Microsoft’s Surface Duo is an Android-powered dual-screen mobile device that began shipping before Google had really done much to bring native support for dual-screen hardware to Android. So Microsoft built in a bunch of custom features that not only brought support for Microsoft’s apps and services, but also for phones with two screens.
But while Microsoft releases regular security updates for the Surface Duo, the company hasn’t been super-speedy to bring new versions of Android. The last major update came in August, 2022 when the company released Android 12L for the Surface Duo. But now there’s an unofficial custom ROM that lets you install Android 13 on the phone.
The custom ROM was built by software engineer Thai Nguyen, who was part of the Surface Duo team when he worked at Microsoft from 2018 through 2022. But Nguyen’s Pixel Experience GSI for Surface Duo ROM is an independent project that’s not backed by Microsoft.
According to Nguyen, the Android 13 ROM is based on the work of the Pixel Experience custom ROM team, but includes some extra work to get the Surface Duo to react to different “postures” so that it can tell when you’re using one screen or two, and how you’re using them.
The experience “is still very preliminary, with almost no UI customization” though. Among other things, Android 13 hasn’t been modified to notice the hinge, which means that some UI elements may be hidden if you’re using the Surface Duo in dual-screen mode. And there are some other known issues with this build.
Still, it’s always fun when an independent developer manages to bring new software to an older device before the phone maker gets around to it… especially when the independent developer this time happens to be one that used to work for the phone maker in question.
You can find download links, an installation guide, and other information about the Pixel Experience GSI for Surface Duo in a thread at the xda-developers forum.
One thing to keep in mind is that the ROM has only been tested on the first-gen Surface Duo and most likely won’t work on the second-gen version without some additional work.