If Android manufacturers chose 2019 as the year to launch foldable or “foldable” technologies to consumers, this year will see quite a few new ideas being born. Unexpectedly, while Samsung or Huawei focused on perfecting the old designs, the title of the most “Android phone” of 2020 will certainly belong to Microsoft. According to leaked information, “in the summer” the Surface Duo foldable phone will be officially launched, allowing users to enjoy a unique Android experience of Microsoft on a dual-screen folding device.
Half lean and half fat
Surface Duo: A full Android experience …
Yes, the Surface Duo is actually a “half lean, half fat” device. On the hardware side, you probably realize that Microsoft’s smartphone is halfway between traditional and foldable smartphones. Like the Galaxy Fold, the Surface Duo can be considered a device that is divided into two halves. Unlike the Galaxy Fold, the Surface Duo is divided into two distinct halves through the middle hinge.
Microsoft’s smartphone can be considered as two 5.6-inch smartphones combined. Even nearly all the features revealed by Surface Duo until now have considered two monitors as two separate parts – to multitask two applications, to use a screen as a virtual keyboard and … v … This design is in stark contrast to the Galaxy Fold or Mate X, which are “small” screen phones that expand into large screens.
Clearly, Microsoft will not be able to satisfy those who are craving for Samsung folding phones. So, what is Microsoft’s goal when creating Duo?
The Surface Duo can also be considered as a device between a regular smartphone and a folding smartphone.
Answer: Professional user
If you pay close attention to Microsoft’s strategy over the years, you’ll see the software giant has constantly transformed itself into a leader in the field of enterprise solutions and professional users. Even in the first quarter, when other big companies were miserable because of Covid-19, Microsoft was still standing and even growing as the demand for working from home increased. In the context of the PC market going down, Surface sales are still growing.
The entire Surface portfolio is for professional users, and so does the Duo. When developing this foldable phone, Microsoft saw a gap in the market: smartphones were still unable to create a two-window multitasking experience, which can be considered a mandatory need when working. In many cases, you will need a window to look up information, a window to take notes. Or, you will need a window to keep track of general information, and a window to see details for example.
At the launch ceremony, product manager Panos Pinay immediately focused on this unique experience. The entire first Surface Duo demo was dedicated to showing how two separate screens can help create a unique experience like never before on a phone. With Outlook, the window on the left shows the whole mailbox, the screen on the right shows the message content. With Edge and OneNote, blacked out information in the browser can be dragged and dropped into notes. With Skype calls open on the right screen, the left screen can be used to find and select locations for upcoming appointments.
Surface Duo users will get a feature that’s only common on PCs and laptops: Multitasking with 2 windows.
The idea is simple, but not yet available on current smartphones. The “regular” smartphone still has a screen too small to multitask two tasks at once: even the Galaxy S20 Ultra when split in half will only create two screen blocks with a small area like the palm. What about a folding screen smartphone? First, they are too expensive: the price of Galaxy Fold or Galaxy Z Flip is more than enough for users to buy Surface Pro AND Galaxy S. Next, neither Samsung, Huawei nor Google have created an application platform that allows real users. Now multitask with ease. Lastly and perhaps most worryingly, folding screens still carry a lot of risks during use.
The use of two separate screens both meets this new feature, while helping to avoid the problems that folding smartphones are still having. Using hinges to connect two traditional displays will minimize the risk of damage and will not force Microsoft to buy expensive expensive AMOLED panels. At the launch event, Microsoft also mentioned separate APIs, and then Microsoft also demoed the Duo experience through a simulator application. Microsoft is one of the few technology giants capable of creating a new software experience on smartphones.
With a set of wireless physical keyboards, it is conceivable that the Surface Duo will turn into a miniature “laptop”, enough to serve basic office tasks. In this way, Microsoft will continue to continue the previous dream of Lumia: making smartphones an integral part of the digital life of professional users.
With Surface Duo, Microsoft will again bet on the need to work on smartphones of professional users
But the Surface Duo’s journey will certainly not go smoothly. With the current launch schedule, Surface Duo will have to face directly with Galaxy Note, which is famous in content creation thanks to the stylus experience on a large screen. The iPhone launched a few months later will also attract the attention of professional users, especially when Apple has received the support of big companies in the field of enterprise applications such as IBM, SAP or General Electrics.
Duo’s success or failure will therefore be bet on a single feature: the applications have the ability to run in parallel on two screens at the same time. That is also the reason for Microsoft to create a device “half lean half fat”, between Android and Windows, between “normal” and “folding” smartphones. At the moment, no big man can bring a multitasking experience like Windows to smartphones. Surface Duo will be the first to do this seemingly simple and extremely difficult task.