by Brandon Butler
Microsoft Surface Duo Reviews 9/10/2020

The reviews are out for the new dual-screen Microsoft Surface Duo phone, and… they are dubious:

Dieter Bohn for The Verge:

There are more than enough problems here to keep me from recommending it.

Brain Heater for TechCrunch:

There are other pragmatic considerations with the design choices here. The book design means there’s no screen on the exterior. The glass and mirror Windows logo looks lovely, but there’s no easy way to preview notifications. 

Scott Stein for CNET:

The shift from single to dual screen hasn’t been magical at all. It’s been a struggle.

Julian Chokkattu for Wired:

The Duo is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855, the flagship chip that was in dozens of 2019 Android phones. I know it’s capable of offering a relatively smooth experience, so it’s clear the problems lie with software optimization.

Sam Rutherford for Gizmodo, and one of the most favorable reviews I read:

This Surface Duo is for people who have dreamed of having real multitasking on a phone, and are willing to put up with growing pains to experience that for themselves. […] Even with its flaws, the Surface Duo is already an incredibly powerful business phone. [But] there’s little excuse for a phone this expensive to have image quality this bad.

MKBHD on YouTube:

Practicality is clearly suffering to achieve this form factor.

This is incredibly disappointing. The consensus is clear: the Duo’s hardware is really impressive, but the software is a mess. I like The Verge’s wrap-up:

But like that first Surface, there are more than a few glimmers of vision and potential in the Surface Duo. Microsoft has the clearest, strongest vision for a new direction in mobile computing that I’ve seen this year, but picking a direction and getting to the destination are still two different things.

I think the real mistake Microsoft made with the Duo phone was trying to paste their dual-screen/multitasking hacks on top of Android. Yes, Android has an ecosystem of apps, but none of them are designed to work on a dual screen phone. And Android apps for tablets are terrible. If Microsoft is truly committed to this dual screen vision for the long-term, they should create a dual-screen OS based (lightly) on Windows. There’s no rush: They can limp along with Android for the Duo 2 or even the Duo 3, but if Microsoft is really, honestly, committed to a mobile device — and these days, you kind of have to be, right? — the Windows Duo OS needs to happen.