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Summary

Microsoft has finally announced a release date for its long-awaited dual-screen smartphone-tablet hybrid device, the Surface Duo. The device features two 5.6-inch displays connected via a hinge rather than a single foldable screen. It comes with cellular connectivity as standard and will cost $1,400.

The Surface Duo fails to look like a modern flagship device

Microsoft is dipping its toe back into the mobile space, which it abandoned in 2016 after the disastrous acquisition of Nokia’s handset unit in a last-ditch effort to make Windows Phone viable. This new effort uses Google’s Android operating system rather than any version of Windows.

This is one of several things that makes this device unique. Unlike the foldable devices from Samsung or Huawei, the Surface Duo features the more robust but less flashy design of using two separate displays rather than a single foldable display. This will certainly improve the performance and reliability of the device but makes Microsoft appear to be behind the curve in technology.

The large bezels in the design of the Surface Duo reinforce the idea that Microsoft is not up to speed on mobile device technology. Essentially all flagship mobile devices in the past two years have worked to eliminate bezels, making the Surface Duo look like a throwback from several years ago.

While the Surface Duo is not aimed at the smartphone flagship market, comparisons are inevitable, particularly with regard to the look and feel of the device, and in this regard, Microsoft has not put itself in a position to be successful.

The Surface Duo stretches the definition of a smartphone to breaking point

The Surface Duo is not a phone by what most people would understand it; the device is too large, and its use cases are focused on productivity and gaming. However, voice calling is possible, and due to the folding hinge, holding the device up to your ear like a regular phone is designed into the device. The Surface Duo does come with cellular connectivity as standard, but only 4G LTE, which will limit the device’s capabilities in remote areas.

While the discussion over whether or not the Surface Duo is a phone is interesting, ultimately, Omdia does not believe it will matter. The Surface Duo is very unlikely to be a success given the design problems facing it, as well as the need to communicate to consumers why they need this device instead of, or in addition to, a more traditional smartphone.

Appendix

Further reading

2020 Trends to Watch: Consumer Technology Super Themes, CES004-000132 (January 2020)

Mobile Handset Forecast: Sales, Installed Base, ASP, and Revenue, 2019–24, CES004-000123 (December 2019)

Tablet Forecast: Sales and Installed Base by OS, 2020–25, CES004-000161 (August 2020)

Author

Daniel Gleeson, Principal Analyst, Consumer Technology

[email protected]

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