The Microsoft Surface Duo is now available for pre-order for $1400 and up, and while that’s a steep price to pay for a phone with mediocre specs, there are number of things that make the Surface Duo an interesting phone.

It’s Microsoft’s first phone since the company gave up on Windows Mobile. The Android-powered phone is a dual-screen device. And it’s designed to feature tight integration with Microsoft apps and services.

The Surface Duo might also be hacker-friendly. Xda-developers reports it will have an unlockable bootloader, which means it could be a good candidate for custom ROMs. I’d also be extraordinarily surprised if someone didn’t try to sideload Windows 10 onto the phone.


By unlocking the bootloader of an Android phone, you sacrifice a bit of security but gain additional control over the device. Among other things, you may be able to root a phone or install an alternate operating system.

Typically that means a different version of Android. But now that Microsoft has made a version of Windows 10 that runs on laptops with ARM-based processors, independent developers have been finding ways to shoehorn Microsoft’s desktop & notebook operating system onto smartphones for the past few years.

Would Windows run well on a device like the Surface Duo with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, twin 5.6 inch, 1800 x 1350 pixel displays, 6GB of RAM, 128GB to 256GB of storage, and a 3577 mAh battery? Probably not. But it’d be interesting to find out.

If you’re just interested in using the Surface Duo as an Android device, but reluctant to drop $1400 on a first-generation device, it’s worth noting that Microsoft also tells xda-developers that it plans to offer 3 years of Android feature updates for the phone, which means that the device should be supported for about as long as a typical Google Pixel smartphone (but not as long as the typical Apple iPhone).

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16 replies on “The Surface Duo’s unlockable bootloader could make it a hacker-friendly phone”

  1. Hi there,
    My name is Lazken Ismail
    I’m looking for surface duo running windows 10 home or pro

  2. Yeah, I doubt many of the people willing to pay $1400 USD for this are also capable and willing to make use of the unlockable bootloader.

  3. Come on Brad are you joking? Hacker friendly? Pricing is a major factor in a hacker friendly device. I wouldn’t pay for this abomination even 1000 usd just to tinker with it. It wll fail as Windows RT did.

  4. Saying that Windows 10 runs on ARM does not mean very much. Windows 10 runs on a custom Microsoft ARM SoC which is very different to running on a Snapdragon. I am not saying that nobody will ever hack Windows and iOS to run, but the stock versions are not going to just run out of the box just because they use ARM.

    1. Not true. The WoA project for Lumia phones is an example of this.

      The Lumia 950XL can run the Arm version of windows on a stock SD 810. Granted it is supposedly somewhat sluggish, and recent versions of WoA have removed the cellular stack, but it CAN run.

      And yes. Stock versions. My understanding is that there are some additional software components to install, but that’s basically just to make it function nicer/more like a phone. (Like their dialer app, and launcher)

      iOS will not run. This is primarily because there are no emulators, and the hardware is all locked down hard. Because, you know. Apple.

  5. “The Surface Duo might also be hacker-friendly. Xda-developers reports it will have an unlocked bootloader, which means it could be a good candidate for custom ROMs”

    “By unlocking the bootloader of an Android phone, you sacrifice a bit of security but gain additional control over the device”

    The XDA article clearly states the device has an unlockable bootloader, not unlocked by default. A clear distinction. The way it should be anyway.

    In other news is the a good reason other manufacturers make the device owners’ lives more difficult by not providing them unlock codes on request? What do they get? A strategy or business decision? When you buy such a mobile device do you own it or does it own you? I’ve recently heard this great interview:

    1. Thanks. That was a typo (yes, one that I made in both the title and the article). I meant to say unlockable, but somehow my fingers typed unlocked.

  6. More important: you’ll can install other OS in an unlocked Surface Duo, BUT you won’t control that device.

    It runs a lot of privative blobs, an integrated cell modem, etc, etc, so you can ditch Microsoft Android OS, but other lower level privative soft will control your device regardless OS you install.

  7. I’ve outgrown the desire to run custom ROMs or have root access on Android phones. Plus I doubt people would buy this for hacking purposes so there might not be much effort in this area. Maybe we’ll see some initial work, it gets the usual buzz and then gets abandoned.

  8. I’d like a device with this form factor running Windows 10. Too bad this specific device probably won’t run it very well though.

    1. What if they get windows 10 on ARM to work on this? They did get it working on a Lumia 950, and since it’s 855 processor, it should have very similar drivers to the 8CX and SQ1 processors.

      1. I am very interested in this.
        If Micro$oft would just put the cellular stack back into WoA, I’d absolutely buy one.
        But if they’re going to keep it nerfed, so that all we can get is a data connection, and no calls or texts, I’m out.

  9. Who cares about hacking a fifteen hundred device? I question how many people are even going to buy this thing.It looks cool, but the price, like so many other phones, is outrageous.

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