Duo 2 face. Gadgets that are among the first of their kind such as the Surface Duo require you to rethink the way you use your device in order to see the appeal, and nailing that is challenging for any company. 

The Surface Duo, for example, has a seemingly handy feature that allows you to pair two apps together and launch them simultaneously with a single tap. That’s great in theory, but most people probably use their phones more spontaneously and don’t think about apps in pairs. I might need to switch between Slack and Outlook one day, but find myself juggling Slack and Google Drive the next, for instance. 

The keyboard also sounded great on paper until I actually used it. I was excited to type on the Surface Duo since it looks like a mini laptop — until I realized the keyboard was too small for traditional home row-style typing but too wide to comfortably tap with my thumbs in this mode.  

In other words, it’s not enough to just give people a phone with two screens. Microsoft’s job is to fully think through why you would want two screens to begin with, and then execute that in the best possible way. It tried to do that with the original Surface Duo, but its vision didn’t feel fully realized yet. 

Competition from Samsung could also present another challenge for Microsoft. Foldable phones are still new, but Samsung is now on the third generation of its large-format flexible phone, the Galaxy Z Fold 3. Although the Z Fold 3 has its limitations, especially when used in phone mode, the premise behind it is simple: It’s a tablet when opened and a phone when closed.

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The Surface Duo is decidedly different; it’s not one large screen that folds in half. Rather, it’s two screens joined by a hinge that open and close like a book. The idea is a bit more complex, which means Microsoft might have to work harder to show people why it’s useful, especially as Samsung’s foldables gain attention. 

The potential for a phone with two screens

There were some glimmers of promise with the original Surface Duo that make me excited that Microsoft isn’t giving up on its foldable. The reading experience on the first Duo, for example, was excellent. It felt a lot like reading a book, and apps like Amazon Kindle and Microsoft News even have a page-turn animation that furthers this effect. 

I also really loved the flexibility that the Surface Duo allows for, compared to other foldables like those from Samsung. Tent mode, for example, made it really easy to watch videos or use my phone as a second screen without having to use a stand or nearby surface to prop it up.

We won’t really know whether the Surface Duo 2 feels like a big leap over the original in this regard until we try it. But Microsoft is teasing some improvements that make me hopeful it will. 

Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass Ultimate streaming service will be available on the Surface Duo 2, and based on a brief peek in the company’s press briefing it looks like at least some games will be optimized for its dual screen. Gaming seems like one of the most obvious areas where the Surface Duo 2 could shine, since it essentially transforms into a touchscreen Nintendo 3DS-like device when opened. Doubling as a phone and a handheld Xbox console sounds like a great way to make use of those dual screens, though it would require developers to adapt their games, which may not be worth their while unless Microsoft sells a lot of these phones. 

The improved camera might also make the Surface Duo 2 more appealing for those who want to shoot and edit photos on their mobile device. After all, it offers double the screen space of a traditional smartphone and support for Microsoft’s pen accessories (although unfortunately you have to buy the stylus separately).

The Surface Duo 2 is another sign that tech giants like Microsoft and Samsung are rethinking what’s expected of a smartphone. It’ll likely take time to figure out exactly what that looks like, but Microsoft is hoping the Surface Duo could do for the mobile industry what the original Surface did for computing. That shift didn’t happen overnight, and this one likely won’t either, but the Surface Duo 2 could be a bigger step in that direction.

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