back to article Microsoft's underwhelming, underpowered dual-screen Surface Duo phone arrives in the UK this month for £1,349

Lucky UK shoppers will at last be able to get their hands on Microsoft's magical folding phone, the Surface Duo, next week for a bargain-basement price of… £1,349. The dual-screen device can be picked up from the Microsoft Store (presumably online only since the physical outlet has been shuttered) or Currys PC World from 18 …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I stopped at "Microsoft's underwhelming". I think that covered it. xD

    1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Does it work with the Zune?

    2. Paul S. Gazo

      How much whelm depends on the user.

      There's certainly a press echo-chamber, where various web sites repeat one another and only a handful of actual reviews.

      For instance, early on there were widely reported "issues with the hinge" and widespread cracking of the plastic around the USB port. Turns out those were basically two people reporting in on a forum. Months later, there's no sign of these issues being common.

      Bottom line, I'm plenty whelmed by mine. I'm Canadian and paid to have it imported a few weeks after release. The camera is definitely meh, but not something I really use. Other than that, this is the coolest phone I've had.

      The Duo isn't for everyone and it's not perfect. But if you're interested in the physical attributes, from the dual screens to the aspect ratio... it's actually a really good device.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How much whelm depends on the user.

        Can it be flipped to landscape mode or is it still stuck in a vertical door hinge layout? One of the main advantages of a clamshell, dual screen design would be to have one screen displaying the full app window and and the lower screen showing controls and the soft keyboard. It also would let you run apps that hadn't been optimized specifically to deal with the giant vertical gap in the screen, which seemed the glaring fault of this device in the previews.

        They have had time to address this in software, but I don't know if the turtlenecks in marketing have blocked them from doing so. It certainly didn't seem to be part of their "creative vision" at launch.

        Based on the years long glaring lack of this style device on the market I'm starting to worry someone patented the design, and we will end up waiting 20 years to free up the design, by which point it will probably be obsolete.

        1. Paul S. Gazo

          Re: How much whelm depends on the user.

          My main reason for buying the thing was to use it in the physical shape of a laptop.

          I use "Hacker's Keyboard", which is a full QWERTY keyboard with number keys on the top and Shift and Alt, so I can Shift-3 to get a number sign. None of this "press a key to go into symbol mode" stuff. Only that makes the keys very small since there's so many of them. For any lengthy data-input, I just rotate and the keyboard's on the bottom while whatever I'm typing into is on the top. Even with two thumb input, it's fast.

          At the time I got mine, the only software update was the day-1 release from Microsoft, so it's been able to do this since product release.

          The "giant" vertical gap isn't giant. But yes, if you were to just span software not Duo-aware, there's a 20 or 30 pixel strip missing in the middle. For video, it'd be annoying, but I can't stand the bubbly creases of the Samsung ZFold either. If I go landscape and web browse, the missing pixels don't matter as I scroll since whatever's there shows up above or below easily.

          I wouldn't expect the gap to go away. It actually makes more sense to have it. If you take a two-monitor computer and span a video program over the two displays, the bezels and space between monitors make things look weird. I know "missing stuff" sounds like it makes no sense, but... the offset some of the image by a quarter inch or so actually makes less sense. An option wouldn't suck, but I wouldn't expect it.

          In-hand, as a productivity device, I'm really not displeased with my purchase. I wanted this form-factor and the features it has. I knew what I was buying and it's what I wanted. That said, I absolutely know it's not for everyone, or most people.

          1. katrinab Silver badge
            Meh

            Re: How much whelm depends on the user.

            Would you not be better off with a bluetooth keyboard that has some sort of stand to prop up the phone?

            I have one that is suitable for iPad sized devices. I'm sure it would be possible to do a smaller version of it, and very likely someone already has.

            1. Paul S. Gazo

              Re: How much whelm depends on the user.

              Sorry for the delay in replying.

              That's not my use case. I don't want to put the phone down. I don't want some other object I need to take out when I want to use it. With the Duo, I can just hold the phone the way I want to. When I'm at the grocery store and my wife asks me something that requires a lengthy reply, I can do it more comfortably.

              To be clear, the down-sides most people point out are not down-sides to me. I like the size, I don't mind the weight and so on.

              Again, this isn't the phone for everyone, but it makes me happy.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: How much whelm depends on the user.

            My solution - purchase Zagg Bluetooth keyboard with phone holder at 66% discount from large online retailer. Excellent keyboard with good physical feedback and long battery life.

            Overall saving £1300. Result happiness.

            1. Lusty

              Re: How much whelm depends on the user.

              "Overall saving £1300. Result happiness."

              Where did you get a phone and bluetooth keyboard for £49? Must be a shocking phone.

            2. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: How much whelm depends on the user.

              >purchase Zagg Bluetooth keyboard...

              What we really need is for someone to resurrect the Stowaway Portable Keyboard with phone/device connector suitable for the present day.

    3. djvrs

      I did the same and came straight to the comments

    4. N2 Silver badge
      Trollface

      I stopped

      Just before under...

  2. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I just don't see how it can justify the price of purchasing. You could get a better specification phone from the likes of Samsung, all be it with only one screen. But with all that leftover money you could get a decent tablet or another low to mid range second phone if you really must be looking at two apps simultaneously. And still have change left over.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      It'd be good if a framework was created that made two (or more) Android devices behave as one device with two screens - that way folk could build their own version of the MS phone with existing devices and a roll of duck tape (or some adhesive velcro, perhaps). Seamless copy and paste, one device is the soft keyboard,, thatt of thing.

      Another function might be akin to the Adobe iOS app that turns an iPhone into a tool palette for Photoshop on the Mac.

      1. M. Poolman

        Android devices behave as one device with two screens

        X for Android, anyone?

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Android devices behave as one device with two screens

          I think you'll find "X for Android" isn't what you were thinking of...

    2. Phil Kingston

      But, Shiny shiny new new!

    3. Gene Cash Silver badge

      > all be it with only one screen

      Yes, the price really does come down to the form factor.

      Not my cuppa, but if someone were to make something like the original Droid/Milestone with the slide-out physical keyboard, I might be persuaded to part with a large wedge.

      1. Geoff Campbell
        Pirate

        The Gemini gets pretty good reviews. It's rather bigger than the old Droid-era phones, but then, what isn't?

        https://store.planetcom.co.uk/products/gemini-pda-1

        GJC

    4. Lee D Silver badge

      Two apps simultaneously is a standard feature of modern Android anyway.

      Just buy a decent (or large) Samsung phone and learn how to use it.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        > Two apps simultaneously is a standard feature of modern Android anyway.

        Yeah, kinda... but things like drag and drop to copy paste aren't present.

        1. nintendoeats Bronze badge

          > but things like drag and drop to copy paste aren't present.

          Which is pretty funny when you consider that, in the 80s, copy-paste was considered such a significant advancement that computer chronicles did an entire episode on it (I think they called it integrated software or something, but it was literally just copy-paste between applications).

          So, we are really making progress :eyeroll:

    5. Triggerfish

      That sort of price gets me a S20+ and a Surface Go, admittedly the surface go wont fit in a pocket like I guess the Dou does, but it fits a manbag nicely enough its not like lugging a laptop around.

      I actually like the idea of the surface duo, but the price point for what I get I don't.

  3. xyz Silver badge

    My evil hauwai phone...

    Cost below a 10th of that (120€) and it makes a damn good router when connected to my 17 inch 8gb ram laptop (550€). I must be behind the times.

    1. MiguelC Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: My evil hauwai phone...

      Just playing the Devil's advocate here, but you really must have large reinforced pockets to carry your 17 inch laptop with you everywhere...

      I'm not implying that this particular phone may ever be the right tool, but different tools for different jobs and all

      I'll get my coat now, yes the one with stainless steel stitching on the extra large pockets

      1. RM Myers Silver badge
        Joke

        Just playing the Devil's advocate...

        You're a lawyer for Larry Ellison?

      2. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: My evil hauwai phone...

        I have a 17" laptop, it fits snuggly into a basic thin rucksack (I have an old one someone gave me years ago that's made specifically for laptops, but the kids all have them nowadays for their Chromebooks, etc.).

        Previously have taken a 17" laptop with me every day to work for about 10 years, but I bought my own since and that stays away from work, but it comes with me on the airplane as a carry-on with a ton of food shoved in the main pocket whenever I go on holiday, it comes with me to relative's houses (when not in lockdown), I take it camping, I take it on games nights etc.

        17" is *not* a huge laptop. It's not heavy.

        And, like the OP, I tether mine to my phone, which cost a fraction of this junk, has dual-SIM and an unlimited-4g-data SIM in it (£18 a month). I could also use the little Huawei 4G Wifi box I have in the laptop bag with a similar SIM, but I'm using my 2nd SIM to run my entire house Internet for the last three years.

        This stuff is just over-priced junk. In a small rucksack, literally the kind of thing you could give a kid to take to school and nowhere near heavy, or bulky, or awkward, and a mid-range Samsung phone I basically can do anything from game online to work remotely to watch hours of movies on a plane.

        Hell, when going abroad, I often shove my phone in the rucksack so that I can pass security and it stays in there offering out a private Wifi while I use the laptop to pass the time in the airport.

        It's 2021. Phones that "do everything" are commodity. 17" laptops are the default. Gaming laptops can kick most people's PC's backsides.

        Hell, apart from a couple of Raspberry Pi's offering services like TV NVR, I don't use any other PCs in my own home. Same laptop, same phone. The only difference is that at home I have a 4G SIM running the house wifi, but the phone is capable of the same (the reason I have two is that the phone is then able to connect back to my home wherever I am, and pick up my home TV recordings, movies, CCTV, etc.)

        As the OP says, mid-range phone and a laptop, and you basically have everything you need.

  4. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Meh

    These "smart phones" were built to be phones with the option of running apps and connecting to the internet. Nowadays the "phone" is just an app on a laptop kneetop computer that monitors everything you do.

    Two screens? I guess that means that battery will die sooner and the phone will need replacing?

    1. Paul S. Gazo

      Nope. If you do some digging, you'll find that's a common expectation with the Duo but turns out to not be accurate. The battery is reasonably sized for the unit's normal draw.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      > Two screens? I guess that means that battery will die so

      Why would you think that this phone in particular would buck the usual industry practice of fitting a battery appropriate to its power draw in order to achieve a run-time on par with competing models?

      1. Sampler

        I believe the logic is double the screens, double the power draw, double the recharge. Discharge/recharge cycles increase and battery dies sooner (not run flat, but depreciate in capacity as to be useless, which usually takes a couple of years on most phones, but sooner on this due to the higher demand).

        Not that I agree, but, I believe that's their angle.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          They didn't follow their logic far enough to see that it's conclusion was that Microsoft's designers are complete idiots who aren't following due process. Not anl totally impossible scenario, but it is sufficiently unlikely that it should cause someone to pause and re-examine their assumptions.

          In reality, near the top of Microsoft's design considerations would be written:

          *Phone must last around a day in order to be competive with rivals and avoid negative reviews in the press.*

          And from that follows:

          *Extra screen increases power draw. Therefore a larger battery will be specified.*

  5. Binraider Bronze badge

    The problem is one of trust. Apple chucks out a £1000 phone it's going to be good, albeit overpriced. MS -whether actually good or bad - people associate it with (a) Work and (b) Crap.

    Premium price tag and dreadful rep is just going to crash and burn.

    And the Polar opposite. The rather excellent MS-owned Nokia that this post was scribbled on; less than £100. Does all I want a phone to do reasonably well. Genuinely the only reason for an upgrade would be the camera. And I bet doesn't have a very good margin for MS on it.

    1. HildyJ Silver badge
      Boffin

      Trusting M$?

      M$ software has, shall we say, issues.

      But their hardware, in my experience, is solid. I've owned two generations of Surface tablets without any issues and from what I've read the Surface laptops are also excellent. Plus my 5 Xboxes (from the 360 to the Series X) were problem free.

      If you need what M$ is selling with the Duo, I think you will find it a quality product.

      OTOH, I don't see the need for any folding phone.

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

        Re: Trusting M$?

        Sure, there are issues with many current M$ releases but my old XP system still runs great, boots way faster then the Windows 10 system and is far easier to use. I don't run it on the Internet, initially I saw that as a problem but these days it's an advantage!

      2. Christopher Reeve's Horse

        Re: Trusting M$?

        There's approximately 37 Windows RT owners that would like a word with you...

    2. RyokuMas Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      "MS -whether actually good or bad - people associate it with (a) Work and (b) Crap."

      Been saying this all along - if Microsoft had branded Windows Phone 7/8 as something else that was not immediately connected to them and then thrown sufficient cash at it, there's every chance we could have had a three healthy mobile ecosystems now, rather that being forced to choose between IOS and SpyOS. After all, it worked for the Xbox...

      But no. And, predictably, we had the usual howls of disparagement from a lot of people on here, many of whom had probably never even bothered to pick one up and tried it out... "because it's Microsoft".

    3. Down not across Silver badge

      The rather excellent MS-owned Nokia that this post was scribbled on; less than £100

      MS bought Nokia mobile phone division, however they only leased the name. Any Nokia running Android has nothing to do with MS, but are manufactured by HMD Global under license from Nokia. Of course it is entirely possible you are referring to an old winphone.

      Nothing wrong with that I'm quite happy with the the Nokia 8 and have felt no need to upgrade since it still gets updates (albeit with slight delay) and does what I need it to do.

    4. Terry Barnes

      Nokia’s haven’t been made by MS for some time - the last were Lumia windows phones are high are well out of support. The current Nokia range is made by a Chinese company.

    5. Geoff Campbell
      Boffin

      "Apple chucks out a £1000 phone it's going to be good"

      Oh, have they dropped iOS now?

      GJC

  6. Blackjack Silver badge

    This is not the phone you are looking for

    Let's be honest here, this is not a Nintendo DS, most of the Apps are not made with two screens in mind.

    Is like buying a Digital Camera in the 2000s, it was cool, it have you bragging rights but the tech was crap.

    Someday Dual Screen Phones will be awesome, but not anytime soon.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is not the phone you are looking for

      I'm writing a free app for parents to load on the phone when their kids use it - the app is called Venus Flytrap and it slams the screens shut when they go to bad sites.

      1. M. Poolman

        Re: This is not the phone you are looking for

        Now I finally see why dual screen phones might have a genuinely useful application!

        1. Blackjack Silver badge

          Re: This is not the phone you are looking for

          Yes, breaking fingers and screens.

  7. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "dual-screen Surface Duo phone"

    Ahhhhhhh...............

    Stereo!

    There was a cartoon in Meccano Magazine in the 60s of a man in his doctor's surgery. The man has two pairs of ears and another in the middle of his forehead. The doctor is saying "are you sure this only developed after you bought your surround sound hi-fi system?"

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: "dual-screen Surface Duo phone"

      ...The man has two pairs of ears and another in the middle of his forehead...

      Was his name Davey Crockett? “A left ear, a right ear, and a wild frontier”... oops, sorry, I seem to have wandered into the wrong joke...

  8. Dave 126 Silver badge

    With good software it could be worthwhile - despite the tag that is double two similarly specced phones. ( The MS Courier concept from years ago always appealed to me - it presented itself as a good mobile notebook for gathering and organising notes and ideas, rather than trying to be a small laptop)

    With really good software, you could get the same functionality on any two Android devices.

  9. 759b954e-617b-408b-a2b1-f5a42c3688d4

    Meh

    The F(x)tec Pro 1 seems like a much more practical form factor to me*.

    And it'll run Linux if that's what you prefer.

    * I used to have a Psion Series 5 and still miss it.

  10. CuChulainn

    On the other hand...

    We can't imagine many people picking up the Surface Duo for its prowess at capturing still and moving imagery

    A few years ago I was at a gig at Nottingham's Rock City. I can't remember who it was we were seeing, but it might have been The Darkness, or Black Star Riders.

    I always take my Panasonic FZ200 to get some shots of bands I'm seeing. Obviously, a lot of others use their smartphones. One time, the lead singer from Placebo went absolutely nuts at someone who was recording the show on a GoPro (almost as nuts as the time Gary Moore laid into a heckler at the Leeds O2).

    But the one I remember most of all from that original gig I mentioned was the nut job who was recording/taking pictures using a full-on iPad. I mean, they're not exactly covert (amongst other things).

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: On the other hand...

      The iPad might be a good thing to be holding in front of your face when the lead singer throws a brick at you!

      To propose a way of dissuading twits from holding phones up in concerts: set the gig up with more professional cameras aimed at the audience as well as the act. Set up a portal so that audience members, after they get home, can find footage of themselves happily moshing without a the distraction of a phone like it's 1999. This would satisfy people's evident desire for 'proof they were there', and do so better than their own camera phones. And they might not want to be shown in high Res video being the only twit holding up a camera.

      I dunno, could it work?

  11. ecofeco Silver badge

    Wait. How much?

    Bwahahahahahahahahahahaahaha

    Oh hell no.

  12. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Target Audience?

    Who is this targeted at? It seems many tech are released to show off it can be done not whether it makes any real sense for any real users. This sounds like one of those products.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Target Audience?

      The target market is not you.

      It’s not me either, but it’s not all about me,

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Target Audience?

      It really depends upon the software. With enough thought, the software (soft keyboard, better cursor control) could make Excel significantly easier to use on this twin screened device than it currently is in a normal Android phone. This doesn't answer your question, but it does reformulate your question to:

      Are there people out there who would pay a premium for a really usuable Excel that fits in their pocket?

      (Possibly)

      1. M. Poolman

        Re: Target Audience?

        ... a really usuable Excel ...

        What is this mystery of which you speak?

    3. Geoff Campbell
      Boffin

      Re: Target Audience?

      I would say that the target audience is business people who travel to meetings. This might just be the mythical device that I have been chasing all my working life, that allows me to finally ditch the corporate ball and chain that is my briefcase.

      I've already slimmed down what I carry immensely, courtesy of a Surface Pro (and now a Pro X, which is very lovely) in combination with the OneDrive service, which means I no longer have to carry any paperwork at all.

      The Duo may well allow me to go to a lot of meetings without a briefcase at all. This, I approve of.

      Whether or not it works in practice, well, we'll see.

      GJC

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Someone doing something new and interesting is always a good thing, of course. Especially in the phone handset market where every vendor has a 'me too' device that looks and performs much like everyone else's.

    But from what I can see, this one isn't for me. For starters, the camera is so bad I just wouldn't want to carry this thing with me, in case I happen to actually need to take a halfway decent photo.

    And at that price! I wonder if anyone will bother getting one. Combined with such a limited release, the sales numbers will surely be so low that it hardly seems like Microsoft should have bothered with it either.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Coat

      re: hardly seems like Microsoft should have bothered with it either

      Yeah. I predict that the sales will be so low once all the MS Fanbois have got theirs (to sell later on EBay...) that they'll drop it within 18months. i.e. this is 2021's Zune. At least it isn't in Brown!

  14. Danny 5

    Bah

    Anyone who suffered through the Lumia/Winphone debacle will think twice before ever getting an MS phone again. How they butchered the beautiful Lumia line still brings tears to my eyes, what a way to turn something great into a big, steaming pile of dog excrement. The surface slabs/hybrids are decent, be it overpriced, but this device has no appeal at all.

    1. phands

      Re: Bah

      The Lumia was indeed a debacle. But what did you expect from m$'s long and dismal history in mobile devices? And not knowing that Lumia was slang for prostitute in some countries showed that they didn't really do any real market research.

  15. DrXym Silver badge

    £1350

    How do they keep their prices so low and still make a profit?

    1. John Riddoch

      Re: £1350

      I get the joke, but realistically, this is a niche product which is going to see very little take up. The folks who really want one will buy it anyway and it needs a decent mark up to cover their development costs (which have to be spread across fewer units). The price is about right for what it is. They'll probably still lose money overall, hoping the development costs and learnings can be applied to some other future product they can make more money on.

      It's not something I can see any use for, but that means I'm not part of their target market and I'm fine with that.

  16. anthonyhegedus

    "optimised'?

    Why don't these manufacturers ever say what they mean? Such as 'the 855 processor optimised for a dual screen display'?

    That could mean absolutely anything from 'we paid for a special version of the 855 chip with an extra load of processing power for the display' to 'we wrote some code to handle two displays, and the code runs on the main CPU'.

    It's like Apple saying 'Built right in' when talking about some new feature that's obviously built right into whatever phone they're wibbling on about.

  17. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Meh

    Based on the quality of Microsoft's other hardware offerings..

    ..and the likelihood that it will be glued together and have a non-replaceable battery, I think I'll pass.

  18. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    I’ve never understood this obsession some mobile phone manufacturers have with folding phones, which consumers are demanding this shit?

    I suspect that they’ve realised that because mobile phones have few moving parts, which gives limited options for baked-in planned obsolescence except via the software route.

    One thing is for certain, the world cannot continue creating turd products in the hope they will sell, its wasteful, inefficient and stupid. Sure its great for ‘Teh Conomy™️‘ whatever the fuck that is, economics it is not. But bye bye habitat, hello runaway CO2 and other assorted shitshows

    1. Jay 2

      I'm somewhat reminded of 3D and curved TVs in this regard. Just some (potentially impractical) new take on an existing product that pretty much everyone already has in an attempt to try and flog you some sort of replacement.

  19. keith_w Bronze badge
    Facepalm

    Has any one considered that the UK prices are inclusive of VAT, whereas the US pricing is before whatever sales taxes, if any, are applied,

    1. David 132 Silver badge

      Fair point, but US sales taxes are typically much lower than the VAT rate, and indeed zero in some states (eg OR).

  20. ITsaproblem

    This would be great if one of the screens an pink one, and the back had a hardware keyboard. Some twisty ball-head hinge would be required. In the box: I don't need a charger or headphones, but £600 in crisp notes would be welcome. I'm slightly dubious when Microsoft do small portable hardware

  21. phands

    I had a play for 3 days with a Duo in late 2020 here in New York. It was indeed underwhelming. I ended up getting the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2....it's a whole different experience. Four months later, I don't know how i did without it. The Fold is just excellent, even at the almost $2000 I paid for it. Add really great extras like Wireless Dex, and the Fold has completely replaced a couple of 7 inch tablets I used for things like Kindle books. I love being able to use the large inner screen as a big viewfinder for the cameras, and being able to open and close the phone without losing where I was - in most apps, anyway; instagram has to restart, but that's the only one I've seen misbehave.

    Microsoft, yet again, cannot get phones right, and the Duo is not going to save them. And at that price, it likely won't sell in any real volume.

    1. Geoff Campbell
      Boffin

      Phones

      Microsoft are playing this rather intelligently, and not calling the Duo a phone. It's a portable computer that is capable of making phone calls.

      Now, this might seem like sophistry of the worst kind, but for me it was rather accurate. I try where-ever possible to avoid either making or receiving phone calls, but the ability to do so is occasionally useful.

      GJC

  22. Geoff Campbell
    Facepalm

    <shrug>

    I bought one. I like it, a lot. It's good to see manufacturers trying new things.

    I will like it even more when Windows 10X lands.

    GJC

  23. Geoff Campbell
    Stop

    Lest anyone think I'm a completely uncritical fanboi...

    The Duo does have one bad flaw, in that the two Apps running side by side have to be different. There is no way that I can find to have two Word documents or two Excel spreadsheets open, one on each screen. This is a shame.

    GJC

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