The Microsoft Surface Duo is both one of the most interesting devices Microsoft has released in years… and also possibly one of the hardest to justify buying.

With a list price of $1400, it’s a first-generation dual-screen handheld that could eventually pave the way for a new type of computing device. But right now it gets pretty lousy reviews for doing many of the things people expect from a handheld… you know, phone stuff.

Some would argue that it’s not a phone, and reviewers are judging it by the wrong standards. In fact, scan the Microsoft Surface Duo website and you won’t see it called a phone anywhere on the page.

But $1400 is still a lot of money to spend on a new type of device that’s something between a tablet, a phone, and… I don’t know, a book maybe? So does a temporary $200 price cut change that?

It’s only been about a month and a half since the Surface Duo began to ship to customers, but Microsoft is already running a $200-off sale that brings the starting price down to $1200, which is… still a lot of money.

Microsoft has apparently been pushing software updates that address some of the bugs encountered by early reviewers. But no amount of software updates are going to make up for the unusual ergonomics when holding this thing in one hand for use as a phone.

That said, if you don’t actually use a phone to make calls all that often, there are a lot of advantages to this type of design over what you get from a typical phone or tablet. It’s designed for viewing two full-screen apps at the same time on its twin 5.6 inch displays, which could make it a great option for multitasking and/or copying and pasting data between two apps without having to switch which is on the screen.

You can use one screen as a sort of kickstand to prop up the phone for watching videos or making video calls. And if you fold the Duo like a laptop, you can use the bottom screen as a keyboard without obscuring your view of the top display.

Only you can decide whether it’s worth paying $1400 (or $1200) for those features. But I can’t help but feel that the price drop isn’t really enough to make the Surface Duo all that much more attractive.

What do you think?

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Keep in mind that this is a gadget with dual displays, two sets of accelerometers, gyroscopes, touch sensors, etc, a super-slim design, and other features that make most of the lower prices in the poll implausible. I’m just curious how much lower the price would have to be for the Surface Duo to be a compelling buy.

Here’s a reminder of the phone device’s key specs:

Displays Dual PixelSense Fusion Displays
Each display: 5.6” AMOLED, 1800×1350 (4:3), 401 PPI
Combined/opened: 8.1” AMOLED, 2700×1800 (3:2), 401 PPI
Display Material: Corning Gorilla Glass
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
RAM 6GB
Storage 128GB or 256GB of UFS 3.0 storage
Camera 11MP f/2.0 1.0 µm PDAF and 84 degree FoV
4K video recording at up to 60 fps
Battery 3577 mAh (Up to 15.5 hours local video playback)
Charging 18W
Wireless LTE 4×4 MIMO Cat 18 DL / Cat 5 UL
AT&T, T-Mobile (unlocked)
AT&T, Verizon (locked)
WiFi 5
BT 5.0
USB USB 3.1 Type-C
Audio Mono speaker
Dual microphones
Security Fingerprint sensor
Dimensions 145.2mm x 186.9mm x 4.8mm (open)
145.2mm x 93.3mm x 9.9mm (closed
Weight 250 grams

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21 Comments

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  1. Nice idea, but it looks un-ergonomic for making phone calls. You have to open it to answer or make a phone call? Also, it looks more difficult to use one handed than my Samsung Galaxy single screen phone. I’ll have to pass on this one. Interesting that it runs Android 10 instead of the looney cartoony Windows Phone OS with Metro Tiles. It’s a plus that you can install apps from the Google Play Store instead of the lame Windows Store.

  2. Still far too expensive as are all high-end phones. This one is just silly though. I would love to buy it but the most I’ll pay for any phone is $600. I mean, a high-end tablet is about the same so why pay more for a phone?

  3. I’d be far more likely to buy this as a secondary-device, like a tablet. However, it would need to be far cheaper. Like I’m talking closer to $600.

    Theres no way I’m buying a smartphone in 2020 that lacks Wifi 6, NFC, and 5G. And for $1200? You can’t innovate one thing, and then run far behind on everything else, and still call your product innovative.

    1. I assume they wanted to keep the physical dimensions exactly at they are at 250 gram weight and the battery consumption no more than it currently is. I’m not a hardware engineer but it’s probable if they added those extra gizmos they couldn’t keep the physical dimensions as they are. Unless maybe if they added the state of the art Huawei 5G integrated SOC, but the US and China are in a cold trade war, so that’s not possible at the moment.

      I don’t worry about the current price, at all. I wish Microsoft to succeed with this device in the long term. Then the market will price it as it seems fit. My pet peeves are the ridiculous $650 battery service fee and the still buggy beta quality software. So you essentially buy yourself a beta testing position for $1200 at this time. I just hope both the price and the quality of the software gets solved with time.

      The first few iterations of the Surface Pro were crap too, it took a few years for Microsoft to nail it, but today it’s a solid product. Except for the ridiculous battery service fee again, but no one cares about this here besides me. Hacker News top rated commenters do.

  4. I have one. And I love it. I do not use it as my daily driver phone (I have an iPhone for that). But as a tablet/compact laptop it is a dream to use on the go. It makes multitasking and work more fun. My job requires huge amounts of reading and writing and this device is like a dream come true for both. For some odd reason people can’t figure out how delightful this is to use in daily life. I do think the price is too high. But as a gadget lover this is a joy to use. Try it before you knock it. That seems to big Microsoft’s problem with this device- not selling it as a phone. Because it would make a bad phone.

    1. Yeah, this seems like it would be a nice UMPC. Too bad it’s running Android. Although, I doubt the hardware is powerful enough to run Windows 10 on ARM decently.

  5. I would expand the quiz with a few alternative choices:

    Microsoft should fix the software first. The reports say it’s pretty buggy.
    They should offer a more reasonable battery service fee aligned with the rest of the industry. $650 is pretty steep.

  6. I’d consider it if there weren’t substantially less evil options available that one can still be a (barely) functioning member of society using.
    Also, this poll is appearing at the bottom of the front page of the site.

    1. bradlinder – Brad Linder is editor of the mobile tech blog Liliputing, an independent journalist and podcast producer and editor based in Philadelphia.
      Brad Linder says:

      Huh, that was weird. Not sure why that happened, but it should be fixed now. Thanks for letting me know!

  7. The flagship quality of the hardware has been confirmed by the reviewers, but there are several problems the Duo will struggle to overcome.

    First, while the quality of the hardware is unquestionable, in an era of actual folding screens and bezel-less designs, the wow-factor is sorely lacking. Everyone says it feels great in the hand, but its looks are several years out of date, even for a tablet device, if that’s what you want to call it.

    Given the original price of the Duo put it firmly in impulse-buy/status-symbol territory for first generation devices, the lack of the wow-factor is a big issue.

    Second, no doubt Microsoft was hoping the growing reputation of the Surface brand would help the Duo’s introduction, but Microsoft isn’t Apple, and Surface isn’t iPhone — there just isn’t the same aura around Surface as there is around Apple’s phones and tablets (or the brand loyalty), and the fact that it’s Microsoft’s first Android device with a very ordinary looking Android experience, isn’t helping either.

    Finally, the Duo comes awkwardly close to being an Android tablet. Yeah, it’s foldable, but even when folded, the device is too wide for many people to use one-handed comfortably, and even the screen shots make it look more like a tablet than a mobile phone. An old phrase that seems to have fallen out of fashion is “What’s the killer app?” and it remains to be seen whether people are willing to give up this much portability in a phone device for the extra (divided) screen real estate.

    I will always applaud companies for innovating and trying something new, and it’s possible the Duo might find a place in the business market, though releasing in the middle of a pandemic where most tech savvy office workers are staying home and conducting most of their business online is not the most fortunate timing.

  8. I bought my Surface 6 with keyboard for $700. How could I justify paying more than $800 for this, no matter the cool factor. Phones are just becoming too damned expensive for something that fits in your pocket. But that’s just me.

    1. I agree whole heartedly. Its really ridiculous that the exact same specs go into a phone and tablet, and the phone is sold for more than double the price.

      Its just phone manufacturers taking advantage of the fact that most people are going to finance the phone with network subsidies.

      Its like how companies like Luxottica price-gouge people in the eyeglasses industry, because they know that most people have vision coverage in their insurance or benefits plan. So they can sell a $20 product for $500

      1. Its just phone manufacturers taking advantage of the fact that most people are going to finance the phone with network subsidies.

        If you consider most countries where smartphones are sold around the world, it’s not true. Maybe where you are from it’s true, but certainly not globally.

        Its like how companies like Luxottica price-gouge people in the eyeglasses industry, because they know that most people have vision coverage in their insurance or benefits plan.

        The same. But how many times do I have to repeat the same thing over and over under every similar post? 🙂

  9. Sorry but I wouldnt pay more than 600 usd for a galaxy z fold 2 (or whatever they call it now) or a this surface phone. It is not even about having or not the money. it is simply about thinking that it is not worth this money. these phones are as expensive as some laptops with 10th gen intel processors. I mean, I can think of million things I would rather buy than these phones, for these prices

  10. I voted $400 because it is a cool design and I would at least give it a try. You wouldn’t have to pay me to use it, that’s for sure. But the truth is I probably wouldn’t even pay $400. I’m extremely happy with my sub $200 phone, and therefore wouldn’t pay much more than $300 or so for ANY phone. Outside of a considerably better camera, which is more important for my wife, who takes most of the pictures of our kids, there is quite literally nothing about flagship phones that could get me to spend anywhere close to $600, let alone $1000. Flagships used to offer considerably more that mid range devices, but for the last several years I feel like the gap between mid range and flagship phones has gotten so small I’m just amazed so many people continue to spend $800+ on a phone. It certainly doesn’t bother me though, buy what makes you happy!

    I applaud Microsoft’s effort though and always welcome more competition.