I don’t like Microsoft’s Surface Duo as a phone, but would love it as a tablet

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

For almost a month, I’ve been utilizing the Microsoft Area Duo, the firm’s initial Android-driven telephone. We’ve currently protected the Duo in excellent detail, including a non-reviewers critique, from ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley and another review from ZDNet’s Matthew Miller. 

I’ve tried using, a lot of times, now to do the job the Duo into my daily workflow. I’ve used it as my key telephone for a handful of times, I’ve used it as a secondary unit for jotting notes with a Slender Area Pen, and ultimately, I’ve used it to keep an eye on Twitter or my inbox though observing Twitch or YouTube videos. 

With the Duo, Microsoft took a novel solution to reimagine the smartphone. Alternatively of a black rectangular unit, like almost each individual telephone launched in the final 5 many years, Microsoft took two shows, set a hinge in between them, and protected the exterior in glass. The Duo opens like a ebook, without an exterior display screen to enable you know if you have waiting messages, inform you when you might be getting a get in touch with or even offer you a glanceable clock to look at the time. 

You either open the Duo and link to the electronic earth, or you might be completely reduce off from the seemingly consistent stream of information and facts that pings ordinary phones during the working day. 

I understood pretty much right away the Duo does not actually do the job as a telephone in the regular feeling. There are just much too a lot of concessions — no front display screen, the digicam is mediocre at most effective, and the total kind aspect just feels uncomfortable when utilizing it as a solitary monitor unit. 

But right after a few of weeks, I came to the realization that a even larger model of the Duo would make for a amazing pill. 

I know, I know.
Microsoft currently declared the Neo

, a unit that appears to be like pretty much particularly like the Duo, only even larger, and it operates Windows 10X. But final week, Microsoft removed the Neo’s product or service webpage from its site altogether. We currently knew it was delayed, and that Microsoft was likely to emphasis its Windows 10X efforts on solitary monitor products just before relocating on to the Neo, but eradicating the listing altogether does not bode perfectly for an eventual launch. 

But again to the Duo. 


Where the Duo shows the most opportunity is with multitasking and utilizing far more than a single app at a time. The point that you will find a physical divide in between the two screens, as opposed to a foldable display screen like the Galaxy Z Fold 2, forces you to be deliberate with what app or apps you have open, and on which monitor, but the decision generating stops there. 

For illustration, on the iPad, it normally feels like an either-or unit. Possibly you might be utilizing a single app at a time, in the default total-monitor placing, or you use a shrunk-down model of the app in slide above, or you can use a break up-monitor perspective, which can then by itself be altered to numerous measurements. In turn, you might be forced to make a lot of conscious selections about which app goes wherever, and how substantially monitor genuine estate does it warrant, or is it greater if this app is used in slide above? Don’t get me mistaken, I appreciate functioning on the iPad, but its present-day multitasking setup demands to be refined. 

The Duo eliminates some of individuals selections and leaves you with a far more organic sensation of utilizing far more than a single app a time, with the flexibility of folding the 2nd display screen again and utilizing a solitary app in a far more compact setup. 

I was upset with the Area Pen practical experience on the Duo, nevertheless. I actually desired to use it to choose notes through meetings, but located myself having difficulties with errant scribbles thanks to palm rejection issues. 


The software package, as a entire, is in need of a number of enhancements. Even nevertheless the Duo shows the opportunity for twin-monitor products and multitasking, it can be total of bugs and usability issues. Dragging apps from a single monitor to the other, or making an attempt to expand it to choose above both screens isn’t really constantly a easy procedure. And Android’s gestures compete with Microsoft’s multitasking gestures at times, that means you will not actually know if you might be likely to go again a monitor or open the app switcher perspective. 

As I box up the Duo and wait to get my $1,500 again, I’m still left sensation hopeful about the 2nd or third era Duo. Microsoft has located a way to deliver the ease of pairing products like a Area Pen, and a seamless audio practical experience with the Area Earbuds to a non-Windows unit, and it can be performing so with a completely novel design. 

Ideally, we see a Duo+ in the in the vicinity of long term. Or, you know, that Neo unit we at the time heard about.